Headbanging music and a story derived from a Journey song circa 1981, Rock of Ages is not your typical Broadway musical. It is cheesy, comical and yet it's full of energy.
If you lived through the 80's era while spending hours playing top hits from groups like Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison and Europa, this might be the show for you. The audience will embark on a two-hour flashback to the period of leg warmers, miniskirts with lace, big hair, fingerless gloves, stirrup pants, perms and other trends that made the 80's so popular.
With a clear inspiration on musicals like Hair or Rent, but without any social message behind it, Rock of Ages tells the story of an aspiring rock star and actress wannabe that join paths in an 80's joint in Sunset Strip. Its writer, Chris D'Arienzo, wanted to fill-in the void of an 80's inspired musical, but without the social foundation of most era inspired productions.
Its narrator, Lonny, sets the tone to the story that at times feels forced to fit all of the writer's favorite songs with some of these hits interlacing with others to develop a conversation between its characters. As you immerge yourself in this purportless story it is quite predictable that we are on the road to its closing song which is clearly the inspiration for the musical. It is obvious that in its script D'Arienzo wanted the audience to just have a good time and not rejoice into the deep waters of an intellectual experience. Even throughout the show the characters make fun of what is going on in the story.
What can be of interest to the musical theater enthusiast is experiencing and auditing songs that have been great hits in mainstream radio performed by the typical, powerful, full range of voices that produce the Broadway stage. You will not hear the expected voices of Steve Perry, John Bon Jovi, Dee Snider, Bret Michaels, Dennis De Young or Joey Tempest. These are talented Broadway performer on stage giving life to this set of tunes thirty years later from the time they became hits.
One of the voices that surely stands out in performance style is the one of Universo Pereira. He portraits a Stacee Jaxx a rock star on his way out of stardom and trying to desperately hold on to his status that is clearly long gone. Pereira's vocals could easily be compared to those of any 80's rock legend. His interpretation of Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi) is simply superb.
Shannon Mullen as Sherri, Dominique Scott in the role of Drew, Justin Colombo as Lonny, Matt Ban as Dennis and Amma Osei as Mother are the actual driving force that make this musical worth watching. Their talent is most certainly at the level of any Broadway performer and their work is truly what makes you want to stay and watch the show. If you truly love the musical theater, you will most certainly be able to put up with this unprosperous contrived chronicle of the usual boy meets girl, and transcend to appreciate the work of this valuable cast.
Broadway on tour is as good in its original Great White Way. The cast that is on the road coming to your city is of unlimited quality and indisputable talent. What makes the vast difference between shows is the theater, production and story behind.
So if you want to hear, watch and enjoy good talent and at the same time sing rock songs from the 80's, you will enjoy Rock of Ages. If you are searching for a big musical with a strong social message, you will have to let this one pass by because you leave on a high note, but empty hearted.