Rock of Ages: Theater Review

Winslow Townson
Another jukebox musical, entertaining at times but not enough times.

“American Idol” Season 4 finalist Constantine Maroulis stars in the Los Angeles production at the Pantages Theatre, running through Feb. 27.

Hair is back. No, not the flower-child, love-rock musical of the 1960s, but the ‘80s-set jukebox version Rock of Ages that features big hair, big dreams, big egos (always in fashion) and making it big in Hollywood.

As a general rule, the only form of nostalgia more potent than a jukebox is a jukebox musical, and Rock is no exception. This Broadway tuner gives us nearly 30 hit songs from the likes of Poison, Bon Jovi, Styx, Twisted Sister, Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon, Whitesnake, Asia and many more glam metal bands and performers of the decade. This may not be the decade that lights your fire, but if you’ve secretly been pining for another gander at poofy manes, skin-tight leather duds and a slew of early MTV clichés about finding fame and fortune, love and lust on the Sunset Strip, this is definitely the four-pack wine cooler for you.

Nostalgia, however, is not necessarily for sissies or children under 14 as Rock has enough sex play, lighthearted raunch and multicolor underwear to stock a retro lingerie boutique twice over. Trash is cash, as they say, and Rock is rich.

The silly plot centers on a couple of wannabes who meet at the legendary Bourbon Room, a seedy rock club on the Strip. Drew (Constantine Maroulis, a Season 4 finalist on American Idol), a shy fellow with big rock aspirations, and Sherrie (Rebecca Faulkenberry), a not-so-shy small-town girl who wants to be an actress, take a fancy to each other and then make a mess of the budding romance.

Meanwhile, the club’s future is put in jeopardy by Hertz (Bret Tuomi), a greedy German real estate developer and his swishy but–not-gay son Franz (Travis Walker). There’s also the club’s longtime owner (Nick Cordero); an oversexed but under-equipped rock star, Stacee Jaxx (MiG Ayesa), who seduces Sherrie (not hard to do) in the men’s room; a city planner (Casey Tuma) who leads a revolt; a crooked mayor (Rashad Naylor) on the take; and a strip club owner, Justice (Teresa Stanley), who takes Sherrie on as an exotic dancer. Most important of all is Lonny (Patrick Lewallen), who narrates the show with a good feel for the excesses and tongue-in-cheek style that make it amusing.

Rock, directed by Kristin Hanggi with book by Chris D’Arienzo, has the good sense not to take itself seriously except when it comes to the music. The story, characters and style of the piece run the gamut from the silly to the cartoonish, and even the nonstop pelvic choreography, after a while, is about as erotic as cracked crab.

Any musical that starts with two characters wanting to wail on the Sunset Strip and ends with them settling for a house and kids in Glendale is trying to tell us something. Fortunately, the show’s music is better than its mixed message. 

Venue: Pantages Theatre, Hollywood (Through Feb. 27)
Cast: Constantine Maroulis, Rebecca Faulkenberry, Patrick Lewallen, Teresa Stanley, Nick Cordero, MiG Ayesa, Rashad Naylor, Casey Tuma, Bret Tuomi, Travis Walker. Book: Chris D’Arienzo
Director: Kristin Hanggi
Choreography: Kelly Devine
Musical supervision: Ethan Popp

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