On Sunday, September 9, 2012, Wolf Trap presented Rock of Ages, a hilariously entertaining rock musical containing twenty-eight of the 80’s greatest glam metal hits, from artists like Rock of Ages,, and much more! With a book by Chris D’Arienzo and directed by Kristin Hanggi, re-created by Adam John Hunter, this fist-pumping production is pretty much as good as it gets!
Set Designer Beowulf Boritt transformed the stage into a bar/club called “The Bourbon Room,” where the walls were covered with colorful guitars, shiny albums, and countless other pieces of rock memorabilia. Exposed brick led view to the outside of the club as well, where a strip club advertised their establishment in bright neon signs. Smaller side-sets revolved into view throughout the show, such as a graffitied bathroom and a tidy office.
A live band (Bryan McAdams on piano/conductor, Chris Cicchino and Maddox on guitar, Andy Gerold on bass, and Alan Childs on drums) stood in the center towards the back of the stage, where they stayed for the entire duration of the show. Pixilated screens stood atop all of this, from which Projection Designer Zak Boroway showed parts of the plot and setting. Lighting designer Jason Lyons utilized flashing, vibrant strobe lights, and when mixed with the frequent fog effects, the results were face-melting (in a good way!). Costumes by Gregory Gale were the epitome of 80’s glam rock: men whose shoulder-length kinked hair needed more upkeep than the women’s hairstyles, sleeveless t-shirts, tight jeans, studded belts and vests, fringed jackets, and knee-high leather boots took the stage in waves.
Narrated by the riotous Lonny (Justin Colombo), the time is 1987, the place: Hollywood. Aspiring musician Drew (Dominique Scott, who lends sweet shyness to the character) wipes tables at The Bourbon Room, where he meets Sherrie (Shannon Mullen), a newcomer from Kansas with a dream of being an actress. Love-struck Drew convinces the bar owner Dennis (Matt Ban) to give her a job, but their budding relationship is threatened when the famous rocker Stacee Jaxx (Universo Pereira) sets his sights on Sherrie. Things go from bad to worse when German developers Hertz (Philip Peterson) and his son Franz (Stephen Michael Kane) move forward to demolish “The Bourbon Room” for the sake of a “cleaner” Sunset Strip. Passionate City Planner Regina (Megan McHugh) leads a fiery protest, but is it enough to save “The Bourbon Room,” and the dreams of the people who work there?
The plot is delivered in an exceptionally fun, lighthearted manner, and the musical continually pokes fun at itself and is unashamed of being what it is: a fireball of raunchy energy. Comedic timing amongst the talented ensemble was impeccable. The choreography by Kelly Devine and recreated by Marcos Santana is fantastic, and when paired with classic 80’s hits, the nostalgic crowd erupts with energy! Numbers met with the most enthusiasm included “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (for which lighters went up throughout the audience). By the time “Don’t Stop Believin’” rolls around, the audience was on its collective feet, singing along with their hands held high. The euphoric mood that took hold of the venue was thrilling!
Part rock concert, part comedy, Rock of Ages is a show that I would see over and over again.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and thirty minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Rock of Ages Tour website.