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BWW REVIEWS: ROCK OF AGES is a Rowdy, Face-Melting Romp

BWW REVIEWS: ROCK OF AGES is a Rowdy, Face-Melting Romp

It truly is amazing how many different theatrical styles have come into existence over the few years man has traversed the earth.  The haunting works of Euripides.  The beautiful poetry of Shakespeare.  The thought-provoking family dramas of Eugene O'Neill.  Indeed, each of these styles holds a certain place in not just theater but in the story of man itself.

But let's face it.  Sometimes the dry, sophisticated theater is just not as appealing as an evening of poop jokes and Whitesnake songs.  If that's what you crave, then you'll love Rock of Ages, now playing Austin's Long Center for the Performing Arts thru Sunday, September 30th.  To borrow from Brett Michaels and Poison, Rock of Ages ain't nothin' but a good time.

Move over MAMMA MIA.  Rock of Ages is easily the funniest, and often filthiest, jukebox musical.  While the plot is very similar to the equally funny but less financially successful film version, there are plenty of characters and plot points that make this version quite different from the film.  The show both celebrates and ridicules classic hair metal rock of the 80s as it follows aspiring rocker, Drew (aka Wolfgang Von Colt) and aspiring actress, Sherrie, as they fall in, out, and back in love.  Meanwhile, a German building developer threatens to tear down LA's famous Sunset Strip, including the famous Bourbon Room.  The riotous, often self-referential book by Chris D'Arienzo and the 30 classic rock tunes by Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, and others turn this otherwise simple story into a high-energy event. 

BWW REVIEWS: ROCK OF AGES is a Rowdy, Face-Melting RompAs Drew, Dominique Scott is a likeable good guy (who ain't bad to look at either).  He's sometimes a bit tentative and shaky in the voice department, but he has some stellar, applause-worthy money notes.  Shannon Mullen gives a fantastic turn as Sherrie, the slightly-ditzy, easily misled ingénue from Kansas.  She gives the character a strong rocker-chick belt, some comedic gusto, and an oddly appropriate sense of dignity, even when her situation forces her to strip at a nearby gentlemen's club. 

As Drew's rival, the Rock God Stacee Jaxx, Universo Pereria lovingly sends up the 80s frontmen duchebags (David Lee Roth, I'm talking to you) without impersonating them.  Pereria creates a believable, enjoyable character out of the standard rocker clichés of sex, drugs, alcohol, and ego, and he's got an awesome rock voice to go with his strong acting abilities.  And as Justice, the strip club owner, Amma Osei is a believable mother hen to a bevvy of stripper chicks.  She showcases an amazing stage presence and a strong, soulful voice which is an unexpected and refreshing additional sound to an otherwise hard-hitting rock show.

But the true stand-outs of The Cast are a quartet of comedic supporting characters.  Matt Ban gives Dennis, the owner of the Bourbon Room, a gritty, gravelly voice and strong comedic timing, especially when paired with his counterpart, Justin Colombo as Lenny.  Colombo has the demanding task of being the 80s rock version of CABARET's Emcee.  He breaks the 4th wall, conjures plot points, and consistently mocks, sends-up, and comments on the plot and the writing.  He gets the best lines of the show, such as "Stars are undeniable, like herpes," and gets laugh break after laugh break for his delivery.  Megan McHugh proves to be the funniest female of The Cast with her turn as Regina (pronounced to rhyme with an important piece of female anatomy).  McHugh's Regina is a hippie protester with a set of pipes and a tremendous amount of energy.  And Stephen Michael Kane is an absolute scene-stealer as Franz, the son of the German businessman who threatens to tear down the Sunset Strip.  He gets laughs at every moment and every line with his hysterically effeminate interpretation of the character ("I'm not gay!  I'm German!" he says at one point), and he's arguably the best dancer of The company.

In addition to a stellar cast of principles, Rock of Ages features one of the hardest-working ensembles I've ever seen.  They have more energy than a cokehead groupie, and they clearly have fun as the belt out rock standards, making the six-year-old show still feel fresh and new.  The on-stage band of Bryan McAdams, Chris Cicchino, Maddox, Alan Childs, and Andy Gerold also blows the roof off the Long Center with face-melting rock and thrilling guitar solos.

To top everything off, the skilled creative team pours some sugar on the talented cast.  Director Kristin Hanggi keeps the simple plot moving along at a fast pace, and her staging includes many sight gags and jokes befitting the material.  Kelly Devine's choreography is impressively high-impact, and it's fun to see something as trashy as pole dancing work its way into a Broadway musical.  The unit set by Beowulf Boritt is appropriately seedy and run-down.  Indeed, anyone in LA has been in a bar that looks as sketchy as the Bourbon Room.  The costumes by Gregory Gale are constantly cheeky and retro with just the right amount of rock star studs, and the lighting design by Jason Lyons would be just as fitting for a Journey concert as it is for this show.

So if you're feeling nostalgic for some classic 80s rock and your Van Halen albums just aren't cutting it, then throw on your favorite concert tee, put your lighter in your pocket, and get your butt to The Long Center. 

Rock of Ages will hit you with its best shot.

RUN TIME: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.

WARNING: Rock of Ages features adult themes and language and may not be suitable for children.

Rock of Ages plays Austin's Long Center for the Performing Arts now thru Sunday, September 30th.  For tickets and information, please visit

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From This Author Jeff Davis

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