Romping, stomping, swooping, bumping, grinding, leaping, jumping, hopping, bopping. Yes. Uh-huh. They do it all. Non-stop. A dynamic version of the musical Rock of Ages owns the stage at The Playhouse.
Kimberley Faith Hickman has directed and choreographed this zinger to a fare-thee-well. And her great cast does justice to her moves, her interpretations and to the 28 songs from the 80s which keep on comin’. The cast has got the voices to do it all, the energy to keep the non-stop movement alive and kicking plus plenty of personality. Knock-out costumes too, from Georgiann Regan.
As you may know, this is a juke-box musical, meaning the songs, many of them evidently big hits, are not new but that a story is hung on them so that they fit together like weed and paper. Be aware that it is not for the kiddies. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, you know?
Chris D’Arienzo created the book. He had fun and you will, too. Because nobody takes any of what’s happening seriously. The devil is dancing in the details. Dig the plot.
Lonny, the show’s narrator, tells us that, in 1987, aspiring rocker Drew works as a busboy on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip at the Bourbon Room, owned by Dennis Dupree. Drew falls for Sherrie, who’s not in Kansas anymore. She’s aspiring, too. German developers Hertz Klinemann and his dominated son Franz pay off the mayor to close down the clubs so that they can take over the territory. To avoid foreclosure, Dennis then plans a hot ticket item with a breaking-up band fronted by self-blown-away Stacee Jaxx. Every so often Lonny comments and explains, sometimes reminding us that this is a show, not real life. Take it from there.
The songs are, among others, from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benetar, Twisted Sister. Steve Perry, Poison and Europe. They include “Sister Christian,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Dead or Alive,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Here I Go Again,” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” Uptempo singing zings; ballads go along smoothly. I’ve never heard any of them before…I think. Not my dish of mellow jello. But, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. Their melodies, such as they are, signify less than how amazingly they get delivered. Sure, you may not be able to comprehend all the lyrics, coming across loudly. Face it; they aren’t, as one character says, by Andrew Lloyd Sondheim.
David Ebke’s sweet take on innocence works just right for Drew, while Mallory Vallier’s Sherrie offers a believably strong contrast, a gal who know what she wants…usually. As Stacie, Nick LeMay has the sleaze and slouch that falls perfectly into place. Bob Gilmore’s take on toking Dennis knows where it’s at, his joints bouncing along is a joint- tripping mode. Speaking of body language, catch Franz personified with Paul Hanson’s posture and style. What a hoot. And Lonny, delivered by Adam Hogston, has enough energy to charge your batteries. Plus, they all sing like pros.
Be advised, four-letter vocabs abound, lap dancing gyrates and there’s a scene in a men’s room with dirty hands. Plus.
Chris D’Arienzo also wrote the movie version of this show as well as screenplays for Barry Munday, Hot and Jordeys. . http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0195476. Ethan Popp did the orchestrations. And those for Motown The Musical, Hedwig and The Angry Inch plus Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock. http://ethanpopp.com/
People who attend are invited, The Playhouse says, to “wear their ‘80s best,” and to take in ‘80s experiences in the lobbies, e.g. a photo area, rock and roll props, a PAC-MAN game display and a case with ‘80s toys.
Once the rock begins to roll, spotlights flash all over the place, making patrons gleam, calling attention to the fact that you’ll never be in the dark about what’s going down. Singing along and hand-clapping encouraged. How could you not be enthusiastic?
Rock of Ages keeps on going until April 2, at Hawks Mainstage, Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Weds.-–Sat.: 7:30 p.m., Sun.: 2 p.m. Tickets $20-$42 www.OmahaPlayhouse.org