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.


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"
Curran Theater
445 Geary Street, San Francisco
Through April 9


Anonymous said...

Well, apparently you didn't get the show because you are way out of the mainstream of 2 years of theater reviews. You also seem to be wowed by the over the top, one over the top line characters, but if you were really into good theater as you suggest you would recognize the talent brought by Mr. Maroulis who brings the heart and soul to the show, stretches the farthest in the acting department and who earned a Tony Nomination for his portrayal of Drew. Get over yourself. I wouldn't give you one bang. LOL

DAK said...

Well, I think I did get it. You'd have to be a chimpanzee not to get it. I just wasn't wowed by the glitz. But I did love the music, then and now.

Thanks for your point of view. Honest.

If you're still there -- how did you feel about the Lonny character?

SuzieQ said...

Love.Love.Love Rock of Ages...and I slept through the 80s (actually, was listening to Sesame Street & changing diapers around that time, IYKWIM). If you want to hear KILLER vocals, have the most fun you can have in public, and come out of a show dancing & singing the rest of the evening away...this one's for you. It's a combination of a 1930's musical (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy...well, you know;) and a hot hot hot score (& the most gorgeous cast ever)...
Wow. Did you even go to the show, or did you just see the words "American Idol" and take it from there? Amazing how off-kilter your review is compared to hundreds of others. Not to mention a Tony nominating committee.... Guess it's viva le difference! I'll gladly take your seat :)

DAK said...

Dear Suzy Q: I'm hearing from a lot of people who feel as you do. I've had to remove some of the fouler ones. Yeah, you're probably right about American Idol. Nice call. It's weird, all right -- eight people in our row and six left at intermission.

Anonymous said...

I was at the SF opener. And you are right that Act 2 totally kicks Act 1's rear end. But I must disagree with you about the singing lacking feeling. The singing is uniformly terrific -- alternately powerful and tender -- and provided a couple of goosebump moments for me. The hard working band also deserves a mention. They rock Rock of Ages! Regarding your mention of the lack of "chemistry" between the two leads, if you'd done a little theater research you might have discovered that this was the first night in the show for Sherrie. As such, I thought she did great for her first night and will very likely only get better. ROA is a musical that is raucous, knowingly silly, even raunchy. Granted, it has a predictable plotline but while it may not be to everyone's taste, it doesn't pretend to be anything but a good time. The audience left the theater laughing and smiling and this has been the case since its opening on Broadway and as the touring company has traveled across the country since September 2010. In addition, it's brought lots of people to the theater who might not have spent much time there before. As for me, I'm going again while it's here.

Anonymous said...

They're making a Movie out of this show. Tom Cruise no less will be the star. Ew.

Would you be interested in seeing the Movie?

DAK said...

Dear Anonymous -- sorry, but if it's a character's first night he or she is still responsible. Perhaps it was direction -- but the lead couple felt flat as a pancake. I hope it's something easily fixable, like getting more comfortable in their roles, and not that 'wimpy' and 'deluded' are the show's antidotes to 'sex' and 'drugs.'

DAK said...

Tom Cruise? As who? Drew? Sherrie? Who is going to lip-sync for him? Holy macaroni. This tale ambles into murkier waters!

Betty said...

Rock Of Ages is more fun then any show I have seen. Fun is a good thing. Yes, it's silly but it's entertaining, passionate and inspiring too. I loved it and want to go back.

Anonymous said...

No need to slam the show or its actors. Just admit it wasn't your kind of musical and move on. For the vast majority of people that see this show, critics included, it's an amazing fun filled feel good show period!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't even believe this review. I saw this show 3x on Broadway. I saw the touring show when it opened in Chicago and went back the next night, then twice in Ohio, Detroit, and I have tickets for two nights in Indianapolis. I've only seen Rebecca Faulkenberry in the Sherrie role with the touring company. She and Maroulis practically set the stage on fire and there was so much chemistry we all figured hanky panky was going on. So, have no idea how this other chick did. The show was fun and Maroulis wonderful. I think you dissed him because he was on American Idol. The man was nominated for a Tony. He must have some talent. You say you get it, but you don't.

DAK said...

Well, I'm pleased you came to the theater and cared enough to write me. But no, it's not the reviewer's job to care what other reviewers think about a show, only to report what he or she sees. Have you really already seen this show ten times? Ten times? I'll say one thing for you, you've got stamina.

Anonymous said...

I saw this show on Broadway, and again in LA and Costa Mesa. Yours is the very first review I've read (out of many) that didn't mention the outstanding vocal talent that Constantine Maroulis brings to the stage in Rock Of Ages. I'm a 'traditional' theater fan myself, and not particularly a fan of American Idol (as you obviously aren't), but I do recognize vocal acuity (and convincing acting)when I hear/see it.
Too bad 6 people left early; I talked 4 season ticketholders into staying past the first scene in LA; they were the first people on their feet for the standing O at the end of the show, and they didn't leave until the last guitar lick was done.
Thnx for enabling comments, DAK

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about the rude comments. Some of the fans are a bit over-the-top (Superfans?). I enjoyed your review. It is a very slapstick, cheap thrills kind of show. As far as a movie...I don't know. Great music, though.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across this blog and just had to add a comment. I'm not adverse to juke-box musicals......they have their place and can be a lot of fun. Yes, the script is lame; I hardly need to expand on that, although I cannot explain the longevity of the production. Perhaps "groupies"? Very eighties, wouldn't you think? I saw this production in Toronto, and I think that of all the characters, the ensemble/swing get the least recognition. They, more than anyone, are responsible for the high energy of this show. Now to the two main characters - I know Constantine did the whole American Idol thing, but at least he has some musical theatre background. He has struggled and now gained some success. Dak mentioned that he didn't see a whole lot of chemistry between the two leads. Sherrie, played by Elicia Mackenzie, won a reality contest in Canada(fresh out of college) and went on to "star" in the Sound of Music as Marie before she was cast in Rock of Ages (in Toronto). Now, I will grant you, that she has a wonderful voice, and is very pretty, but her acting abilities leave a LOT to be desired. I agree with your comment "sorry, but if it's a character's first night he or she is still responsible". Her inability to create any amount of chemistry with her counterpart shows her lack of experience. Through a reality contest, she has had a lot of doors open to her and not been subject to any amount of criticism. How will she ever improve? And how many other struggling actors with more talent would have been so very very grateful for the chance to be cast in this part? Perhaps I just have a problem with reality stars getting a chance to shine when other, more deserving, actors have to work 3 jobs to make ends meet.

DAK said...

This latest Anonymous comment is thought out and incisive. Thanks. Of course, fame (even TV 15-minute fame) brings people new opportunities, as it should, and this is often at the expense of more experienced (and probably older) actors. But fame doesn't make you more or less deserving -- it just gives you access. You've still got to produce.

It Rock of Ages any different than Alladin? Or The Little Mermaid? Not really, but the music is so much better. More importantly, is it better than Mamma Mia or Jersey Boys, two other shows who capitalized on great music around which to build a story? For this reviewer, no, not even close. M.M. and J.B. are fabulous, hearfelt stories. R.O.A. feels D.O.A...but, clearly, not to its many fans.