Do you find yourself pining for acid-washed denim to come back into style? Gents, does your senior yearbook photo feature you wearing long, straight hair down past your shoulders? Ladies, how much Farrah Fawcett flip were you rocking? What about your prom dress? I need to know the degree of shoulder-poof involved. If you find yourself guilty of any of these, I might just have the show for you – Rock of Ages.
Rock of Ages, like Bon Jovi or Guns N’ Roses, isn’t one you should underestimate all these years later. Any show that manages to run five and a half years on Broadway is no slouch. Now on its tenth anniversary victory lap, Rock is delightfully tacky and a little too decadent, much like the decade to which it pays its homage.
While a real band needs to reach 25 years after its first album to be considered for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s worth noting that Rock of Ages has far outlived the usual shelf-life of a jukebox musical. And for very good reasons.
Don’t misunderstand me… Sondheim this isn’t. If you prefer Shakespeare, he’s playing down the hall, well, in the form of NashvilleRep’s Shakespeare in Love. Rock of Ages is a collage of hair band hits, bad jokes, unfortunate wardrobe choices, and it is utterly delightful in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. Cheesy is a word that gets thrown around too casually. What strutted across the stage of TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall last night had more cheese-power than the State of Wisconsin. Forget glitter: this is a show that delights, revels, and rolls around in hyper-orange canned spray cheese and leaves you dusted in its glorious Cheeto-powder wake.
I’d tell you about the story, but it’s barely there. And for a night like this, that’s not a problem. The scenes largely exist to set up the next song that you already know. The book, full of fourth-wall breaking, self-referential humor is better constructed than you’d expect by Chris D’Arienzo. I’ll wager that never in the history of reviewing this show has the theatrical trope “Chekhov’s Gun” been mentioned. But when Drew, the wannabe hair band god with arms like tree limbs, says in the first act that he’s from Detroit, Michigan – and then points on his hand where that is like any true Michigander would – you best bet that that moment will bear fruit in the second act.
Anthony Nuccio, he of the Brawny ad arms, proves his bona fides with a screaming roar of a rocker voice and 55-gallon drum lungs. As his love interest, Katie LaMark’s Sherrie, a small town girl livin’ in a lon… yeah… heads to Los Angeles to do what all little girls who go to Los Angeles from Nowheresville, USA are there to do. And while she might detour through the World’s Second Oldest Profession on the way, LaMark performs with an earnest honesty that blessedly lacks small town hokum. And her voice isn’t screwing around either, kids.
John-Michael Breen’s Lonny is a one-man Greek Chorus / Deux ex Machina / Fog Machine Master and is the Elmer’s glue that keeps this papier-mâché love note to 1980s debauchery rolling along. Other performers of note are the splendidly campy Chris Renalds as Franz; Sam Harvey’s sinuous, sinful Stacie Jaxx; and Ryan Hunt’s Dennis, styled in true Lebowski fashion.
The songs are too many to list and I wouldn’t dare spoil the fun that so many of them bring when their opening notes rip out into the theatre. The challenge of the jukebox musical is crafting a scene to make a song feel seamless and not shoe-horned in. Rock of Ages is well-crafted enough that it bucks that trend and manages to melt your face off, if just a little, along the way.
Rock of Ages is performing an extremely limited run at TPAC, having only two performances left on Satruday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. It is worth noting that TPAC is offering $30 rush seats, which are made available 90 minutes prior to the show ONLY at the box office.