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'Rock of Ages': Off-Broadway Review

Big Hair, Big Sound in ’80s Tribute 'Rock of Ages'

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Rock of Ages - Off-Broadway review of the musical Rock of Ages

Constantine Maroulis and Kelli Barrett

Image courtesy Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, an off-Broadway musical at New World Stages, weaves the well-known “what will success do to two innocent kids” plot, but wraps it in the arena rock and power ballads of the 1980s.

What 'Rock of Ages' is About

Rock of Ages tells the story of star-struck kids, Drew and Sherrie – he, a wanna-be rocker; she, a wanna-be actress – as they struggle through and with the wild-living scene of Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Sound serious? It isn’t. (Your first clue is the “Bic lighter” flashlight handed out as you enter. They’re perfect for waving to power ballads, and there are a lot of power ballads.) Rock of Ages is both an hommage to the hair bands of the era (Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx, plus about 26 more), and a send up of musicals in general.

A father-and-son team of Teutonic developers, hilariously played by Paul Schoeffler and Wesley Taylor, have come from Germany with cash to reinvent Sunset Strip as, well, Times Square. If they succeed, it means the end of The Bourbon Room, and just what will become of hair bands if that happens?

What You’ll Like About 'Rock of Ages'

No question here: If you like ’80s music, you’ll love Rock of Ages.

There are, no-kidding, 30 songs from the era, including "We Built This City," "Waiting for a Girl Like You," "Can’t Fight the Feeling," and, of course, "Don’t Stop Believing."

As Drew, Constantine Maroulis, late of American Idol and The Wedding Singer, can belt with the best of them and play for laughs. But he’s given stiff competition in both departments from Will Swenson, fresh off a similarly hirsute role in The Public’s Hair.

Rock of Ages also gives you off-Broadway’s first look at Kelli Barrett, who plays nice-to-naughty-to-nice Sherrie, and who, I think, has a bright future. She does it all: acts, sings, dances . . . lap dances.

R of A is a self-referencing, making-fun-of-itself musical (imagine Spamalot with guitars), through which we are guided by Mitchell Jarvis as Lonny. Jarvis has to be the hardest working guy off-Broadway. Lonny is the master of ceremonies, who narrates the show. He’s the sound guy at The Bourbon Room. He’s in almost every dance number (sometimes in the female part). And he carries a secret torch for a friend, revealed, of course, in a power ballad. (Get out your Bic flashlighters.)

Finally, a nod to the choreography by Kelly Devine, who was the assistant on Jersey Boys. That show also interprets an era through song and dance, and Devine gives us the bumping, grinding, hair-flipping, arm-waving feel of the times.

Things to Consider

Rock of Ages is not a feel-good musical for the whole family. It’s a feel-good musical for those who like loud music joints and the back alleys behind them.

The hair is big, the costumes small, and the language colorful.

Of course, this was a hard-drinking, hard-partying era, and there is cigarette smoke in plenty to bring it to mind. So, if that bothers you, now you know.

Who Put This Show on and Stars in It?

Rock of Ages’ opening night cast included (by appearance): Mitchell Jarvis, Michele Mais, Adam Dannheisser, Constantine Maroulis, Kelli Barrett, Will Swenson, Lauren Molina, Brian Munn, Paul Schoeffler, Wesley Taylor, Savannah Wise, Nova Bergeron, and Jeremy Woodard.

It was written by Chris D’Arienzo and directed by Kristin Hanggi.

Rock of Ages transferred to Broadway in March 2009, show times and tickets.

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