March 31, 2013

‘Rock of Ages’ brings back the ‘80s

By Aimsel Ponti aponti@pressherald.com
News Assistant

If you see anyone walking around over the next several days throwing up the heavy metal horns hand signal or belting out any number of classic ‘80s rock songs, it’s because Portland Ovations had the wisdom to bring the Tony Award-winning musical “Rock of Ages” to Merrill Auditorium on Saturday night.

click image to enlarge

Justin Colombo as Lonny, left, and Dominique Scott as Drew perform “Nothin’ But a Good Time” by Poison in “Rock of Ages” at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Saturday.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

THEATER REVIEW

“ROCK OF AGES”

WHO: Broadway touring production presented by Portland Ovations

WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, Portland

WHEN: Saturday

Whether you came of age in the ‘80s, were already well into adulthood or weren’t even born yet, “Rock of Ages” was a blast. It was as if the entire audience was either a smalltown girl living in a lonely world or a city boy born and raised in south Detroit for the two-plus hours of rock ‘n’ roll magic set in 1987 on the fabled Los Angeles Sunset Strip.

The show was a colorful burst of big hair, fishnets, romance, dreams, comedy, and most of all music. Oh, and let’s not forget the wine coolers.

The songs were the cream of the crop when it comes to the rougher, heavier, hair metal side of the ‘80s. Songs from Whitesnake, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Quarterflash, Foreigner and many more rocked the house with both power anthems and power ballads.

A live band brought the songs to vibrant life and the entire cast sank their teeth into every tune. Was every singer fantastic? Not really. But Sherrie, played by Shannon Mullen, Justice, played by Amma Osei, and Dennis, played by Jacob L. Smith, were particularly good. Understudy Christie Schwartzman, who played Regina, also was impressive.

Every song was used to tell the story of Drew Boley, a bar back and wanna-be rock star, his budding love for fresh-off-the-bus wanna-be actress Sherrie Christian and the uncertain future of The Bourbon nightclub, where the couple figure out their feelings against a backdrop of loud music, a sex-crazed rock god named Stacie Jaxx and a colorful cast of supporting characters.

One thing to point out, two of the songs in the show were actually not from the ‘80s. Extreme’s “More Than Words” and Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” were both from 1991, though “Rock of Ages” is set in 1987. This was a bit disappointing because there is certainly no shortage of primo ‘80s songs to have chosen from.

The show is narrated by a mulleted and chubby character named Lonny, who was hilarious, raunchy and the glue that held things together all night. In fact, the funniest scene of the entire show came when Lonny dueted with Dennis, the owner of The Bourbon, on the R.E.O. Speedwagon hit “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore.” Lonny also strode on stage at one point wearing a half-shirt that sported the famous ‘80s digits 867-5309. Classic.

The finale for “Rock of Ages” came in the form of the song that is arguably one of the most well-loved and representative of the decade: Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” during which cast members danced and sang around the auditorium and many audience members joined in the fun.

While the actual story line of the show was on the weak side, “Rock of Ages” was, to quote a Poison song used in the show, “nothing … but a good time.”

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

aponti@pressherald.com

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