BWW Reviews: Over the Top Production of ROCK OF AGES at the Fox Theatre
A certain generation (namely, my own) is going to really get a kick out of Rock of Ages. Those younger than me will still be amused by its wildly over the top antics, but those that are older may be a bit befuddled by the constant barrage of cultural references from the late 1980's, and probably have no familiarity at all with most of the music that's from that era. I think Rock of Ages is a gloriously hilarious and completely ridiculous homage to the big hair, hard rock anthem bands that ruled MTV and the radio at that time. This was cruising music when I was in my late teens and early twenties, so I instantly identified with the attitudes presented, and the music that accompanies each melodramatic moment.
This jukebox musical weaves together a number of plot threads along with its boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, all set against a proposed development of Sunset Strip that would result in the bar, the Bourbon Room ( a play on the Whiskey?) being on the chopping block. There's also a Van Halenesque band called Arsenal that are splitting with their obnoxious, self-absorbed lead singer (sound familiar, David Lee Roth), and wind up performing their last gig at the bar in question. It's fun, it's silly, it's exuberant, and it's not for all tastes, but it certainly tries harder than most musicals.
Justin Colombo is wackiness embodied as the narrator, and all around barkeep, of this epic tale that piles cliché upon cliché in amusing fashion. Shannon Mullen and Dominique Scott make for a pleasant love interest as Sherrie (as in, “Oh Sherrie”) and Drew, respectively. They both have rock and roll dreams, but will go in completely different directions before finding each other again. Matt Ban is quite good as club owner, Dennis, and Matt Nolan chews the scenery memorably as Stacee Jaxx, the former lead singer of Arsenal. Katie Postotnik is the rebellious ball of fire named Regina, who leads the protest again redeveloping the strip. Philip Peterson is properly slimy as Hertz, and Stephen Michael Kane has flamboyant fun as his son, Franz.
The direction of Adam John Hunter (original direction by Kristin Hangii) is sharp and crisp, and he's aided by the cool set design of Beowulf Boritt, and the bouncy choreography of Marcos Santana (originally choreographed by Kelly Devine), as well as the flashy lighting scheme of Jason Lyons, and the pulsating sound design of Craig Cassidy. Of course, mention should also be made of the wigs and hair designs of Tom Watson, and the period costuming of Gregory Gale. But, a lot of credit should go to the crack onstage band that recreates these anthems which consists of: Darren Ledbetter (conductor/piano), Chris Cicchino (guitar), Maddox (guitar), Andy Childs (drums), and Andy Gerold (bass).
This may not be a show for everyone, but it's a wall to wall blast from the past that definitely has an enthusiastic audience for it. Rock of Ages played the Fox February 3-5, 2012.