By admin on Apr 8, 2009 | In ATW Reviews
Some shows that succeed off-Broadway just seem naturally destined for Broadway. And for others, well, a transfer from a small house to a larger one seems like a dicey proposition. Losing intimacy, increasing ticket price and enhancing a piece's physical production sometimes can all conspire to take a hit and turn it into a notable also-ran. The most recent transfer to Broadway is the jukebox tuner Rock of Ages, which after a well-received and often extended debut at New World Stages last fall, opened last night at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The move has proven to be a wise one; "Ages" has retained all of its goofy innocent charm and has been tweaked perfectly to fit its new venue.
Filled with tunes from the likes of Styx, Twisted Sister and Journey "Ages" actually tells a story that might have made any of these rockers' eyes roll. It's love at first sight for Sherrie (played with sweet innocence by Amy Spanger one of the show's two new principals), who's just arrived on the Sunset Strip from Kansas with dreams of movie stardom and Drew (the still completely endearing Constantine Maroulis), who has dreams of his own – becoming a rock great under the name Wolfgang von Colt. They meet after Sherrie's had her purse stolen on her very first day in L.A. Drew, sweet guy that he is, manages to get her a job at the bar where he works: Dupree's Bourbon Room, a rock 'n' roll joint run by Dennis Dupree (played with amusing dryness and just an air of marijuana-induced vapidity by Adam Dannheisser), a holdover hippie from the 60s.
Drew and Sherrie's tentative love affair begins against a backdrop of urban redevelopment: Hertz (a teutonically precise and uberly amusing Paul Schoeffler) and Franz (the hilariously mincing Wesley Taylor), a father and son team of German developers, are about to demolish all of the bars and strip clubs that give it color. The romance between hero and heroine proves short-lived, however, when, after he's said they're just "friends," she has a quickie with David Lee Roth-like star Stacee Jaxx (a sensually leonine James Carpinello, the show's other new lead), a guy abandoning his own group Arsenal in search of superstardom in a solo career. Not only does Sherrie's tryst with Stacee put her relationship with Drew on the skids, it also costs her her job, and she ends up working as an exotic dancer for Justice Charlier (Michele Mais). Of course even with all of these complications, it's little surprise that the course of love ultimately runs true and demolishment of the Strip is averted.
This thinner-than-air – and that's okay – musical still rumbles and thunders along under the sure-handed direction of Kristin Hanggi, who, with bookwriter Chris D'Arienzo, have tweaked the piece so that sentimentality and snarkiness now coexist comfortably in the show. It all unfolds within the clever environment created by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt which primarily features the seedy interior of Dupree's club, and also includes elements of exterior locations, and the milieu of the piece is beautifully enhanced by projection design from Zak Borovay. This designer's contributions, alongside choreographer Kelly Devine's dances and Jason Lyons' concert-style lighting design, will often take theatergoers back to the early days of MTV with a gleeful wink and nod.
What's perhaps most impressive about "Ages" is D'Arienzo's careful integration of songs, which often seem as if they had been written not as stand-alone hits, but rather were part of the book. First time audience members will roar with laughter when they discover the surprising ways songs like Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You," Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," and REO Speedwagon's "Keep On Lovin' You" are used.
It's interesting that these songs, as well as the more than two dozen others, which are used in Rock of Ages were originally performed in large arenas around the world. Maybe that's why the show fits so comfortably into its new capacious Broadway home.
---- Andy Propst
Rock of Ages plays at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (256 West 47th Street). Performances are Monday at 8pm; Tuesday at 7pm; Thursday & Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2 and 8pm; and Sunday at 3 and 7pm. Tickets are $26.50 - $99.00 and can be purchased by calling 212-307-4100 or by visiting www.Ticketmaster.com. Further information is available online at: www.rockofagesmusical.com.
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