Last night, Broadway Across Canada’s Rock of Ages opened to an enthusiastic crowd. Hearing Journey’s “Stone in Love” pre-show was enough to send me back to my teen years living in Los Angeles. Yes, this is a musical set to my LA high school years, dreaming of being old enough to enter many of the Sunset Strip music venues that were evoked in Rock of Ages.
Think Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You“, Jon Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive“, Jefferson Starship’s “We Built This City“, or Europe’s “The Final Countdown“, married with the interior of one of LA’s hottest clubs, to an evening of dance and rock music that tells the tale of young love.
This production focuses on themes of dreaming big, rock and roll hedonism, 80’s politics, and MUSIC! Get ready to rock; this production is loud, brash, and fun to experience.
Rock of Ages begins in the late 80’s on the Strip, where Sherrie lands in the big city and winds up at the Bourbon Room, dreaming of becoming an actress. Pretty, young, and blond, she’s offered a job at the club waiting tables where she meets Drew, with his own dream of making it big in a rock band. Throughout the two hour, 20 minute (with one intermission) show, the audience is in for brash humour (Lonny, played by Justin Colombo nails the annoying 80’s dude almost to a fault), strong vocals (standouts are Tymisha ‘Tush’ Harris performing in two roles, and Matt Nolan as rock music god Stacee Jaxx), and costumes that range from sexy to outrageous.
The majority of the show takes place inside the Bourbon Room, utilizing a smartly designed revolving stage that sets apart some of the scenes. Palm trees, neon signage of the Roxy Theatre, Whisky, Venus Club, as well as Angelyne’s classic billboard pose hang above a wall of posters, LPs, and other memorabilia. A video screen in the centre cycles to show sunny blue skies, LA scenery, and glimpses of the Reagan years. The back of the stage is where the house band (a talented group of guitarists and drummer) lets it rip to the production’s 28 tunes.
Back to Lonny for a moment. Some of his lines (with regard to the story) were completely unnecessary and sometimes added filler to an already two hour+ performance. While everyone’s known a Lonny type, I personally thought that the story could have done without some of his antics.
And while my partner and I loved young Drew’s (Dominique Scott) vocal talent, we both felt that Sherrie’s (Shannon Mullen) vocal range didn’t work well with Dominique’s. Aside from that, this is a tight, fun, and silly production sure to recall that decade to those who lived through it; for those who were too young, I can assure you that this show represents that decade pretty well.
Rock of Ages is presented by Broadway Across Canada and continues at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts through May 13 (Tuesday through Saturday, 8 pm; Sunday, 7 pm; Saturday, Sunday matinées, 2 pm).