Thursday, March 10, 2011
"Rock of Ages": ☼ ☼ BANG
It is easy to lampoon Rock of Ages, the silly story wrapped around '80's rock music that opened last night to an enthusiastic audience at the Curran. But first you've got to decide whether they're serious or not. Is this a parody of the mid-'80s music scene in Los Angeles, or is it, in fact, a tribute to Whitesnake and Journey and Foreigner and the various other rockers whose songs are featured?
We suppose it is probably both. As a parody it lacks practically everything -- story, humor, interest -- and spends most of its time laughing self-consciously at itself. But as a tribute "Rock of Ages" at least attempts to kick some serious butt. If you loved "I've Been Waiting for a Girl Like You" or "We Built This City (on Rock and Roll)" when they first came out, you'll enjoy the powerhouse four piece band and thank the show's lead singers who at least make us realize how good the original singers were.
Constantine Maroulis is the lead. He plays the poor boy who makes good. Maroulis was a finalist of some kind on American Idol, just to let you know. His love-interest counterpart is Sherrie (Elicia MacKenzie), who has been rejected by her parents in Kansas because she wants to be a star in L.A. The two would-be lovers have an astonishingly imperceptible amount of chemistry going on between them, but it might have something to do with their hair: Maroulis's is longer than MacKenzie's.
We mention hair because it is an icon of the show. But that's hair with a small h. "Rock of Ages" would love to be mentioned in the same breath with the original Hair -- in its casting, its costuming and its vibe. But Hair had fabulous original music and it was about an age. "Rock of Ages" has 25-year-old music and is about -- well, having a good time. Nothing wrong with that.
We also get terribly bad-taste jokes about drugs -- and poop too -- but the show's writers give us nothing about what the music meant to the period.
This is what is so irritating. These were great songs, whether you were into them or not, with amazing bands and astonishing lead singers. The current "Rock of Ages" seems to be right on schedule with the state of rock and roll in our American Idol world -- lots of people who have practiced to find notes in the proper range, but without any sense of the feeling that first imbued this music with so much life.
The audience around you will be young. They will be cheering. Don't leave at intermission -- Act Two is a lot better than dreary Act One.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Rock of Ages" Two Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. The Two Stars are for the three characters who steal the show: Nick Cordero as Dennis, Casey Tuma as Regina and Travis Walker as Franz. Cordero has a voice for the ages, plus a stage presence none of the others possess, including the narrator Lonny (Patrick Lewallen) who tries really, really hard to be Jack Black; Tuma's Gilda Radner-esque protester is winning and eye-catching; and Walker's line as Franz, the fey-ish son of the evil real estate developer, wins the BANGLE OF PRAISE: "I'm not gay! I'm German!"
"Rock of Ages"
445 Geary Street, San Francisco
Through April 9