Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rock of Ages (Brooks Atkinson Theatre)

(Editor's note: This review was written for the off-Broadway production of Rock of Ages at New World Stages. A new Broadway review of the show will be available shortly.)

BOTTOM LINE: Go to rock. Totally bitchin' fun that shouldn't be taken too seriously.

It's the mid-late 1980's. One of the hippest rock and roll bars on the Sunset Strip faces demolition at the hands of evil German developers. What's the solution? Throw one final all-out rock concert to save the day. Throw in some leather pants, jean vests, strippers, a hippie, and some killer guitar shredding and you've got Rock of Ages, the newest musical to play at New World Stages. It's a fun filled night that rocks pretty hard. When the lights go down you actually feel like you are at a rock concert; the musical numbers are totally rad. The story that links them together is pretty lame, but you don't really care. The musical numbers are just that much fun.

The set list is packed with one awesome power ballad and metal classic after another. Some of my favorites include: Sister Christian, We Built this City, More Than Words, I Want to Know What Love Is, Here I Go Again, Every Rose Has It's Thorn, Can't Fight This Feeling, and many more! It sounds like one of those cheesy late night infomercials for some album like: "Man The '80s Rocked," and the music really is that good. Ethan Popp, who does some pretty killer musical arranging, assembled a kickass collection of songs. Literally, ever time there was a musical number, I thought, "I love this song!" When you enter the theatre are you given a squeeze lighter to wave as you see fit, and you will want to put that bad boy to good use.

The cast is filled with Broadway veterans. Leading the pack is Constantine Maroulis from the fourth season of American Idol and Broadway's The Wedding Singer. He does a pretty good job trudging his way through the awkward book, but really shines when he gets to do what he is best know for...sing. I expected Maroulis to be good, but there were a few moments where he really sang the hell out of the music and I was pretty damned impressed. Mitchell Jarvis channels his inner Jack Black to serve as the evening's narrator and he delivers the best musical moment of the show with his interpretation of "Can't Fight This Feeling." Jarvis flexed his rock star muscles previously in Prospect Theatre Company's The Rockea (I hope the success of Rock of Ages will fuel a larger scale remount of that smart, rockin show). But I digress. Lauren Molina, who recently appeared in the Tony Award winning revival of Sweeney Todd as a classical soprano, lets loose belting out such songs as the Twisted Sister anthem "We're Not Gonna Take It" with great enthusiasm. Every member of the cast dances and rocks their hearts out. Savannah Wise has one featured moment where she sings her face off that left me wishing the rest of the ensemble was featured even more.

I love the music of this era. I think it is awesome. If you think that guitar shredding and power chords are lame, then this probably isn't the show for you. If you want to kick back and rock harder than you have during any other musical, go see Rock of Ages. If you want an intellectually stimulating night of the theatre, you should probably look elsewhere. Rock of Ages is everything that you expect and hope it will Go with a group, grab some drinks beforehand, and have a great time.

(Rock of Ages plays at New World Stages, 340 W 50th Street. Perfomances are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 8:00pm, Friday at 7:00 and 10:00 pm, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00pm, and Sunday at 3:00pm. Tickets are priced from from $46.50-$80.50 and a limited number of $26.50 rush tickets are available at box office day of show only. Tickets can be purchased through Telecharge at or by calling 212.239.6200. Visit for more show info.)

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