‘Rock of Ages’ celebrates big bands, big dreams

(Photo courtesy of Scott Suchman)

“Rock of Ages” displays many features of a typical Broadway setting: blaring spotlights, intensely reflecting sequenced costumes and heel-toe choreography. However, this show has the added component of a set list of celebrated 1980s rock ‘n’ roll records.

Showcasing at the Phoenix Orpheum Theatre, the Tony-nominated musical delivers an unabridged entertainment experience featuring the music of Styx, Bon Jovi, Journey and Twisted Sister among other rock legends.

Wanna-be rock sensation, Drew (Dominique Scott) works as a busboy at the Hollywood bar The Bourbon Room when he stumbles into a “friendship” with aspiring actress, Sherrie (Shannon Mullen).

While their smitten relationship slowly develops, German visitors Hertz (Philip Peterson) and his seemingly fabulous son Franz (Stephen Michael Kane) try to convince the mayor that the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of the Sunset Strip needs to disappear, including the beloved Bourbon Room.

The comical owners of the restaurant, Lonny (Justin Colombo) and Dennis (Matt Ban) believe that hosting Stacee Jaxx (Matt Nolan), an egocentric yet renowned rock star, will save the restaurant’s dismal fate. Unbeknownst to the duo, Stacee Jaxx brings on more trouble than he’s worth.

Each character has his or her own fervent dream that is becomes mangled as the plot unfolds, which is reflected in the ensemble number “Here I Go Again.” Despite the challenges, they refuse to throw their dreams away as seen in the finale “Don’t Stop Believin’” and ultimately come together to form a strong commitment to never give in and always rock out.

One of the greatest moments of a show occurs just as theatergoers take their seats and get a first glimpse of all of the features onstage. “Rock of Ages” captivates an audience even before it starts with the neon lights and adult-friendly billboards. With minor additions during the performance, the set reminds the spectators that rock ‘n’ roll will always be present.

“Rock of Ages” presents an impressive and dynamic cast worthy of covering notorious songs such as “I Wanna Rock,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Colombo delivers a sidesplitting performance as the show’s narrator, a character that proves so amusing that before he even opens his mouth, the audience is already laughing.

The chemistry of the entire cast shows with its shared passion for rock music. Lonny and Dennis demonstrate this genuine connection during “I Can’t Fight this Feeling,” when they dread the loss of their restaurant while humorously hinting their sentiments toward each other.

Colombo and Ban’s unforgettable numbers would make it easy to overlook the relationship between Drew and Sherri, but their budding romance steals the spotlight with strong vocal performances and the anticipation for the moment they finally reveal their feelings and sing a long-awaited love duet.

“Rock of Ages” certainly had the audience head-banging in its seats, giving adults a chance to reminisce the wild street scene and celebrated rock ‘n’ roll of the 80s.

 

Reach the reporter at mkthomp5@asu.edu

 

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