"Oh Sherrie": Constantine Maroulis & Rebecca Faulkenberry
”If it’s too loud, you’re too old” the saying goes, particularly referring to music boasting the ‘Heavy Metal’ tag. Not so very long ago, in the strange world of 1980’s, there existed a place where the very stuff legends are born–an acid-wash epicenter known as “The Sunset Strip”! This place-and the music that was so much a part of it, was about as far from the modes and medians of Broadway as one could possibly imagine. Yet, the award-winning team of librettist Chris D’Arienzo, director Kristin Hanggi, and Musical Arranger David Gibbs (who adapted all the songs) dared to defy the Gods of Theater to fashion a musical that utilizes some of the greatest head-banging hits ever written from such iconic bands as Foreigner, Journey, Styx and many more. It’s no coincidence that quite a few of the songs presented actually debuted in the clubs that still line this mythical locale. The result is a five-time Tony Award nominated smash-hit that’s something like ‘Richard Rogers’ meets ‘Riki Rachtman’, and it’s called aptly enough, “Rock Of Ages”.
As it happens, the basic plot really isn’t so far removed from the standard “Boy meets Girl”, “Boy gets Girl”; but ‘every rose has its thorn’ afterall, and he almost loses her. Happily though, by the time ‘the final countdown’ draws near, ‘it’s just like livin’ in paradise’ for everyone! Difference is, these are hardcore rockers, so thier love is played out to the power-riffs and thrashing chords that make ‘heavy metal’ so irresistable. Each and every number here is a classic in its own right (–in fact, don’t be at all surprised if some unexpected memory or emotional connection comes flooding back upon hearing them.)
What makes “Rock Of Ages” truly unique, however, is the way it opens up the play-going experience inviting a more diverse group into the world of Musicals, who they can reach, and who they can entertain. This is what Mr. D’Arienzo meant when, after being presented with the idea for the show, he enthusiastically proclaimed “I‘m gonna make straight dudes love musicals!“ And damn if he hasn’t conjured up an mind-blowing, spandex-stretchin‘, Stratocat-strokin‘ extravaganza that does just that! Redefining what a musical can be, it shatters perceptions that they have to be fluffy, or conversely, ‘overly cerebral‘. The object here is to celebrate a time, a place and most importantly, a kind of music that hasn’t been represented much on the “Great White Way“, and while the opening number welcomes audience members to “The Sunset Strip”, it might be just as appropriate to welcome them to the next phase of “jukebox” musicals. Make no mistake though, “Mamma Mia” and “Jersey Boys” this ain’t!
Once the house lights go down, we’re immediately transported back to 1987–a ’sexier’ time where “if a fella had a dream, a fifth of jack and a decent amount of hair, there was no where else to be!” There, Sherrie (just a small-town girl looking to escape her lonely world,) grabs the midnight train going–to Hollywood. Once there she meets and falls for Drew Bowie–a city boy born and raised in South Detroit (–where else?) Drew’s a man with a dream–to become a humongous rock star named “Wolfgang Von Colt”. So what if for the time being he has to work as a humble bar-back at “Dupree’s Bourbon Room”? At least it‘s the strip’s “most historic ‘Temple Of Rock and Roll Kick-assery‘ ”!
Reprising his Tony-nominated role, Constantine Maroulis (popularly known as a finalist on the fourth season of “American Idol“,) stars as Drew. Joining him is Broadway veterans Rebecca Faulkenberry as Sherrie Christian (whose parents, oddly enough, call “Sister”,) and Nick Cordero as Bourbon Room proprietor Dennis (“–none other than the most bad-ass bar owner this side of ’anywhere“!) So too, Patrick Lewallen ‘keeps the action going’ as the Bourbon’s wise-cracking sound guy–and our narrator, Lonny, while INXS front-man contender, Mig Ayesa is the enigmatic heavy-metal messiah Stacee Jaxx, lead singer of the group “Arsenal” (“Ladies love him, guys want to be him“ Lonny informs us, “and his band? They hate his guts!”)
America, your next BIG rockstar: Wolfgang Von Colt!
The very first staging took place in 2005 at Hollywood’s “King King Nightclub”, playing four shows over a two day period. Later, in August of that year an additional performance was held on a soundstage at the Warner Brothers Studio. Then, in January 2006, a toned-up version was unveiled at The Vanguard in Hollywood where it played to overwhelming enthusiasm for six more weeks. By the time its initial tryout in “Hollywoodland’ was completed, producers were more confident than ever that it was ready for the East coast, as it began its off-Broadway engagement in the fall of 2008. Greeted with similar success, this quickly led to a move uptown to Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre Opening on April 7, 2009 where, upon garnering such widespread critical acclaim, it fast became celebrated as the sleeper hit of the season! Is it any wonder then, that when the 2009 Tony Award Nomination were announced, “Rock Of Ages“ was in the running for five awards including “Best Musical”, “Best Direction Of A Musical“ for Hanggi and “Best Lead Actor In A Musical” for Maroulis?!
Now at last, for those in the Southland, ‘the search is over’ as this raucous rock-n-roll sensation returns to where it all began–completing its circle of awesome success. “Opening at the Pantages is pretty heavy stuff for everyone involved with this little-show-that-could” notes Producers Matthew Weaver and Carl Levin, observing the way it has traveled thousands of miles to make the five-block journey from the ‘King King’ to The Pantages! First up is its ’official’ Los Angeles premiere at the renowned Pantages Theatre for a two week engagement starting February 15 through February 27; then afterward, the company travels southward to the “The O.C.” and the newly renamed “Segerstrom Center for the Arts” (formerly the Orange County Center For The Performing Arts) for an additional one-week run beginning March 1 though 6th .
"Wanted-Dead Or Alive": Mig Ayesa Is Rock God Stacee Jaxx
Show-times for the Pantages run are Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm. Tickets are available online at http://www.BroadwayLA.org or by phone by calling 1-800-982-ARTS(2787). They may also be purchased directly at the theater Box Office located at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard (just east of Vine Street) and all Ticketmaster outlets. For more information about the Los Angeles engagement, please visit http://www.BroadwayLA.org. At the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, curtain-time is similarly slated for 8pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm (in addition, Saturday afternoon, March 5 will include sign-language interpretation.) Tickets at the center are likewise available at the Box Office located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, online by logging onto http://www.SCFTA.org , or by calling (714) 556-2787. So ‘any way you want it‘, either in LA or ’The O.C.”–“cum on feel the noize” that is “Rock Of Ages”! For more information visit: www.RockOfAgesMusical.com
Photos By Joan Marcus, Courtesy of Broadway/LA.org; Special Thanks to Benny Aguayo, Marketing Manager for Broadway/L.A, as well as the Press Relations Department of The Segerstrom Center For The Perfoming Arts for their gracious assistance in the prepartion of this story.
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