Rock Of Ages: 80’s Cheese Served Up Glee-fully

Every now and then you’ve got to give in, let go, and surrender to a show that only wants to throw its arms around you.  Rock of Ages, the jukebox musical that just opened at Boston’s Colonial Theatre, has only one mission: rawk you silly, and send you home happy.  If you’re willing to drop your musical theatre pretensions and play along, you’ve got all the makings for a memorable night on the town.

The hair bands of the 80’s will never win you over with their depth and insight, and neither will Rock of Ages, but power chords and power ballads have a way of  melding with your musical DNA.  I Want to Know What Love Is, Oh Sherrie, Wanted Dead or Alive, Waiting For A Girl Like You, Don’t Stop Believin’ … over-reaching as they may be, these songs can instantly connect you to a place or a moment that transcends any era.

In the end, however, it’s the cast of Rock of Ages that seals the deal.  American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis has a role that fits him as comfortably as the Def Leppard t-shirt and checkered Vans slip-ons he wears onstage.  As rock star wanna be “Drew” his self-effacing charm wins you over instantly.  He can belt out his songs like nobody’s business, but that’s not why you love him.  His underlying sweetness bubbles through, making the whole “acting” thing a complete non-factor.  If your kid never got the lead role in the big show … now he has!

Rebecca Faulkenberry has a little more work to do as “Sherrie.”  The role, as written, is about as interesting as an ear of corn from the Midwest farm town where her character comes from.  Small town girl comes to L.A. seeking fame and fortune as an actress … genius!  But when “Sherrie” sings, things start comin’ together.  Faulkenberry has terrific range, and delivers a killer version of the Pat Benatar classic Harden My Heart.

A cohesive story is so NOT the point of Rock of Ages.  The idea is to get a collection of Sunset Strip vagabonds together to deliver a medley of time tested tunes.  You get the puckish, club manager full of mullet-infused bravado.  In fact, Patrick Lewallen’s “Lonny” spends almost as much time trading lines with the audience as he does with the cast.

Nick Cordero is “Dennis” the 70’s holdover who’s about to lose his legendary rock club to the wrecking ball of urban renewal.  It’s like what would have happened if “Shaggy” from Scooby Doo went into the nightclub business!  He’s a scene stealing gem.

MiG Ayesa as the debauched rock god “Stacee Jaxx” is the ace up the sleeve, though.  He’s a screaming, sweating, sleaze-ball, devouring women like lines of cocaine on a broken mirror. He’s pure narcissism and unbridled ego … hello, Nikki Sixx, you’ve met your twin.  Ayesa is money.

Also, huge props to the live band on the stage.  These guys can shred with the best of them.  The set is killer too, smartly using video screen effects that add .. not take away from .. the live experience.

Oh, sure there’s plenty of stagey nonsense going on to keep the songs from bumping together.  Casey Tuma has the thankless task of playing “Regina” a street activist that’s an annoying blend of the worst of Carole Kane and Annie Potts.  To top it off she sings We’re Not Gonna Take It … uncle!  There’s also a tedious sub-plot with a German real estate mogul and his flamboyant son … yawn.

You’d think with a fair amount of missteps Rock of Ages would start coming apart, but it never happens.  In fact after a slightly uneven first act, the second half of the show comes on like gangbusters.  Maroulis carries you through to the end.  The final chorus of Don’t Stop Believin’ is not only joyous, but justified.

Rock of Ages plays at the Colonial through October 17th.  Dig out a pair of acid washed jeans and go!

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3 Responses

  1. Ummm – Pat Benatar did not sing “Harden My Heart” that was Quarterflash – although Rindy Ross’ vocals does sound like Benatar, she did not sing that song

    • You’re right Todd, the hit belongs to Quarterflash, but the folks behind Rock of Ages put it squarely in the Pat Benatar camp. It could have something to do with a rights or publishing issue. Thanks for pointing that out, I’ll do a little research and see what the story is. I’ll update the comment section when I know for sure.

      Mike

      • Following up on the question of who sang the song Harden My Heart … although the Rock Of Ages background materials credit Pat Benatar with the song, it’s Quarterflash that recorded the hit. Rindy Ross has a very Benatar-ish sound, but it’s Q’flash and Q’flash alone that deserves the credit.

        M.

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