Brooks Atkinson Theater
New York, (212) 307-4100
If you pine for the era of mullets, wailing guitars, torn jeans, and fringed leather jackets, this “unapologetically silly hair-metal jukebox musical” starring American Idol’s Constantine Maroulis may just be your thing, said David Rooney in Variety. Set in a rock den on L.A.’s Sunset Strip in the ’80s, Rock of Ages is your classic tale of boy meets girl/boy loses girl to Jon Bon Jovi wannabe/boy wins girl back. Really, it’s just an excuse to raise a Bic lighter (or a faux one, courtesy of the show’s producers) to some 30 precious metal anthems from the likes of Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, and Whitesnake. Not your typical Broadway fare, but it turns out the overproduced songs of that era make “a surprisingly snug fit for musical treatment.”
Songs such as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” may be the “musical equivalent of wine coolers,” said Charles Isherwood in The New York Times. Yet within the context of Rock of Ages, they seem to have aged amazingly well. Yes, the story here is as clichéd as the lyrics to any run-of-the-mill power ballad: Maroulis’ Drew is a rocker in acid-washed jeans who sweeps the floors at the fictional Bourbon Room while waiting for his dreams of stardom to materialize. The object of his affections is a small-town girl named Sherrie Christian (cue Steve Perry’s “Oh, Sherrie” and Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”), fresh off the bus from Kansas with starry-eyed visions of her own. But the show is pulled off with such a blend of “sincere conviction and knowing parody” that it turns out to be a wonderful guilty pleasure.
Beneath Rock of Ages’ “high Velveeta content” are a few pretty great performances, said Joe Dziemianowicz in the New York Daily News. Maroulis leads the cast in both role and talent. His “versatile pipes and shaggy charm” prove “irresistible.” As Sherrie, Amy Spanger displays “comic expertise” that makes her ingénue-turned-stripper likable and winsome. Mitchell Jarvis brings a “Jack Black–style smirkiness” to his role as Lonny, resident sound guy at the Bourbon Room and also the show’s narrator. Rock of Ages isn’t likely to steal audiences from West Side Story, but it has charm enough to succeed. “Hey, it worked for the ABBA songbook.”