If you are a child of the eighties, liked (or maybe still like) hair bands, or just liked the eighties in general, clear some time between now and Sunday to catch Rock of Ages before it leaves Kansas City. Rock of Ages is similar to the eighties in which it is set. What I mean is that it isn’t weighted with a heavy story or any lesson, though the book by Chris D’Arienzo very cleverly slips one in. I didn’t see coming, but I dug it.
The story is pretty straight forward, but fun. All the characters in the show are basically caricatures of the 80’s rock scene. There is a narrator, Lonny (played by Kansas City Native Patrick Lewallen), who works at The Bourbon Room. The Burbon Room is owned by Dennis Dupree (Nick Cordero) who was part of a 70’s band that found enough success that he was able to open the club. The Burbon Room sits on the Sunset Strip amongst the glitz and glam of mid to late eighties LA. Drew Bowie (Tony Award nominee and Broadway cast member Constantine Maroulis), is a busboy at the Burbon and aspires to be a rocker. Sherrie (Elicia MacKenzie) rolls into town from Paola, KS, thinking they are handing out acting jobs on street corners. It should be pretty obvious where that story goes. If it isn’t obvious: boy meets girl, falls in love, but is too much of a nice guy. Enter Stacee Jaxx (Peter Deiwick channeling David Lee Roth) and complications and feelings mix things up between Drew and Sherrie.
Meanwhile, German developer Hertz (Bret Tuomi) and his son Franz (Travis Walker) are attempting to destroy the Sunset Strip by doing away with the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll lifestyle its clubs inspire. Paying off the mayor, his city planner Regina (Casey Tuma) goes off in a rage and makes it her goal to keep Hertz and Franz from succeeding in their goal of creating a clean living on the Sunset Strip.
If it hadn’t been for the charisma of every actor on stage (and the fact that the book often breaks fourth wall and pokes fun of itself, musicals and even the actors) it would have been easy for a show like this to fall very flat — feeling like its pandering to fans of the glitz and glam rock of the eighties. Thankfully, all is saved by every actor in the show bringing their A game to the table. Not a single member of the cast felt weak or out of place in their role. Furthermore, the two leads Constantine Maroulis (yes, that is the same Constantine from the fourth season of American Idol) and Elica MacKenzie have some amazing range and belt out each song.
I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention the band in the show. With them playing at the back of the stage most of the night, the show feels almost as much like a rock concert as it does a musical.
All in all, Rock of Ages is a guilty delight. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and really has an infectious fun that easily comes across to the audience. Its easy to see why Hollywood is currently developing a movie based on the show, and I’m happy to have had a chance to catch it live with the talent that this first national touring production brings to the table.
I give Rock of Ages 4 “tasty Arby’s” out of 5.
Rock of Ages is at the Music Hall through Sunday. For tickets call 1-800-776-7469 or click here
By John Coovert