‘Rock of Ages’ at The Warner Theatre by Diane Jackson Schnoor

FOUR AND A HALF STARS
On Sunday afternoon, Washington theatre goers packed the Warner Theatre for the headbanging, sex, drugs, and rock and roll debauchery that is the non-Equity tour of Rock of Ages.

The cast of 'Rock of Ages.' Photo courtesy of the tour website,

The cast of ‘Rock of Ages.’ Photo courtesy of the tour website,

The plot doesn’t matter very much. It is the music of the 1980s that drives the show. Book writer Chris D’Arienzo does an excellent job of interweaving classic rock and glam metal hits into the slender plot, notably “Don’t Stop Believin’,” ‘’We Built This City,” ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Here I Go Again,” “Harden My Heart,” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

The plot, such as it is, revolves around the Sunset Strip romance between small-town girl and aspiring actress Sherrie (Shannon Mullen) and big-city boy and aspiring rocker Drew (Dominique Scott). Their happiness is threatened by a number of factors, including developers from Germany (Philip Peterson and Tanner Hussar), who want to demolish the Sunset Strip, and the appearance of Stacee Jaxx (Joshua Hobbs), an oversexed rocker singing one last concert with his metal band before going solo. And that doesn’t include the complications created by Wayne’s World style narrator Lonny (Andrew Sklar), who breaks the fourth wall with a wink and a nod to complicate the couple’s relationship.

Rock of Ages excels when it takes itself lightly, such as in “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – a campy number in which protesting city planner Regina (Jessica Pucek) and Franz (Tanner Hussar), the developer’s son who would rather run a confectionary store, protest plans by Hertz (Philip Peterson), the villainous developer who wants to shut down the Sunset Strip and demolish the legendary Bourbon Room. Pucek’s earnestness and power vocals lend a sense of urgency to her fight to save the Sunset Strip. Hussar provides some of the sweetest and funniest moments in a show bent on showing the seamy underside of the 1980s.

Comic relief also comes from narrator Lonny (Andrew Sklar) and Bourbon Room owner Dennis (Brian Ashton Miller). In addition to strong vocals, Sklar and Miller have pitch-perfect comic timing. Their “Can’t Fight This Feeling” is one of the high points of the show. As Justice, the owner of the “gentleman’s club” near the Bourbon Room, Kadejah Oné delivers a stand out performance. Oné’s tender and powerful vocals rock the rafters.

Rock of Ages is fueled by the music, particularly the band rocking out onstage. Marshall Keating (conductor/piano), Paul Wiley (guitar 1), Maddox (guitar 2), Bones Elias (drums), and Rigo Flores (bass) give it everything they’ve got and are great fun to listen to. Unfortunately, at times the band overwhelmed the vocalists at Sunday’s performances.

While the singers and band cranked up the volume, the energetic ensemble turned up the heat in exotic 80s costumes by Gregory Gale as they pounded out the sultry dances choreographed by Kelly Divine and recreated by Marcos Santana for the tour. Thanks to the hard-working cast of the non-Equity tour of Rock of Ages, the 1980s live on with a wink and a nod.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and thirty minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Rock of Ages played for one night on Sunday, March 4, 2014 at the Warner Theatre – 513 13th Street NW,in Washington, D.C. For future events, check out their Events Calendar.

LINKS
Meet the cast.

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