Review: ‘Rock of Ages’ at Reston Community Players

Here’s something I bet you never wanted to think about again: the ‘80s and your hairstyle. Good. Now that I’ve unlocked a horror all too unimaginable, let’s revisit a sexier time in our history. A time of rock ‘n roll, Ronald Reagan, strip clubs, and debauchery as we visit The Bourbon Room in Los Angeles, where our story takes places. That story would be Rock of Ages, now playing at the Reston Community Players.

Our narrator through the show is Lonny Barnett (Brett Harwood), as he tells the story of two crazy kids Drew (Russell Silber) and Sherrie (Claire O’Brien Jeffrey), who both have big hearts, big dreams, and big hair. He’s a wannabe rock star and she’s an aspiring actress. Taking its cues from operetta, the classic “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back” motif is at play here, as Sherrie is seduced by legendary rock star and infamous douchebag Stacee Jaxx (Ben Peter). Drew finds success but loses his artistic credibility as he becomes the lead in a boy band, while Sherrie takes up in a strip club as run by Justice (Bruni Herring).

Brent Stone. Photo by Taci J. Brooks Studios.

Meanwhile, the Sunset Strip is in jeopardy as German developers Hertz (Brent Stone) and his son Franz (Richard Farella) plan to tear down the Bourbon Room, take the “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll” out, and put “cleaner living” in. It’s up to Lonny, co-owner Dennis Dupree (Joey Olson), and City Planner/Activist Regina (Evie Korovesis) to stop the developers from taking the rock out of LA.

“Cheese” is the word I would use to describe Rock of Ages. Pure ‘80s cheese. In the best way possible. All your favorite rock songs of the ‘80s are incorporated into the plot, including “I Wanna Rock,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” Rock of Ages is certainly loud, but also a lot of fun.

Director Joshua Redford assembled a very talented ensemble to take on this rockin’ show. Silber and Jeffrey have great chemistry and sing very well. Silber’s rock tenor vocals I found particularly impressive. Olson as the club owner Dennis was funny and also had great chemistry with Harwood’s Lonny. Two other standouts in the cast were Richard Farella as the flamboyantly German Franz and Bruni Herring, with a beautiful gospel voice that showed with songs like “Shadows of the Night.”

The incredible band of ‘Rock of Ages.’ Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Chris Dore’s choreography was one of the highlights of the show. The choreography was sexy, fun, and showcased very talented dancing in the ensemble. Carole Steele’s costumes were transformative and appropriately gaudy (hey, it’s the ‘80s). Lighting Design was by Ian Claar, who created the perfect rock concert atmosphere with moving lights and bright colors. Dan Widerski’s Bourbon Room set gave a great club feel, even adding in a stage for the band to play.

There were some problems with the sound throughout the performance. I know it is a rock concert, but there were certain moments where I couldn’t hear what was being said on stage. The band, while talented, definitely overpowered the performers during the show. I found it particularly noticeable during the opening of Act 2, when the cast is singing Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” If there is a way to turn up the singers’ mics or to tone the band down it would have greatly added to my enjoyment of the show.

Rock of Ages is a perfect show for a night out; a great substitute for seeing your favorite ‘80s band in concert. Cheering and singing along is encouraged. So tease up that hair and get ready to cut loose when you go see Rock of Ages.

P.S. A source tells me that for the Friday, March 17th show only, use the password “St. Paddy’s” at the box office to receive $10 tickets.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

Rock of Ages plays until Saturday, April 1, 2017, at Reston Community Players performing at the Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500, or purchase them online.