Carnegie Mellon University musical theater alum and Pittsburgh native Matthew Stocke looks forward to any opportunity to see his family, friends and former professors in Western Pennsylvania.
His mother, Linda, lives in Fox Chapel, and his brother, Greg, lives in Wilkinsburg, but Stocke’s latest hometown visit hasn’t left much time for visiting.
The professional actor who grew up in Green Tree and now lives and works in New York City is back in town to perform in two stage shows. He just finished a world premiere City Theatre production of “Some Brighter Distance” in Pittsburgh, where he portrayed an Army major during the post-World War II space race.
This week, he is rehearsing with the cast of Stage Right’s production of the rock musical “Rock of Ages,” which opens its weekend run Feb. 19 at Greensburg Garden and Civic Center. He plays the role of Dennis Dupree, owner of the Bourbon Room, the bar in the play.
“He’s an aging hippie who brings a lot of comedic wonder to the show,” Stocke says.
He also brings a lot of singing and dancing, along with the rest of the cast, which includes fellow New York actors Kiley Caughey and Kevin Daniel O’Leary, both of Greensburg. They join Vince Tresco, Tony Marino, Renata Marino and Courtney Harkins, as well as Klase Danko, Josh List, Greg Kerestan and Hank Fodor.
The show features some of the feel-good ’80s rock hits by musical artists Styx, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and more, including “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “We Built This City,” “Harden My Heart,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Stocke performed in “Rock of Ages” in New York for two years, including as an understudy to the role of Dennis, and says the role is some of the best fun he’s had onstage. He made his Broadway debut in 1998 in “Titanic, The Musical.” Other Broadway credits include “The Boy From Oz,” starring Hugh Jackman, and a musical adaptation of “The Wedding Singer.” His most recent work was a world premiere production of “The Last Ship,” written by pop singer-songwriter Sting.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky,” he says. “One of my favorite experiences was ‘The Full Monty’ in 2000-01 as the understudy to Patrick Wilson, the lead in the show and my best friend. It was a hit show; everybody loved it.”
Marino is predicting the same reaction for Stage Right’s production of “Rock of Ages.” He says even the youngest cast members all know the music in the show.
“It’s never really gone away,” he says. “This music was awesome. And secondly, the show is hilarious. It’s a nostalgic and sweet story that reminds us what a simpler time, for better and for worse, the ’80s were.”
Stocke says it’s good to be performing again with Marino. The two have known each other for nearly 25 years, having first worked together in “Oklahoma!” in 1992 at Apple Hill Playhouse.
“Tony’s a very dear friend. It’s great to be reuniting with him in ‘Rock of Ages,’ ” Stocke says.
Marino says they’ve always kept in touch and when this show’s rights became available, “I checked with him right away — and the timing worked out perfectly.”
While he’s in Greensburg, Stocke will be conducting two master classes Feb. 20 at Stage Right studios — from 10 to 11 a.m. for preteens ($25) and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for teens ($35) with question-and-answer sessions for parents after each class. Reservations are required.
There will be a “Rock the Night Away Karaoke Party” following the show Feb. 20. Admission is $25, $20 in advance, and includes wine, beer, soft drinks, snacks and karaoke. Reservations are required.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.