Rock of Ages

 

Rock of Ages is as infectious as the '80s music it celebrates.

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By Howard Cohen

The irresistible Rock of Ages , now playing the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, is delightfully stoopid, loud, vulgar, fun and excessive — everything the 1980s embodied.

The show cannily sends up the power-ballad decade with a batch of hard rock tunes mashed-up, frappéd and delivered with zest and surprising depth by a game cast including Season 4 American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis, who earned a Best Actor Tony Award nomination for his starring role in this show.

He’s the only cast member to make the transition from Broadway to this touring version, but director Kristin Hanggi assembles a fine cast, including plucky female lead, Rebecca Faulkenberry (Sherrie), who has a better voice for pop metal music than her Broadway counterpart.

You’ll know this isn’t your usual theater experience from the get-go when Whitesnake singer David Coverdale, on video, delivers the shut-off-your-cellphone message with some choice words for those who dare text during the show.

Set on the Sunset Strip, in the boisterous L.A. club Bourbon Room, which faces the wrecking ball if a developer has his way, Rock of Ages introduces a colorful cast of characters: Lonny, the perpetually horny emcee; German developer Hertz; and his flamboyant son Franz (“I’m not gay, I’m just German!’’)

We also meet Regina (in keeping with the irreverent tone, her name rhymes with a certain part of female anatomy), a kooky political activist who looks like Gilda Radner’s famed 1970s character Emily Litella, and Maroulis’ Drew, a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit (the better to sing Journey’s prototype Don’t Stop Believin’), who’s stuck cleaning the Bourbon’s bathrooms as he chases his dream of becoming a rock star named Wolfgang Von Colt.

The story plays out amid a never-ending supply of infectious rock hits from Poison, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Quarterflash, Starship, Asia and David Lee Roth.

This could all sink in a vat of Velveeta were it not for Chris D’Arienzo’s snappy script which mirrors and teases the decade it so obviously loves and Hanggi’s direction, which keeps everything moving at brisk space and wastes not an inch of stage space.
Maroulis is a particular revelation. He has the requisite leather-lungs to belt his way through songs with challenging choruses like Oh Sherrie and High Enough, and he transcends caricature and makes the audience fall for him through his mix of ambition, sweetness and charm.

The audience, primarily older theatergoers, seemed a bit taken aback at first by the excess and volume, but by the second act many were standing and waving the devil horns. Rock of Ages delivers Nothin’ But a Good Time with a multigenerational allure.

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