Rock and roll in any era is far more deserving of a rave review so who am I to stand in the way of anything less? Hands down Broadway San Jose’s “Rock of Ages” the musical, not only took center stage opening night at San Jose Center for the Performing Arts but they rocked a full house for what turned out to be a whole lot more than dreams-come-true for stage members who rocked it in the talent arena as well.
From the 1987 Sunset Strip in the big city of Los Angeles, a place that was not only the base of a lot of rock and roll but also where dreams meant something and were not only based on every rock and roll song ever made (or vice versa) – but also on the band behind, who were the crux of the tunes in those dreams. So for first mention who absolutely deserve top billing, to an amazing band who stood center stage the entire performance and played their hearts out (with talents showcased even louder): Tim Kelleher on bass; Richard Maheux, conductor/piano; Tristan Avakian guitar; Maddox, guitar; and Bones Elias on drums. Just know the lighter (in spirit) is being held high throughout this review.
As for small-town girl and a natural big-city dreamer Sherrie (Shannon Mullen) who somehow ends up in little rock club where she not only meets the incredibly handsome and talented Drew (Dominique Scott) – who although his talent is not immediately notable, like many from back when “dreams sometimes lay on just one good song” – his dreams thankfully comes to life in Act 2. Although Drew (Scott) and Sherrie (Mullen) go through their share of rock and roll good and bad times (with every song telling a story), with Sherrie (Mullen) mistaking their relationship for “friendship” (intended sigh and shaking of head, guys) ending up getting a little more than she bargained for in the men’s room of the club – to the fitting tune no less, of Foreigner’s “I Want to know What Love Is” – from (intentional ehem) Stacee Jaxx (Universo Pereira), who for other than his amazing talent (and at-first-glance Brett Michaels lookalike features for that literal split second before being “blinded by the light”), I would have disliked his character entirely (and likely the point). there is even a song by Poison to take my mind of things later on, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” so I was continuously pleased.
This five-time Tony-nominated musical indeed kept the audience rockin’ to tunes that couldn’t help but remember legendary and iconic rockers such as Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Pat Benatar and Whitesnake, Every song perfectly fitting, with some that came to mind that either blew minds or smoked them out, almost literally. Although I think folks were either too involved in the music to notice; or heck, maybe it was just from the “party on” wave of rock (the lighter wave of approval)?
This incredible worldwide smash hit “Rock of Ages” directed by Tony Award Nominee Kristin Hanggi (“Bare,” “Pussycat Dolls on the Sunset Strip”), choreographed by Kelly Devine (“Jersey Boys,” Associate Choreographer) is a story is about everything rock and roll: Big dreams, love, sex – and as much “bitchin’ this” or “smokin’ that” that people can remember from an era filled with 80s legends, there were only a few moments the old-fashioned side of me remembered the language and attire had a point so I got over it (although some made much more sense come Act 2). (Although, since I did open that pearly gate – the only peeve with any language in any musical would be the use of God’s name in vain; and it cometh with but one thought: When creative license is given, the only hope ever is that creativity flourishes.) So, nothing to do with creativity in this rockin’ musical because as I said previously, it rocks regardless, hands down.
“Rock of Ages” held the audience’s attention with 28 classic rock tunes that also included “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “We Built This City,” “The Final Countdown,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Here I Go Again,” “Harden My Heart,” “Can’t Fight this Feeling,” “Renegade” and “I Want To Know What Love Is.” Others worth a mention (wishing I could name them all) would be “Heaven” (Warrant), “Heat of the Moment” (Asia) and “High Enough” (Damn Yankees).
The other actors were all definitely good with moments to remember, such as the fight for the club “Bourbon,” but like “dude,” it all works out in the end especially if Lonny (Colombo) has anything to say about it. There were times when the audience stood up with their lighters lit – in fact one person did a solo with his lighter – which started the “wave” of approval, which sparked the rest as if at a real concert. (Some even forgetting it wasn’t.)
As for some of the best talents and most memorable scenes: Mullen (Sherrie) and Scott (Drew) totally rocked it for one of the best love stories of all “Rock of Ages.” Best scenes include the car scene (hilariously adorable); and of course when Mullen (Sherrie) and Scott (Drew) – who is without a doubt a rock star with unbelievable talents – when they (or anyone) break out in song; and, “that first kiss.” Oh, and the ending for multiple reasons, and not just because of dreams that come true. You’ll just have to see it!
Other notables (whether a second mention or not) include Columbo (Lonny), who was anywhere and everywhere and in your face, literally; but indeed this guy has talent that can’t go unnoticed. And of course Danny McNugh (Drew) and Jacob Smith (Danny) can’t go unmentioned; equal to Amma Osei’s actually, who played an excellent role as girl’s club owner (The Venus Club). And, wow, Franz (Stephen Michael Kane) indeed delights – the absolutely adorable and hilarious ones usually do – but not until Act 2 – in fact, he shined as equally bright as Regina (Megan McHugh), although they both rocked it, literally, in the second Act. Father (Pereira) also another great talent, although believe it or not I didn’t realize it was him without looking until the singing; kudos for such great roles. And of course a few others that should never go unnoticed – the groupies all did a great job with an excellent display of talent by Chris Sams who plays the mayor.
In all essence of the words, “Rock of Ages” musical is one of the season’s best musical’s – engaging, full of life and filled with incredible talents. Oh, and this goes without saying, the TV screens in the backdrop are absolute genius and an incredible addition; not only does this add to the musical’s presentation, but mixed with the twist of the narrator taking direction and giving direction – not just to the actors or the storyline, but also the audience – absolutely outstanding. I am almost at a loss for words.
Right; I said almost. Just one tiny pet peeve – but really, I don’t think this has anything to do with the lighting (for the lighting was extremely well done, which was done by Jason Lyons); so to keep with the theme of the musical, when I say I was “Blinded by the Light” – the strobe lights may have a theater issue (being too small for the set design). Which by the way, was another outstanding design (by Beowulf Boritt) as was sound (Craig Cassidy). After all, I can’t imagine it was for effect or to bring the audience back to an era when people lived – and died – for rock and roll; much like Regina (McHugh) almost demonstrates. Quirky, hilariously engaging, entertaining – truly “Rock of Ages” is a time warp of “totally rad” rock and roll.
Overall, “Rock of Ages” is one rockin’ good time, whether you’re in a good mood, bad or indifferent, you will be in a great mood after seeing this phenomenal musical. You can’t help but fall in love with rock and roll all over again, the actors, the dreams behind (then and now) even if someone else’s or your own – it’s that good.
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“Rock of Ages” for ages 12 and above now playing at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts located at 255 S. Almaden Boulevard in San Jose, playing through February 3, 2013. Run time: Just under 2-1/2 hours with one intermission. Visit the site www.BroadwaySanJose.com for tickets or additional information.
“Rock of Ages” is based on the book by Chris D’Arienzo (writer and director of the film, “Barry Munday”) with original arrangements by David Gibbs (“Counting Crows;” film, “That Thing You Do”) that will not only present a continuous rock party on stage, but engage the audience, too.
Age recommendation: Not recommended for children under 12 according to releases although I would say (because there was request for additional detail) those parents who know their kids, if they are privy to the rock and roll era and innuendos of sex, drugs, night clubs (including “girls” and men’s clubs), “smokin’ this” or some inappropriate language, then by all means the call is yours for an age above 12; (it’s basically equivalent to a Rated R film without violence) For additional information, visit the website.
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