It had to happen. If Chris D’Arienzo hadn’t concocted the 2008 Off-Broadway and 2009 Broadway hit Rock of Ages, now wowing Durham Performing Arts Center patrons of a certain age, someone else would have created a jukebox musical showcasing the music of the 1980s. D’Arienzo selected the greatest hits of Journey, Styx, Pat Benatar, Poison, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Night Ranger, Twisted Sister, Asia, Whitesnake, and others to provide a soundtrack for a love story set in 1987. There’s just so much drama amidst the Wall of Noise.
A singer-songwriter-guitarist named Drew Foley (Dominique Scott) toils by day as a busboy and hustles by night to catch a break in one of the seedier clubs on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. When Drew meets a recently arrived starstruck small-town girl from America’s Heartland named Sherrie Christian (Shannon Mullen), it is love at first sight; but he makes her think that he thinks that she is just a friend. Then a sordid men’s-room encounter with flamboyant frontman Stacee Jaxx (Matt Nolan) leaves a bad taste in Sherrie’s mouth (pun intended), and her budding romance with Drew hits the skids.
Scott as Drew and Mullen as Sherrie give winning performances as the cute but clueless on again, off again couple, and Nolan is a stitch as the larger-than-life rock god Stacee Jaxx. Matt Ban is terrific as the perpetually stoned Dennis Dupree, who owns the Boubon Room, where Drew and Sherrie toil in menial jobs. Phillip Peterson and especially Stephen Michael Kane leave indelible impressions as ruthless German developer Hertz Klineman and his sensitive son, Franz, who want to buy the Bourbon Room, demolish it, and build a more lucrative project on the land — and they are willing to bribe the corrupt Mayor (a saucy cameo by Chris Sams) to cut the necessary corners.
Katie Postotnik is a pip as the Klinemans’ nemesis the rogue city planner Regina; Amma Osei is good as Venus Club owner Justice, who transforms Sherrie from a waitress into a stripper; but it is Justin Colombo who steals the show with his outrageous antics as Dennis’ right-hand man Lonny. Lonny is the straw that stirs the drink in the Bourbon Room; and he keeps the audience hopping, too.
Rock of Ages also boasts a bodacious onstage backup band, with scorching solos from Chris Cicchino (guitar 1) and high-octane accompaniment from musical director and conductor Darren Ledbetter (keyboards), Maddox (guitar 2), Andy Gerold (bass), and Alan Childs (drums).
The musical staging by tour director Adam John Hunter and choreographer Marcos Santana recreates the theatrical magic of Broadway director Kristin Hanggi and choreographer Kelly Devine, the versatile set by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt and the lurid outfits by costume designer Gregory Gale vividly evoke the aura of the 1980s.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 27th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Zack Smith (who awarded the show 2.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/artery/archives/2011/10/27/rock-of-ages-is-rote-and-uninspired; Oct. 27th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/10/27/1597062/top-talent-helps-ages-rock-on.html; Oct. 26th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/16179438/article-REVIEW–Get-ready-to-rock-with-‘Rock-of-Ages’-?instance=main_article (Note 1: You must register first to read this article); and Oct. 26th Raleigh, NC NBC17.com review by Erica Bustamante: http://www2.nbc17.com/entertainment/2011/oct/26/review-rock-ages-totally-rad-ar-1541109/. (Note 2: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 25th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/10/big-hair-meets-big-dreams-in-rock-of-ages-at-dpac/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents ROCK OF AGES at 8 p.m. Oct. 28, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 29, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at DPAC, in the American Tobacco District, at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $37.50-$74.25 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919/680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1291934.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services/broadway_group_pricing.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W9m1jz0J28.
The Musical: http://www.rockofagesmusical.com/ (official web page), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Ages_(musical) (Wikipedia), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=482290 (Internet Broadway Database).
The Tour: http://rockofagesontour.com/ (official web page).
The Film (due out in 2012): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Ages_(2012_film) (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1336608/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.