BWW Review: ROCK OF AGES is Still Rockin' and Rollin' at Wolf Trap
Rock of Ages, featuring music and lyrics by rock legends such as Bon Jovi and Pat Benatar, debuted on Broadway in 2009 and came to Wolf Trap in 2012. Rock of Ages, book by Chris D'Arienzo and arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp, returns to Wolf Trap on its tenth anniversary tour. Set during of the peak of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll in late 80's Los Angeles, Lonny (John-Michael Breen) works at the rock club Bourbon Room, owned by Drew Dupree (Anthony Nuccio), known for his work with the Alans Parsons Project and local L.A. glam rock band Arsenal, led by frontman Stacee Jaxx (Sam Harvey). The Bourbon Room is the center of the L.A. rock scene and Dennis (Anthony Nuccio), who works with Lonny and Drew, wants to move from bartender to rock god. When aspiring actress Sherrie (Kristina Walz) shows up at Bourbon Room, Dennis instantly falls for her. While Dennis struggles with telling Sherrie how he feels, Dupree and Lonny convince Stacee to return to the Bourbon Room for one last show. It doesn't take long before the L.A. rock 'n' roll world is in jeopardy as Sunset Boulevard including the Bourbon Room is under threat of demolishment by German real estate developers, Hertz (Andrew Tebo) and his son, Franz (Chris Renalds). With Sunset Boulevard under threat, activist Regina (Kristina Walz) begins her fight along with the rockers "against the proletariat." Rock of Ages, directed by Martha Banta and choreographed by Janet Rothermel, is still, as Poison croons, "nothin' but a good time."
The cast of Rock of Ages brings concert level energy to the musical. It's contagious and infectious from glam metal songs to the soft rock ballads. Standout songs include "We Built This City/Too Much Time on My Hands," "I Wanna Rock," "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Wanted Dead or Alive," "Oh Sherrie," and "Don't Stop Believin'." Anthony Nuccio shows off some wicked pipes as he belts "hold on" during "Oh Sherrie." Kenya Hamilton's Justice, the owner of Club Venus, only appears briefly in the production, but her time on stage packs a punch. Her spectacular, soulful vocals are paired with hauntingly beautiful vocals of LaMark's Sherrie during a mash-up of "Harden My Heart" and "Shadows of the Night." "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" features fun choreography, dramatic costume changes and powerful vocals from Walz's Regina and Harvey's Franz. The music of Rock of Ages won't complete without an incredible band. The band consists of Conductor/Piano (Marshall Keating), Guitar 1 (Zach "AttAkk" Henning), Guitar 2 (Maddox), Drum (Chris Moore), and Bass (Oliver Hofer).
The musical not only is full of rockin' songs but also is uproariously funny and self-aware. John-Micheal Breen's Lonny is quirky and funny as he controls the story's narrative including its central love story between Dennis and Sherrie. His witty one-liners and direct interactions with the audience make him quite memorable. LaMark's Sherrie and Harvey's Stacee Jaxx "sharing their dreams" in the men's bathroom is physical comedy at its best. Renalds' Franz is wonderfully eccentric especially as he becomes more against his father, Hertz's plan for "economic redevelopment" of Sunset Boulevard.
Rock of Ages kicks bass with its production quality featuring a versatile set and rock-steady choreography. The set is designed to look like the backstage of a rock concert with metal rigging and tour boxes. The tour boxes easily convert into different set pieces such as Dennis' car and the bar at the Bourbon Room. The choreography by Janet Rothermel pairs well with the rockin' tunes and makes you want to dance along with the cast.
Rock of Ages is a musical which will make you want to break out your inner rocker.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Photo caption and credit: Stacee Jaxx (Sam Harvey) and his band Arsenal play at the Dupree's Bourbon Room. Credit: Jeremy Daniel
ROCK OF AGES runs at Wolf Trap's Filene Center - 1551 Trap Road Vienna, VA - on June 18, 2019, and June 19, 2019. Tickets can be purchased online.