ROCK OF AGES: Show Review by Dana Klosner

As soon as I walked into the theater for Rock of Ages at New World Stages in Hell’s Kitchen, I was transported back to the Sunset Strip in 1980s Hollywood where I spent my 20s pursuing my LA dream of becoming a writer. The strip was a place for dreamers, and that’s what the show is all about.

The theater’s walls are adorned with the signs and billboards that littered the LA streets at a time when the culture was all about Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.  The audience sits nestled between the “Live Nudes” sign that was the first thing you’d see when leaving the Los Angeles Airport and the marquee for the famous “Whiskey A Go Go” which “The Bourbon Room,” the show’s club, is modeled after. Perhaps the greatest detail was the “Angeline” billboard. Angeline has big 80s blond hair to go with her other big body parts.  She’s scantily clad in a red bikini. She wasn’t famous, but the billboard, with her management’s phone number on the bottom, was an icon.

The set hails back to all the clubs of LA – Where I used to go see my friends’ bands play. All the guys had the “hair.”  Long, curly, straight, as long as it was flowing. All emulating the “hair” or “glam” bands of the 80s. During the show, the back-up band is on stage in character as an 80s hair band looking and playing the part.

I walked into the show doubtful, classic rock not really being my thing. But this show took me on a thrill ride, and I couldn’t stop smiling.  It’s hilarious, and hopeful and a reminder of a not so innocent time. It’s a send-up of 80s music and musical theater romantic comedies. Even though this show doesn’t take itself too seriously, it still has a lot to say.

That must be why it spent six years on Broadway with five Tony nominations including Best Musical. Now celebrating its tenth anniversary in an off-Broadway production “To milk this show for every penny its worth,” jokes the show’s narrator and the club’s assistant manager, Lonny, (T. Scott Ross). In just one of many instances where the characters break the fourth wall and plays with the audience.

The music, featuring songs from Quiet Riot, White Snake, Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, and more, leaves the audience dancing in their seats and “banging their heads.”  Clearly, I wasn’t the only one having a great time.

In addition to the great music and sets, the you can’t help being drawn into the plot.

The show takes place in the late 80s. Drew Boley, played flawlessly by CJ Eldred, is a bar back at The Bourbon Room, the hottest club on the Strip, dreaming of being called Wolfgang von Colt and “melting your face” with his own rock numbers.

In walks small-town girl, Sherri Christian, straight off the bus from Paola, Kansas. Sherrie has dreams of her own, of the movie star variety. Sparks fly. Drew convinces the club owner Dennis, (Matt Ban) – (who says he played in Foghat, and is a remnant from the 60s with his fringed vest) to hire Sherrie as a waitress.

In the mean-time a pair of German developers want to tear down The Bourbon Room and turn the strip from its roots, to bring in clean living, and of course lots of money, represented by the new “Foot Locker” and other chain retailers set to open in its place.

City planner Regina – pronounced with a long I, get it?, is none too happy with this new wrinkle and stages protests reminiscent of the 60s to thwart their plot.

Sherri and Drew are clearly falling for each other as they root each other on, to follow their dreams against all odds.

The German developers approach Dennis to buy his club and tell him if he doesn’t sell it will be torn down anyway. Dennis has an idea to hire mega rock star/sex god Stacee Jaxx (PJ Griffith) and his band Arsenal, who just announced their final tour before breaking up, to play back where they started, to draw in a crowd.

In true romantic comedy fashion, Sherrie and Drew become a pair of star-crossed lovers. When Drew takes Sherrie on a picnic, she misunderstands his intentions and they get locked in the friend zone.

When Stacee Jaxx enters the picture at The Bourbon Club, Sherrie falls for his game and they hook up in the men’s bathroom while Drew is onstage opening for Arsenal. Stacee insists Dennis fire her before the show. Leaving Sherri penniless and alone. Drew is signed by a music producer, but it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and he’s heartbroken over Sherrie.

Everything is bleak at the end of ACT ONE – just the way it should be.

I won’t give away the resolutions in ACT TWO.

I’ll just say this: protests abound, misunderstandings get more tangled, Stacee gets his comeuppance and it’s all a righteous good time!

In the end the narrator notes that on The Strip, sometimes the dreams with which you enter are not always the dreams with which you leave, but they still rock.

This hit home with me, when I realized, here I am sitting in the audience, reviewing the show. Living my dream to be a writer! It couldn’t be better than this.

After seeing this show you’ll want to pursue your long-forgotten dream.

Written by Chris D’Arienzo and directed by Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages, will be at the New World Stages through September 13, 2020.


Running time 2 hours 25 minutes with one intermission.



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