Review: ‘Rock of Ages’ at the Workhouse Arts Center

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Rock of Ages is more of a rock concert than a musical. The musical comedy, created by Chris D’Arienzo, is currently running at the Workhouse in Lorton to sold-out audiences, and with good reason. With songs from Journey, Whitesnake, Poison, and much more music from the 80s, the show is a solid ride of hilarious, sexy, face-melting kick-assery from top to bottom.

The cast of Rock of Ages. Photo by Joey Wallen.

Direction for the show was by Jeffrey Davis, and Mary Payne Omohundro served as assistant directer and choreographer. There’s a live band that starts the show off with a rocking guitar solo (Robbie Taylor), leading in to, “Just Like Paradise/Nothin’ But A Good Time,” while the show’s narrator, Lonnie (Michael Omohundro), lays down the groundwork of the story and introduces the main characters.

Most of the show takes place in the Bourbon Room, a Hollywood club run by Dennis Dupree (Joey Olson), where wannabe rock star Drew (Christopher Shaw) is a busboy. Drew meets and instantly falls for Sherrie (Kimberly Geipel), the new girl in town, fresh off the bus from Paola, Kansas.

Geipel and Shaw are perfectly adorable together, playing the should-be lovers who are stuck in the friend zone. They sing some amazing duets throughout the show, and “High Enough” is a definite vocal highlight of the show.

But the show is not all rock and love fluff. The club is in danger of being torn down by German real-estate developers, Hertz Klinemann (Kevin Stockwell) and his son Franz (Harrison Lee). Lee is hilarious as the reluctant villain, struggling under his father’s thumb, and surprises the audience with his emotive rendition of “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” (no spoilers).

David Smigelski, Chris Willett, Emesto Perez, David Weinraub, and Robbie Taylor in Rock of Ages. Photo by Joey Wallen.

Fighting against the establishment to save the Bourbon Room and the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll vibe of the Sunset Strip is Regina (Karissa Swanigan), who forms an unlikely friendship with Franz. Swanigan is quirky and feisty as the dedicated protester, who leads the fight with, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

And no love story is complete without its conflict. Stacee Jaxx (Greg Watkins) takes up that mantle. He’s the lead singer for the popular band, Arsenal, and is performing a farewell concert with the band, before starting his solo career. Stacee is as sleazy as he is sexy and oozes his way in between Sherrie and Drew’s budding romance. Watkins has a rich, silken voice and seduces everyone within in earshot when he sings “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

The show is filled with surprising twists, falls from grace, and is a constant energy rush sustained by the ensemble, who fill in for various roles. Don’t miss the impressive pole tricks by Kylie Clark and an epic cameo by Arsenal’s new lead singer Joey Primo (Mickey Orange).

With a show like Rock of Ages, the high-points are endless: Omohundro’s Lonnie and Olson’s Dennis sing the hilarious show-stopper, “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” together. And Genevieve Williams, as Justice, leads the Poison favorite, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

The Workhouse’s production of Rock of Ages is a rockin’ good time, and you don’t have to be a child of the ’80s to appreciate the music. The show is definitely not suitable for children, with all of its sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, but is just what the doctor ordered for the mature population to laugh and let loose.

Running Time: Two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

Rock of Ages plays through May 20, 2018, at the Workhouse Arts Center Theater (building W-3) – 9518 Workhouse Way, in Lorton, VA. For tickets, call the Workhouse information number (703) 584-2900 or go online.