The new jukebox musical Rock of Ages, which crams 30 hard-hitting ’80s hits into a self-consciously campy romantic comedy, knows its demo. For anyone who threw devil horns at a Quiet Riot concert, had their ears shredded by Eddie Van Halen’s awesome fretwork or felt their heart bursting from Steve Perry’s caterwauling, this slick package is cock-rock nirvana. And if a two-hour set of pulse-quickening covers isn’t enough, there are strippers, a funny narrator (Mitchell Jarvis, ripping off Jack Black’s spaz-rocker shtick) and—for the ladies out there—American Idol cutie Constantine Maroulis. Yes, the ingredients are all fast-food leftovers. But mixed together and nuked for three minutes, they are quite tasty.
You may be surprised to learn that there’s a book to Rock of Ages. And yet Chris D’Arienzo makes a good-faith offering of actual characters who are somehow motivated to launch into renditions of “We Built This City” and “Cum on Feel the Noize.” The ridiculous plot involves German developers who want to raze Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip, including legendary music club the Bourbon. Meanwhile, wanna-be rocker Drew (Maroulis) tries to win the hand of actress-turned-stripper Sherrie (Kelli Barrett). But enough narrative: More Whitesnake and Pat Benatar!
Rock of Ages shouldn’t be this enjoyable, but director Kristin Hanggi whips her talented cast into a lather of headbanging goofiness, turning up the volume to avoid explanations. It pretty much works: They bring the face-melting solos, you supply the flashbacks.—David Cote
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