I wanna rock!!!
Rock of Ages, a so-called jukebox musical featuring the music of several metal/glam/hair rock bands of the 1980's is an evening of theater that is just too much fun to properly analyze and review. So, The Thespian will take her own advice to her companion that evening, "sit back, turn off your brain, and prepare to have your face melted off."
We have entered the world of the 1980's Sunset Strip. Sex, drugs and rock and roll have ruled supreme, but are now threatened by the evil forces of developers who want to tear down the strip and replace it with the homogenous family friendly forces of Foot Locker and their ilk. Through a very silly love story, book by Chris D'Arienzo, set to the music of Poison, Journey and White Snake, among many others, Rock of Ages embraces the musical fun of the mid-1980's. So, put on your spandex, spray that mullet, grab a beer from the vendor selling it in the aisle and let the show hit you with its best shot for a truly entertaining evening.
Your basic plot involves Drew, young clean-up guy at the Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip, who yearns to be a rock star. He meets Sherrie, fresh off the bus from the land thousands of waffle houses away, who dreams of becoming an actress. Dennis, the owner of the Bourbon Room, is threatened with closure as the Strip does not produce adequate tax revenue. With the help of his able partner and our evening's narrator, Lonny, he persuades Stacee Jaxx and his band, Arsenal, to play their farewell concert at the Bourbon Room where they started their careers, in hopes of changing the city's mind about the closing. Young Regina, fired from the mayor's office for believing that developing the strip is wrong, fights on the outside against the German developer, Hertz and his flamboyantly conflicted son, Fritz. Will Drew and Sherrie find fame, fortune and true love? Will Regina die believing in the power of the proletariat? Will Dennis and Lonny save their beloved Fogmaster 5000? Find the show on its National Tour or on Broadway and find out for yourselves.
The National Tour contains strong performances that are equal to those The Thespian saw on Broadway.
As Lonny, Patrick Lewallen, is our outrageously fun-loving host to the proceedings. The script calls for Lonny to be a part of just about every single musical number in the show, an exhausting challenge that he rises to with ease. His counterpart, Dennis, is ably presented as the aging rock bar legend that still has a fight in him by Nick Cordero. A giant of a man he has a very strong voice and immense stage presence that serve the roll well. As Justice, the proprietor of the Venus Club for gentlemen, Teresa Stanley provides a gentle motherly vibe to what could be a very sleazy character. She has a great voice, but could be crisper in her enunciation.
The German developer, Hertz is played with hissable intensity by Bret Tuomi. His son, Fritz, actually manages to be more outrageous than the actor who originated the role on Broadway, and that is saying something. Travis Walker just blazes on the stage every time he appears and brings down the house with his act two show-stopper. The Thespian will not spoil that moment with the title of the song or how it is staged, it should be viewed blindly for the strongest impact. His fervent foe and soul mate, Regina, is played with the extreme intensity of what would happen if Sheila from Hair had protested in the 1980's rather than the 1960's by Casey Tuma, although she too could benefit from stronger elocution.
The evil Stacie Jaxx sleazes his way from baby llama incident to love story foil perfectly embodied by MiG Ayesa. He'll seduce you and repulse you at the same time, but it is clear he's having a great time doing it.
Our heroine, Sherrie, is played by Rebecca Faulkenberry. Sherrie is a challenging role as she is an ingenue that is naive about the ways of life, but must transform herself to a woman who gets a hard lesson in life and ends up in some very unpleasant circumstances. Yet she can't lose the audience's sympathy as her initial downfall is partially caused by her own actions. Ms. Faulkenberry handles the duality of this keeping Sherrie's sparkling personality front and center during her journey to "rock" bottom and back.
Now for our boy, Drew. Or as he prefers it, his stage name Wolfgang Von Colt. Constantine Maroulis has played this role since the show debuted off-Broadway, transferred with it to Broadway and earned a Tony Nomination for his efforts. The world knows him best as an American Idol contestant, but he has many theatrical credits to his name and has succeeded in such shows as The Wedding Singer, Jacques Brel and Rent. He has a wonderful rock tenor and can by turns sway you with a tender ballad or tear the walls down with a proper rock wail. He's also a pretty terrific actor. There is no fatigue in his performance given that he's played the part for so long. There is no star turn mugging to the audience. He simply truly embodies the enthusiasm inherent in the role and clearly loves the show. I'm sure his replacement on Broadway is wonderful, but if you have a chance to see Mr. Maroulis while he is with the National Tour do so. It is a marvelous performance.
Rock of Ages played at The Hippodrome Theatre,The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center in Baltimore, Maryland from November 30-December 5, 2010. The show continues its National Tour into 2011. For information on upcoming performance dates and ticket information visit www.rockofagesmusical.com or www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.