Power shag theater 

Classic '80s metal for a Glee-obsessed America!

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Last Wednesday night, the Wonder Twins teased their hair and applied blue eye shadow up to their eyebrows for Rock of Ages, the five-time Tony-nominated musical of massive rock proportions starring American Idol also-ran Constantine Maroulis. You'll note that ROA is jam-packed with '80s arena rock anthems by the likes of Whitesnake, Poison, Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister, all filtered through the Broadway musical wringer.

Laura: Rock of Ages seems like your dream come true — a musical based on hair metal hits of the mid- to late '80s.

D'Anne: Seriously. I'm not big on Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber, but David Coverdale and Bon Jovi? Now those are the great songwriters of my time.

Laura: George and Ira Gershwin only wish they had come up with lines like, "I'm just another heart in need of rescue, waiting on love's sweet charity" and "I've seen a million faces, and I've rocked them all."

D'Anne: Exactly. And face-rocking was high on the agenda at Rock of Ages. The audience was basically like, "Please, Constantine Maroulis, rock our faces the whole night through."

Laura: And Maroulis, of course, plays Drew, the hair rocker hopeful with a heart of gold who's looking for his big break, but in the meantime is cleaning toilets and emptying vomit-filled trash bags at the Bourbon Room — L.A.'s coolest glam metal venue.

D'Anne: And he's totally focused on his "I Wanna Rock!" dream until Sherrie, the naively sweet Kansas bumpkin with super nice T&A, rolls into town looking for her big break as a movie star. ...

Laura: It's pretty obvious where this plot is going to go ...

D'Anne: You mean both Drew and Sherrie end up drugged, raped and left in a Dumpster after Guns 'N Roses and Mötley Crüe are done snorting lines of coke off of their dead bodies?

Laura: No, D'Anne. Rock of Ages is a musical "about dreaming big, playing loud and partying on." It is not meant to paint a realistic picture of what would happen to two people as ditsy and trusting as Drew and Sherrie in the underbelly of L.A.'s perverse '80s rock scene.

D'Anne: Right. Sorry.

Laura: The Fisher Theatre was packed. A surprising number of elderly people. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they're season ticket holders and not Twisted Sister fans.

D'Anne: Probably accurate. Though there is no age limit on rocking out.

Laura: It was a fun show, ... but the plot was a little thin to say the least.

D'Anne: I think the trouble lies largely in the limitations of the source material. A lot of the songs they used were a stretch for the narrative point they were trying to make.

Laura: True — but generally, when a musical is built around pre-existing songs, it tends to be pretty weak from a narrative perspective (see: Mama Mia). But people don't care about that — they just want to hear songs they know.

D'Anne: That's true. And people all around us were singing and clapping and making devil horns through the whole performance. It's like they thought they were at Harpo's.

Laura: Except these people would never go to Harpo's. Ever.

D'Anne: But the music of Rock of Ages isn't the '80s metal for your burnout, alcoholic, mullet-clad cousin with a pregnant 14-year-old girlfriend and a Night Ranger patch on his jean jacket.

Laura: No. This is '80s metal for a Glee-obsessed America.

D'Anne: They left some of the grime and degradation intact — sex in bathroom stalls, strippers, a few F-bombs — but, for the most part, Rock of Ages is closer to The Sound of Music than Appetite for Destruction.

Laura: Yeah, but I don't think I've ever heard somebody say "fuck" in a musical before, though. And I've seen Les Misérables.

D'Anne: This was no Les Misérables. This wasn't even Cats.

Laura: As soon as "Cum on Feel the Noize" filled the theater, I knew we were in trouble, and it was sung by what seemed like a flamingly gay biker dude.

D'Anne: I liked when Sherrie's parents sing "Sister Christian" to try to persuade her not to run to California. Very touching.

Laura: Even better, the woman who played Sherrie's mother also plays the role of the West Hollywood madam.

D'Anne: It must be really disorienting to run away from your small town Kansas life only to find out your mom is the den mother at a whorehouse on the Sunset Strip. And she wants to hire you!

Laura: Except you think she's trying to pick you up, so you recoil and yell, "Nice try, but I don't go that way!"

D'Anne: That should have been her response when the Strip's biggest star (and total douche bag), Stacee Jaxx, said to her, "Kinda noisy in here — maybe you'd wanna hang out in the men's bathroom?"

Laura: I'm here to tell you, that's a pickup line that gets results.

D'Anne: Well, it seemed to work for him — it's mentioned several times that he's slept with every lady on the Strip.

Laura: Also at least one tranny and a llama. Rock and roll!

D'Anne: Also, this show is really gay. If by gay, you mean, packed with cheap gay jokes.

Laura: Very true — everything from "Is he gay, or is he German?" to tranny strippers. The audience was all about it though.

D'Anne: They loved Franz, the mincing German son-of-a-developer.

Laura: A gay-acting German parading around in a Spandex leotard is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!

D'Anne: It is never made clear why Franz and his father are so hell-bent on cleaning up the Sunset Strip. Why do these Germans hate L.A. so much?

Laura: Maybe because they were pissed that Accept and Helloween never got as big as Poison.

D'Anne: But America loves the Scorpions. That should count for something. "Winds of Change" brought down the Berlin Wall. Fact.

Laura: The ultimate goal of Rock of Ages though, seemed to be, "how many of America's favorite rock 'n' roll songs can be crammed into one musical?"

D'Anne: The answer is apparently "all of them." Minus any Def Leppard. They apparently couldn't get the rights.

Laura: So if you're hoping to see somebody get sugar poured on them in a live theatrical setting, you're gonna be disappointed.

D'Anne: True. But despite the cheesy, loosely cohesive plot, the show is a lot of fun. The folks on the U.S. tour cast are no slouches.

Laura: Not at all. In fact, from listening to the original cast recording (which I bought on a bitchin' leather studded flash drive cuff for the bargain price of $50 at the souvenir stand), I have to say that Rebecca Faulkenberry, who plays Sherrie on the U.S. tour cast, is way better than Emily Padgett, the original Broadway cast Sherrie.

D'Anne: Plus Faulkenberry looks a lot like Reese Witherspoon. So you can always pretend you're watching the Broadway version of Legally Blonde 3: Court of Metal.

Laura: Yup. And we know they'll make a musical out of anything these days. ...

Rock of Ages runs through Sunday, Nov. 21, at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit; 313-872-1000.


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