Rock of Ages, the new ‘80s rock musical which is kickstarting its national tour at the Bank of America Theatre, is not unlike drag night at Charlie’s in Boystown. Loud, in your face, high camp, big hair, glam costumes, stiletto boots, attitude, and demanding of your attention.
That’s to be expected. I mean, this show, which is set in the late 1980s on the seedy Sunset Strip of West Hollywood, celebrates all those glam rock bands that have been pounded into our subconsciousness, such as Poison, Whitesnake, Starship, Journey and Twisted Sister. Big hair, big voices and big attitude come with the territory. The only significant difference here from a drag show is there’s no lip-synching. These kids are all ripping through these classics as if their lives depended on it. Each cast member seems to have graduated, with honors, from the school of vocal pyrotechnics.
(“Motoring!! What’s your price for flight?!!”)
To keep things grounded in this frenzied storm of perms and pleather, there’s a tale-as-old-as-time love story. Wanna-be rocker Drew (Constantine Maroulis) falls for fresh-off-the-bus Sherrie (Rebecca Faulkenberry), but doesn’t have the heart to tell her. He goes off to realize his rocker dream, while she falls prey to the seedy nightlife as only a young girl with great legs and bottle-blonde hair in Hollywood can.
Meanwhile, a team of greedy German investor types are looking to bulldoze down Sunset Strip to build a mini mall or something. The resident rockers are none too happy about this, and protest (cue “We’re Not Gonna Take It!”).
You can guess the rest. The audience leaves happy. In fact, I think I should really let the long-haired dude who sat behind me write this review. He sang along with every song, laughed uproariously at each (self-referential) joke, gasped when the (formulaic) plot took an (expected) turn. In short: he was rocking out.
I gotta say I left a fan of Maroulis’. I know, right? Not only does he have this unexpectedly huge voice (never saw him on Idol), he’s also a really endearing actor with this hang-dog face that you just wanna shmoosh. You totally root for him as the confidence-lacking kid with rockstar dreams.
Our narrator, Lonny, on the other hand, is headache inducing. Oh, sure, Mitchell Jarvis is great in the part (producers flew him in from the Broadway production as a last minute replacement due to supposed illness of Patrick Lewallen who is billed as the tour Lonny), but it’s written in such a way that I just wanted to smack him. Calm the f down, I wanted to say. But he’s clearly a crowd favorite.
Also, kudos to Chicago native Travis Walker, whom I saw in Chess recently at Theo Ubique. He’s playing an “is he gay or European?” German investor guy.
Oh, and you can order beers before showtime to have them brought to you during the show. Drinking a Bud in your seat. At the Bank of America theatre. Rock on?
“Rock of Ages” plays at the Bank of America Theatre through Oct. 3. More info here >