BWW Review: ROCK OF AGES 10TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR TOTALLY ROCKS at Straz Center For The Performing Arts
In 1987, the sleazy Sunset Strip is hopping and Dupree's Bourbon Room, a hair band bar owned by Dennis (Ryan M. Hunt) is the place to be for Sherrie (Katie LaMark) a Midwestern, hopeful actress who just came to town to find a job and love in a Rockstar-wannabe named Drew (Anthony Nuccio).
In Rock of Ages at the Straz Center through June 15, true love is a not a straight and narrow trail. In fact, it veers so much you often wonder how destiny will bring them back together.
You know the story - boy meets girls, boy is too shy to admit feelings to girl who has feelings for boy, girl sleeps with a legendary rock star and gets dumped, gets fired and becomes a stripper and boy becomes the leader of a badly dressed mall-touring boy band. Throw in a dirty politician and diabolical German father Hertz (Andrew Tebo) and his hesitant son, Franz (Chris Renalds), a real estate development team, intent on renovating the strip, demolishing The Bourbon Room and replacing with trendy stores like Foot Locker and you have a love story for the ages.
Oh... That's not how it typically goes?
If you ever cranked the volume up and sang along with your favorite Poison, Twisted Sister, Europe, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar song (among others), this very over-the-top jukebox musical will make you feel like you've time vaulted head first into the 80s.
Breaking the fourth wall, Dennis's sound guy Lonny (John-Michael Breen) in ripped acid wash jeans and a classic mullet, in love with his Fogmaster 5000, interacts with the audience and narrates the story at the perfect pace.
Poking fun at the Reagan Era, this naughty tongue-in-cheek musical tells how Dennis reaches out to Rockstar Stacee Jaxx (Sam Harvey) in hopes of a performance that will raise enough money to save the bar from the wrecking ball.
In Rock of Ages, the entire cast gelled perfectly, had authentic chemistry, and did some incredible choreography. It was so fun to watch, seamless from scene to scene and my favorite performance that I both underlined and circled in my notes was "Dead or Alive," with a reporter eager to get Stacee's story.
Though every voice was 80s vocal perfection, some standouts included the incredibly long held note by Drew at the end of Journey's "Sherry." Just when you thought he would take a breath; he continuously held the note. Justice (Kenya Hamilton) gave an astounding performance of as the owner of the Venus Club, shining in both "Harden My Heart" and "Any Way You Want It."
Any time Lonny was on stage, big laughs followed, but one of funniest moments actually occurred because of a raucous audience member. When Sherrie admitted to Drew that she's a stripper, a patron yelled, "no problem" and the audience lost it. Sherrie and Drew, to their credit, stayed completely in character. Another laugh out loud moment was when Franz, with a high-pitched voice like every cartoon German bad guy ever, stood up to his father and revealed his truth in "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." The audience again went insane.
The cast had so many instances of serious and comic perfection - Drew and Sherrie's car ride, Drew's "original" song, Stacee's pole balancing, the shadowed dancer at Venus Club behind the sheer curtain, the bathroom scene, Sherrie and Drew's duets, Lonnie and Dennis's heartfelt dance number, the construction routine, Lonnie as an angel - I can't pinpoint my favorite moment because there were too many to count.
The set was a character in and of itself with metal scaffolding and enormous road cases as mobile sets, and concert lighting complete with strobe lights. The exceptional costumes and wigs made me feel like I was in high school again.
The band consisting of Marshall Keating, conductor/piano; Zach "AttAkk" Hennig, guitar 1; Maddox, guitar 2; Chris Moore, drums, and Oliver Hofer, bass deserve a huge round of applause for providing a memorable rock concert experience (and for their comedic moments with Stacee.)
If you are looking for a serious performance like Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen, Rock of Ages may not be your cup of tea. If you are seeking a fun, funny and lighthearted rock concert wrapped around a love story, Rock of Ages will delight the headbanger in you and if you were part of the generation portrayed on stage, you can't help reminiscing about the good old days.