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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 06
Seattle prepares to Rock of Ages
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Seattle prepares to Rock of Ages

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Rock of Ages
Paramount Theatre
Through February 13


Whoever thought that making a Broadway musical from the music of the big-haired metallic bands of the 1980s must have been having a flashback. But whoever it was, they were evidently on the right track! Rock of Ages opened this week at the Paramount Theatre and rocked the house! The five-time Tony Award nominee is currently on tour with Constantine Maroulis (of American Idol's fourth season) recreating his Tony-nominated role. To say this show was fun is an understatement. By encouraging audience participation, Rock of Ages broke down the fourth wall and welcomed the audience into its party - and that's exactly what it was.

The story takes us back to the incredibly indulgent time of the mid-late 1980s. At a Los Angeles club called The Bourbon Room, busboy Drew Bowie (Constantine Maroulis) dreams of becoming the next rock legend. Drew meets Sherrie, a girl freshly arrived from Kansas who hopes to make it big in L.A. When Stacee Jaxx, the lead of the hit band Arsenal, decides to go solo, the band needs a new lead singer, and Drew dreams of becoming the star. Amongst conflicts of misunderstandings, urban redevelopment, an evil German businessmen (with a flamboyant son), and civil protesting, Drew and Sherrie discover their love for each other, and - with the help of every great, big-haired metal band - celebrate their love in a wonderfully '80s style.

Constantine Maroulis' character of Drew is the perfect combination of youthful awkwardness with the powerful blend of a rock 'n' roll voice. The audience completely connects with the geeky aspirations of the hopeful rocker, and root for him the entire way. (Several audience members got so caught up they actually voiced their encouragements on a few different occasions. The actors improvised with it perfectly.) His almost gangly appearance doesn't prepare the audience for the power vocals he possesses. After being pressed to reveal his dreams, Drew belts out his answer with Twisted Sister's 'I Wanna Rock,' and that just sets the mood.

Rebecca Faulkenberry is delightful as the young ingénue Sherrie. Although the audience goes along - a little too easily - on her transformation from innocent to bad girl, we have no doubt her redemption is coming. Her voice is strong and clear, reminiscent of Madonna from early in her career (about the same time-frame). It can go from soft and encouraging in 'More Than Words,' to rockin' raw in 'I Hate Myself For Loving You.'

The two characters that stole the show were the narrator Lonny (played brilliantly by Patrick Lewallen) and Dennis Dupree (Nick Cordero) the bar's owner. These characters not only provided hysterical comic relief, they played their roles dead-on as the laidback Sunset Strip club owner and the over-indulgent being that represents the '80s so very well. Patrick Lewallen (Lonny) is so over-the-top that he is the perfect liaison between the show's characters and the show's audience. Nick Cordero (Dennis Dupree) is totally endearing as the bar owner who just wants his world to continue rocking to the music. Together, the two actors play off each other in a Crosby/Hope kind of way, but with music supplied by REO Speedwagon, and provide a fantastic backbone to the musical.

The complete combination of Rock of Ages works. The crowd was welcomed by the cast members and easily became part of the show. Audience members called out encouragement, held up mini flashlights in the shape of lighters, danced in their seats, and at one point even finished the lyric (in 'Keep On Lovin' You') for an on-stage character when he took a longer pause. At the end, they were on their feet, dancing, singing, and applauding the cast during the final bows.

Jukebox musicals started to become popular in the mid-1970s, although films had been using this technique since the 1940s. The term comes from shows that build a storyline around music of a common theme: Mamma Mia is built on ABBA, Jersey Boys has Frankie Valli/Four Seasons, and with Rock of Ages, the music of the arena rock bands of the 1980s. Rock of Ages uses music from Slade, Journey, Damn Yankees, Pat Benatar, and Whitesnake, among others, using the actual songs in a completely different context to fit the libretto. With creative musical arrangements, the show's characters sing out protest with 'We Built This City' and 'We're Not Gonna Take It.' They reflect with 'Sister Christian' or 'More Than Words' and of course use the rousing '80s anthem, 'Don't Stop Believin'.'

Rock of Ages made its Broadway debut at the Brook Atkinson Theatre in New York on March 17, 2009. It has run for over 700 performances and is still playing on Broadway. The show has been nominated for five 2009 Tony Awards (including Best Musical and Best Actor for Constantine Maroulis), with Wesley Taylor winning the 2009 Theatre World Award. The film rights have been bought by Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, and the movie is expected for a late 2011 release.

To contact Eric Andrews-Katz, e-mail eric@sgn.org.

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