Theatre Review: ‘Rock of Ages’ at Wolf Trap

The cast of ‘Rock of Ages.’ Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

You remember the 80s, right?  There was the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981, the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, and the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.  But the 1980s also brings back memories of rock music. There was the launch of MTV with its music videos, featuring glam metal bands such as Journey, Night Ranger, STYX, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Asia, and Whitesnake.

Frederick, Maryland’s Phoenix Entertainment presented a non-Equity touring production of the musical, Rock of Ages at Wolf Trap on September 9, 2012.  This show featured  28 glam metal hits including “Don’t Stop Believin’,” We Built This City,” The Final Countdown,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Here I Go Again,” “Harden My Heart,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Renegade,” and “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”

 …the 80s music is what truly drives the show (and the audience) into a headbanging frenzy!

Rock of Ages takes place in 1987 on the Sunset Strip where Sherrie (Shannon Mullen), a small town girl from Kansas, has just arrived.  This aspiring actress gets a job as a waitress at LA’s  most famous rock club, The Bourbon Room where she meets aspiring musician Drew (Dominique Scott).  Through their love of music they fall in love with each other.

Developers from Germany,  Hertz (Philip Peterson) and his son Franz (Stephen Michael Kane) invade the town, buying off business owners and the Mayor (Chris Sams) so they can introduce “clean-living” to the Sunset Strip and abandon the “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” lifestyle that businesses such as The Bourbon Room promotes.  City Planner Regina (Megan McHugh) protests Hertz and Franz’s redevelopment plans, showcasing the songs “We Built This City” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

You wouldn’t think that such a meager plot would require a narrator to help explain the action, but here in a book by Chris D’Arienzo, the character Lonny (Justin Colombo), serves as the narrator, spouting off one campy joke to another, making fun of the show and 80s music.  With cheesy lines such as “Well, they have got to be better than Concrete Ballz, right? Concrete Ballz are heavy,”  the character is not unlike a one-man version of “Wayne’s World.”

The campy characters and meager plot aside, the 80s music is what truly drives the show (and the audience) into a headbanging frenzy!  This would not be possible if it wasn’t for the live band led by Bryan McAdams (conductor/piano), Chris Cicchino (guitar 1), Maddox (guitar 2), Alan Childs (Drums), and Andy Gerold (bass).

While the singers and band turned up the volume, the ensemble turned up the heat by wearing eye-pleasing costumes by Gregory Gale and executing sultry dances choreographed by Kelly Divine.

Audiences will enjoy the 80’s music featured in Rock of Ages even though the song “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard is not in the musical because Universal Music Group did not grant licenses for the song. You can, however, hear the recorded song played after the curtain call.  Rock on!

Running Time: Approximately two hours and thirty minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Advisory: This show contains adult themes and humor.

Rock of Ages was performed on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap -1551 Trap Road, Vienna, VA. To view the calendar of upcoming events, please click here.

About Mark Beachy

Mark Beachy is the publisher and video producer of the MD Theatre Guide and the NY Theatre Guide.

In 1997 he wrote the play, music, and lyrics in a musical called, “’Bout Baltimore.” This musical won the WMAR TV Channel 2 and Pumpkin Theatre Baltimore Bicentennial Playwriting contest and was produced as a 1-hour television special.

He has directed over 40 productions, including shows for Pumpkin Theatre, Timonium Dinner Theatre, Howard County Center for the Arts, and the Baltimore Children's Theatre where he was the founder and producer for 7 years.

Before starting the MTG in March of 2010, Mark was the performing arts reporter for the Baltimore Examiner.

As a professional actor he has appeared on TV nationally, including on Discovery Health as "Jerry Baldwin" on I Was Dead, “Officer Nunham” on America’s Most Wanted’s Top Cops 2009 and “Alexander T. Crane” in a Japanese TV documentary about Edgar Allan Poe.