2017 True West Award: Olyvia Sydelle and Joanie Brosseau

True West Award BDT Stage. Photo by Glenn Ross


Day 4: Olyvia Sydelle and Joanie Brosseau

Rock of Ages
BDT Stage

Anyone who has attended a show at Boulder’s BDT Stage in the past two decades would have gotten a kick out of the clever casting twist this year in Rock of Ages.

First, there was fresh-faced Olyvia Sydelle as Sherrie (thank you, Journey) in this unapologetically silly musical homage to big-hair 1980s rock bands. In the story, fresh-off-the-farm Sherrie quickly falls on hard times after arriving in L.A. to pursue her dreams. Broke, doe-eyed and desperate, Sherrie ends up at a strip club where she encounters a modern-day Mother Courage. (Go with me on this.) Justice Charlier, owner of the Venus Club, takes Sherrie undOlyvia Sydelle Rock of Ages. Photo by Glenn Rosser her wing and puts her to work as a stripper. It’s all a tough-love, mildly exploitative excuse to hear the two power balladeers riff out a medley of Quarterflash‘s Harden My Heart and Pat Benatar‘s Shadows of the Night

OK, so it’s not exactly Brecht. But here’s the punchline: Cast as Justice was the adored and adorable BDT Stage veteran Joanie Brosseau, who happens to be Sydelle’s real-life mother. Blonde-to-the-bone Brosseau will never be mistaken for Mary J. Blige, who played the role in the 2012 film — but it worked for Boulder.

You gotta admit: It’s funny: Watching a mother encouraging her daughter to toughen up and take her clothes off for leering men? (Oh my goodness, I just realized — Rock of Ages is a total rip-off of Gypsy!) No wonder there was such obvious chemistry between the two.

Furthering the bloodlines: The man responsible for this clever casting twist was Director Scott Beyette, who happens to be Sydelle’s father — and Brosseau’s ex-husband.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

OutFront theatre critic Addison Herron-Wheeler said the BDT production lived up to the Broadway hype, and that Sydelle “definitely stole the show. She is gorgeous, and has an intense belt that meshed incredibly well with all the songs she sung.” Beki Pineda of GetBoulder.com concurred that “Sydelle knocks it out of the ballpark as the naive girl who becomes disillusioned by the world she enters but never loses her sweetness.”

Olyvia Sydelle: At a glance
As the daughter of two longtime Boulder actors, Olyvia Sydelle has grown up in front of BDT audiences, first playing child roles such as Liesl in The Sound of Music, and now as a grown-up in shows like Rock of Ages. She graduated from Standley Lake High School in Westminster and studied psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

Joanie Brosseau: At a glance
Joanie has appeared in dozens of productions on the BDT stage over the past 21 years. She attended Heritage High School. Favorite roles include Evita (Eva Peron), Peter Pan (Peter), Chicago (Roxie Hart), Sweet Charity (Charity Hope Valentine), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Mrs. Meers). She has also performed at The Arvada Center, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Lone Tree Arts Center, PACE Center, Country Dinner Playhouse and Heritage Square Opera House.

Read more: At 40 BDT Stage celebrates its just desserts


The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

A look back at the history of the True West Awards

The 2017 True West Awards

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