Don't Stop Believin': Rock of Ages Resurrects the Reagan Era
Glam rock doesn’t exactly inspire images of actors dancing across a Broadway stage—but in director Kristin Hanggi and choreographer Kelly Devine’s musical Rock of Ages (RoA), the musically androgynous ’80s are done some serious justice by utilizing reinterpretations of some of the most memorable power ballads of the decade. Featuring sing-along musical numbers from such big names (and hair) as Journey, Styx, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison, Asia, and others, RoA invites show-goers to indulge in the best (and worst) of the Reagan era.
Upon walking into the Helen Hayes Theater, you see a stage lined with in-your-face billboards emulating the good-natured sleaze culture found on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip during the mid-to-late ’80s. The show’s plot revolves around wannabe “Golden God” Drew (Dan Domenech), a busboy at famed Strip venue The Bourbon Room, who falls head over heels in love with Sherrie (“I’ve Been Waiting for a Girl Like You”), an aspiring actress LA newbie played by Emily Padgett (below).
Although Drew is keenly aware of his own career aspirations, he’s got a long way to go before women start tossing their “undies” at him like they do at more seasoned rock stars like Stacee Jaxx (Jeremy Woodard), lead singer of the fictional hair metal band Arsenal.
“He’s a big dork but wants to be a rock star and definitely gets his opportunity when he opens for a real rock star,” says Domenech, who admits his character is conflicted. “Does he want fame, or does he want love? He doesn’t know.”
At first everything appears hunky-dory for Drew and Sherrie: they’re falling in love and she gets a job at The Bourbon Room as a waitress. But all the while, corporate red tape is stretching towards the hood. In the wake of a Sunset Strip cleanup project -- set into motion by the goofily German father-and-son duo Hertz (Paul Schoeffler) and Franz (Cody Scott Lancaster) -- Jaxx is convinced to play his last-ever show with Arsenal at the club in the hopes they’ll raise enough money to stop Der Man from shutting them down (cue a raucous rendition of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from crunchy Berkeley throwback Regina (Josephine Rose Roberts)).
While owner Dennis (Adam Dannheisser) ambles about trying to save The Bourbon Room, his comedic cohort and right-hand man, Lonny (Genson Blimline), is consistently bursting at the seams with Jack Black/Charlie Day-esque narration, punch lines, and silly T-shirts.
As for Domenech’s take on his fellow performers, he calls them “great” and recalls how he felt when he first got to see them onstage (at their previous Broadways digs, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. “I instantly fell in love with the show and the people on stage,” he says, adding that now, “We’re like a big family. We really are. We just have fun every night.”
He is also quick to point out the unique qualities of RoA, including the fact that the production deviates from more traditional Broadway fare. Sporting a script that consistently kicks down the fourth wall with slaphappy wit and hyper self-aware raunchy ridiculousness, the show has a proven attraction, even to the most cynical of theatregoers.
“I think it appeals to every type of person,” says Domenech. “There may be hardcore dudes who wouldn’t want to see a musical, but [RoA] has sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You don’t just feel like you’re watching a show, you feel like you’re there. They’ve really created something special as far as audience interaction goes. It’s a big party.”
As Rock of Ages approaches its 4th Anniversary on Broadway this March 29, the hit musical has recently chalked up several new achievements on the Great White Way. It broke the box office record at the Helen Hayes Theatre (previously held by XANADU), recently joined “The Top 100 Longest-Running Broadway Shows List,” and is currently the 8th-longest-running Broadway show currently open.
And, on the ongoing front, there are RoA perks that help give the show its awesome rep: complimentary flash “lighters” (for that interactive concert vibe); its encouraged “sing-along” gestalt; and vendors trolling the aisles bringing beer and soft drinks to you (no need to leave your seat to imbibe)!
Rock of Ages is currently playing at the Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 W. 44th St. For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or click here.