Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rock of Ages, Still Rollin' Out 80's Style Hair Band Bliss, But Only Through October 3rd



ChiIL Mama had a rockin' good time at the Rock of Ages First National Tour launching in Chicago.   The five time Tony Award nominated smash-hit musical  is a hilarious trip back to a simpler time of leather clad heroes, big haired dreamers, day glo spandex, and wine coolers.   The timeless story of boy meets girl...boy loses girl...two reconcile...plays out against the backdrop of a turf battle, between gritty rock pioneers and money grubbing developers. 


The cast is full of silly, cliche', but fabulously fun characters--outraged hippie protester, flamboyant, sensitive German boy mistaken for gay, sleazy producers, madams who play Mama figure to the strippers on the strip, naive small town youth whom L.A. is eager to exploit, and on it goes.

You can still get your rock on with powerful performances by a cast full of notables, including Constantine Maroulis, who originally played Rock of Ages lead, Drew, on Broadway.   He's best known as an American Idol finalist but he's been making quite a name for himself on stage including a Best Actor Tony Award nomination.   The contrast between his soft spoken, shy advances toward his love interest, Sherrie, and the impressive intensity of his songs is hilarious.


As the show opened with hard rockin', in your face, 80's classics, there was an odd moment of disorientation.   This wave of arena rock energy emanated from the stage, but instead of an audience in leather and blue jeans screaming back with fists in the air, the front rows of the orchestra pit were filled with elderly theatre patrons who were steadfastly clinging to their seats.   


The actors went to work right away, joking with the audience and pulling them in.   In no time, the 4th wall was down, the balconies were rockin', and the floor crowd was singing along, jumping to their feet, and havin' nothin' but a good time.   


Thanks to ample liquor, and drink tickets that brought waiters right to your seats, even the most staid patrons loosened up by the 2nd act.   By the time the cast broke out the big rock ballads, nearly everyone was waving mini flashlight bulbs in the air, to simulate the lighter filled 80's rock audiences, without the scent of burning fingers.


The entire cast looked like they were having so much fun, and a good segment of the crowd came dressed in their 80's best.    Plenty of big hair, rock tees, fish nets and 80's garb flashed between the more conservatively dressed.   Between the cast and the crowd, there was plenty of eye candy for everyone!   Gotta love those long haired rocker boys in black leather and tight pants.   


Broadway in Chicago posted a PG13ish warning that some of the dances and costumes may be inappropriate for children.   There are "stripper" characters, but nothing more risque than a bra and fishnets.   I did see a few younger children in full 80's rock star dress, and they were having a blast.   Still, parents who are uncomfortable with simulated lap dances and semi-mature sexual themes might want to make this a parents night out.


For everyone who remembers living through the 80's, or wish they did, ChiIL Mama highly recommends Rock of Ages.  If you just can't make it out this week, there's a New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. film of the musical, directed by  Adam Shankman (Hairspray) due out in 2011.

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