Sunday, January 2, 2011

1980s Rock with "Rock of Ages"

By Skip Sheffield

Where were you in ’82?
If you are like me, no matter where you were or what you were doing it was to the beat of bombastic 1980s “big hair” bands like Foreigner, Night Ranger, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Pat Benetar and Whitesnake.
“Rock of Ages,’ running through Jan. 9 at Broward Center for the Arts, takes some of the greatest hits of these groups and incorporates the lyrics into a boy-meets-girl tale of fortune-seeking, bitter disappointments and rueful life lessons.
Yeah, Chris D’Arienzo’s book is pretty clichéd and corny, but the production itself is a catchy, guilty pleasure wave of comedy, wailing vocals, gymnastic dance moves and thundering heavy metal rock music.
The nominal star of the show is Constantine Maroulis, who plays nice-guy everyman Drew Bowie, a waiter and aspiring musician at a Los Angeles Sunset Strip club called the Bourbon Room (think Whisky-a-Go-Go), run by a towering hulk of man named Dennis Dupree (Nick Cordero).
Drew’s female counterpart is star-struck Kansas cutie Sherrie, played by Rebecca Faulkenberry.
Maroulis, an “American Idol” finalist, originated the role of Drew Off and on Broadway and was rewarded with a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor. Maroulis has the requisite long mop of curly dark hair and a piercing tenor voice that easily penetrates to the back of the balcony.
Narrating the show, which is set in 1987 but has some songs into the 1990s, is a character named Lonny (Patrick Lewallen). Lonny often breaks the “fourth wall” and talks and jokes in a conspiring fashion with the audience.
Pop songs are often blended in a clever manner, as when Drew and Sherrie have a picnic and sip wine coolers overlooking L.A. while singing “More Than Words” (Extreme, 1990), “Heaven” (Warrant, 1989) and “To Be With You” (Mr. Big, 1991).
There is an inevitable girl-loses-boy twist when Sherrie unwisely has a fling with Stacy Jaxx (Mig Ayesa), the preening, egotistical lead singer of house band Arsenal. Sherrie also loses her gig as a waitress, and she is reduced to working as an “exotic dancer” (stripper) at the disreputable Venus Club, run by the commanding Justice (Teresa Stanley).
Things get rocky at the Bourbon Room when father and son German developers Hertz (Bret Tuomi) and Franz (Travis Walker) threatened to tear the joint down and redevelop into a Disney-style sanitized playground.
Love makes unexpected turns when Lonny declares devotion to Dennis and light-in-the-loafers Franz takes up with Casey Tuma’s Regina (rhymes with vagina), a crusading, socially-conscious city planner.
None of this matters very much. What does matter is the anthemic songs, played with expert bravado by a precision band, highlighted by lightning-fast guitar-shredding by Chris Ciccino.
Director Kristin Hanggi was nominated for a Tony Award, but this is not the kind of show that wins Tonys. It’s the kind of show that sells tickets. If you loved the extreme looks, music and attitude of the 1980s, you’ll love this show.
Tickets are $25-$65. Call 954-462-0222 or visit

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