All I know is that I had a blast at Rock of Ages which has settled in, perhaps settled in is the wrong term, it’s more like the Brooks Atkinson Theatre has been taken over by a band of debauched and decadent 80’s rockers that want to shake the rafters mightily until audiences rise and cheer for a show that has little plot but lots of entertainment to offer.
It’s the perfect show for the tourist that speaks minimal English but wants to have a great fun evening of song and dance. Songs from the eighties from Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx, Reo Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Poison, Asia and Whitesnake. I can’t remember what I was doing in the 80’s but I wasn’t listening to these songs. I was totally out of my element, musically speaking, at this show. Nonetheless, I had a great time. I just let the entire experience wash over me. My advice is to do the same and if you have any problems whatsoever, drinks are available during the performance from waiters that run up and down the aisles.
Rock of Ages is a fantastic combination of great casting, fabulous production values (some of the best costumes on Broadway – Gregory Gale and terrific lighting – Jason Lyons), inventive choreography by Kelly Devine and the aforementioned rock score. It somehow all comes together as an unexpected exciting entertainment with tongue firmly implanted in everyone’s cheek.
It’s silly to even explain the silly story line. Briefly, guy saves girl. He wants to be a rock star she a movie star. Evil developers want to replace the strip with a mall. A famous rock star comes between Drew and Sherrie and there is a happy ending. The rest is all rock and fun. Chris D’Arienzo is responsible for the connective tissue otherwise known as the book.
In case you get lost there is Lonny, the narrator – a terrific Mitchell Jarvis who has lots of interplay with the audience. Constantine Maroulis is the wannabe rock star who falls for Amy Spangler the wannabe movie star who turns to stripping. He gives a fabulous, fully developed performance as the shy easy going guy who suddenly becomes electrified with his inner rocker. It’s a joy to watch him perform. As his love interest who spurs him on over wine coolers, Amy Spangler is just right with her Farah Fawcett hairdo and wide eyed innocence until her inner passion is let loose. As Stacee Jaxx, the famous bad boy rocker who tries to interfere with true love, James Carpinello, rises to the occasion beautifully in bizarre costumes and fright wig.
Everyone in the cast gives their all under the skillful direction of Kristin Hanggi who keeps the ball bouncing throughout. The Act I finale is phenomenal and is only surpassed by the over the top ending – “Don’t Stop Believin”.
Within all of this mayhem, there is someone wearing a bow tie and suit that everyone should keep their eye on. Making his Broadway debut, he is going to be a major player in future shows. His name is Wesley Taylor. He is Franz, son of the evil developer who only wants to open a chocolate shoppe and who falls in love with the activist Regina (Lauren Molina). In what could have been an exaggerated portrayal, Wesly Taylor hits all the right notes, has just the right tone, has just the right amount of nuance to make this a breakout performance. He sings superbly and can rock with the best of them. And is a strong dancer and expert comedian. His duet in Act II with Regina almost stops the show, which is no mean feat considering the company he is keeping.