BWW Review: ROCK OF AGES Tenth Anniversary Tour is Ridiculously Rad
If you're a Gen-Xer and/or you've ever belted every totally awesome lyric of a Journey song from the confines of your car and/or you've ever chased a bitchin' dream, you won't want to miss Rock of Ages' one-weekend run at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Plotted around songs by Styx, Poison, Twisted Sister, Europe, Bon Jovi, Pat Benetar, and many, many other familiar favorites, this over-the-top, bad-to-the-bone jukebox musical has no problem poking fun at the time period and at itself.
The year is 1987, when a small-town Midwestern girl and aspiring actress Sherrie (Katie LaMark) books a one-way ticket to LA. Upon arriving on Hollywood's sordid Sunset Strip, she meets a hopeful rocker, Drew (Anthony Nuccio), whose eyes are set immediately on her. The problem is, in attempting to be a nice guy, Drew makes several critical missteps into the friend zone. Meanwhile, the Bourbon Room, a hair-band bar run by Dennis (Ryan M. Hunt) and his sound-guy Lonny (John-Michael Breen), where Drew and Sherrie are both now employed, is in danger of being demolished along with other businesses along the Sunset Strip, by German real estate developers, Hertz (Andrew Tebo) and his son Franz (Chris Renalds). Dennis persuades rock super star Stacee Jaxx (Sam Harvey) to perform at the Bourbon Room for their last show, with hopes that they can raise enough money at this performance to keep the bar from being demolished. All that happens afterward is both gnarly and totally tubular, by 80s standards.
The entire company in this one is mighty strong, with great timing, great onstage chemistry, and a great, big voice. Breen is a perfect mullet-headed narrator, a master of physical comedy, with fabulous facial expressions and a unique voice. And speaking of voices, LaMark and Nuccio knock it out of the arena with their red-hot solos and duets, at times bringing the audience to utter audible gasps and wows. The Rock of Ages Band also deserves huge applause, as they rock and roll like the rock stars they are, all night long. (Marshall Keating, Conductor/Piano; Zach "AttAkk" Hennig, Guitar 1; Maddox, Guitar 2; Chris Moore, Drums; Oliver Hofer, Bass.)
Monica Sabedra's wigs are amazing, reminiscent of all your favorite hair bands - from crimps and curly perms to mullets. Cynthia Nordstrom's costumes are totally righteous too, with all the spot-on details. Janet Rothermel's choreography is smart and comical in all the right ways. The scenic design is beautiful, with a jewel-toned Sunset Strip and lots of self-contained sets, props, and mini-stages that fold open from giant road cases. There are also props (like the infamous Fogmaster 5000) that earn laughs just for existing in this world, and Mike Baldassari's lighting design mirrors fast and fantastic concert-like effects, as you might imagine. The mics are a touch loud in this show, and while that is fine during the rock numbers, it can take a while to get used to when characters are speaking, as some of the actors pretty enthusiastically yell their lines.
Because Rock of Ages doesn't take itself too seriously, you don't have to either. This is a musical for which you should feel free to dress to impress (I saw a whole host of Slash wigs in the audience) and come ready to rock. Also, it's fun to challenge yourself to guess, based on the plot points, what song is coming next. And of course, because it's been such a wild trip down memory lane, when you leave, you'll want to download the entire playlist so you can keep rocking in the weeks to come. Rock of Ages Tenth Anniversary Tour, with book by Chris D'Arienzo and direction by Martha Banta, plays at the Fox Theatre March 1-3. For more information and tickets, visit https://www.fabulousfox.com/events/detail/rock-of-ages.