Review: Rocky Mountain Rep’s Rock of Ages
Special to the Sky-Hi News
While cleaning out my grandmother’s house after she died, I was sorting through a pile of cassette tapes when I found one labeled, in her handwriting, “Romantic Power Ballads”. The image of my grandmother putting together a mixtape of her favorite mid-80s hair band tracks is almost as hilarious and compelling as Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater’s production of Rock of Ages, and includes a lot of the same music.
The show follows a love story that unfolds on the sunset strip in 1987, on the tail end of what the interactive, crass, and loveable narrator Lonny (played by Matthew Provencal) reminds us was “The Reagan Era”. A German developer (played by Chris Davis) has come to LA to tear down the strip and get rid of the rock clubs, including a long-time mainstay called The Bourbon Room, where a country girl with dreams of an acting career meets a bar back with dreams of music stardom.
It is certainly only pure coincidence that the Reagan administration presided over an era in rock and roll that was built around tight pants, giant flowing hair, and thrusting. The show celebrates the unique culture that existed at that moment, and the music that came out of it, from Journey to White Snake to Poison and others.
The show opens with a member of the orchestra rising up from the pit and delivering a blistering guitar solo, setting the tone for what would be an authentic and loud show that does the music justice.
The music is at its best with the cast’s rendition of Twisted Sister’s “I wanna Rock”, complete with the arena show lights and fog that make the tiny venue seem massive.
Besides the outstanding chemistry between leads Caleb Baze and Lillie Cummings as Drew and Sherri, Jamie Dillon Grossman gives a phenomenal performance as Regina, the city-planner-turned-rock and roll-defender who chains herself to bulldozers and lights herself on fire to protect the Sunset strip while also singing lead on “We’re not gonna take it.”
In the film adaptation of Rock of Ages, Tom Cruise played the role of rock god Stacee Jaxx. Tom Cruise is 5’7”, whereas David Sajewich seems at least 6’7” in tall and tasseled cowboy boots and zebra print tights, becoming a truly larger-than-life character worthy of the screaming worship from male and female fans.
The show is rated PG-13 for a reason. The dancing is provocative and the language is loaded with innuendos that might demand some acrobatic explaining from parents. But the cast goes for that aspect of the show fearlessly and brilliantly, and it’s a necessary shot in the arm for a Grand Lake audience that hasn’t witnessed a demonstrative crotch grab in a few decades, probably since this music was new.
Sitting in the front or near the aisle will involve plenty of direct interaction with the cast during the big dance numbers and when Lonnie, the narrator, is working the crowd between scenes. If you fail to clap along to the music during “Don’t Stop Believin’”, a cast member will find you and clap your hands for you until you get in the rhythm.
Rock of Ages is a burst of energy harking back to a unique, beautiful, and utterly ridiculous moment in time. The music will stick in your head for a week afterward, but it will be worth it.
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