Story: Sherrie was just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world. Drew was just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit. They both ended up in Los Angeles in pursuit of their dreams, she as an actress and he as a rock musician. Drew draws the attention of Dennis Dupree, owner of The Bourbon Room nightclub, who hires him as a busboy. When Sherrie walks into the club, Drew and Sherrie immediately hit it off. Drew convinces Dupree to hire Sherrie as a waitress, but Sherrie is subsequently disappointed when Drew’s shyness leads him to tell her on their first date that he just wants to be friends.
She ends up having a fling with jaded rock star Stacee Jaxx, who promptly demands that she be fired before he and his band Arsenal perform their final concert at The Bourbon Room. Sherrie is forced to work at a strippers’ club, while Drew becomes disillusioned when a record producer tries to force him to change his musical style. Just when everything seems bleak, Dupree’s slacker friend Lonny, who also serves as the show’s narrator, tells Drew to pursue his dreams and find Sherrie on the midnight train going anywhere.
Highlights: More than two dozen hit tunes from the 1980s comprise the sound track for this silly, risqué, crude and entertaining musical that played a three-day engagement at The Fox on its first visit to St. Louis. Still being performed on Broadway, where it opened in 2009 after an initial debut in Los Angeles in 2005, Rock of Ages had the house rollicking with memories of bygone years on opening night at The Fox, where it packed the place with fans of such ‘80s groups as Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Jefferson Starship, Whitesnake, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and Poison. While I personally don’t need to see this ear-splitting production again, ‘tis a fact that most of the folks in the audience were wildly enthusiastic about it.
Other Info: Rock of Ages is a highly successful combination of old-time romantic story of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl in tandem with head-banging chords from a quarter-century ago combined with mellower tunes for the old-at-heart in the audience. Thus, Wanted Dead or Alive and I Hate Myself for Loving You share the stage with We Built This City and Don’t Stop Believin’, along with a wide range of numbers in between. It’s unfortunate and frustrating, though, that several tunes are truncated into medleys.
The show’s goofiness is best exemplified in the persona of Lonny, a wasted dude who frequently talks directly with the audience. Justin Colombo brought the right touch of silliness and undeserved swagger to the part in the production. Matt Ban was consistently amusing as Dupree, the club entrepreneur, while Dominique Scott and Shannon Mullen hit the right, earnest notes as Drew and Sherrie. The even broader roles of bad boy rocker Stacee Jaxx and rebel leader Regina were played appropriately by Matt Nolan and Katie Postotnick, respectively.
Scheming German real estate developer Hertz, who wants to tear down the Sunset Strip glitter and replace it with an urban residential complex, is played in cartoonish style by Philip Peterson, as is his frustrated son Franz, portrayed by Stephen Michael Kane. Fact is, all of the characters in Chris D’Arienzo’s book are one-dimensional with the exception of Lonny, so heavy-duty acting isn’t required. Others in the cast include Amma Osei as the owner of the strip club and Chris Sams as the mayor.
Ethan Popp is in charge of music supervision arrangements and orchestrations, with pianist Darren Ledbetter conducting the band on-stage in its clever disguise as Arsenal, including Maddox and Chris Cicchino on guitar, Alan Childs on drums and Andy Gerold on bass.
The garish set designed by Beowulf Boritt is an amusing assault on the senses, complemented by Jason Lyons’ wild lighting, Gregory Gale’s tacky ‘80s-style clothing, Tom Watson’s flamboyant succession of wild-mane hair and wig designs, Angelina Avallone’s makeup, Craig Cassidy’s sound design and some very clever and highly entertaining video projections provided by Zak Borovay.
Throw in some lively choreography by Kelly Devine that recreates the dance moves of a bygone era and you have a good time, albeit one R-rated, for the children of the Reagan administration. For others of us, a good set of earplugs would do nicely.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Musical: Rock of Ages
Group: Touring Company
Venue: Fox Theatre
Dates: Run concluded
Photos by Scott Suchman