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I can't fight this feeling: I loved 'Rock of Ages'



Rock of Ages at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall

Have you been waiting for the official Stuck in the '80s review of the musical Rock of Ages? I finally caught it in person last night at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall, and I'm still singing along to the songs. Can I use simple words like "amazing" for this? Please allow me to simplify my prose because my head is still pounding from the band's guitar-god finish to the show. (Here's the complete review co-written by me and Sean Daly.)

Let's approach things in Top 5 fashion. That seems appropriate.


1. IT'S LOUD AND SLEAZY: And that's a good thing. Maybe the best of things. At times, it's louder than some rock shows you'd see, thanks to the incredible band that stands at the back of the stage for the entire show, pounding out song after song. And the language? Please, consider this at least a PG-13 show. There are F-bombs, bathroom jokes -- Arby's jokes?!? -- lots of skin and enough sexual innuendo to power the city of Hollywood until the next century. It's very appropriate for a show about the Sunset Strip. But probably not so appropriate for anyone under the age of 15.

2. IT'S NOT ALL '80s: About 90 percent of the music comes straight off the charts in the '80s. Songs that you may not have loved then -- We Built This City, Waiting for a Girl Like You, Just Like Paradise -- are used perfectly to propel the story along and take on new life. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR SEATS for showstopping numbers like Hit Me with your Best Shot, Every Rose Has Its Thorn and Can't Fight This Feeling -- all coming in the second act. But there are some '90s tunes mixed in there too for some reason -- Heaven, More Than Words, To Be With You, High Enough. The story takes place in the late '80s so this is a bit of a puzzler -- and I can't say it helps the show.

3. CONSTANTINE MAROULIS IS A FUNNY GUY: The former American Idol contestant can act -- really well. And sing. And develop as a character as the show moves along, as he transforms "Drew" from an insecure bar worker to a brooding rocker. Patrick Lewallen is a scene-stealing riot as emcee/soundman Lonny. I'd be shocked if his career doesn't take off from here. Nick Cordero, as the aging bar owner Dennis, is another star here, making the most of the secondary character. These three form the core of an exceptionally entertaining and fun-loving cast that also spotlights stage veteran Rebecca Faulkenberry (Sherrie) as Drew's love interest and Mig Ayesa (Stacee) as the morally bankrupt (but well chiseled -- "those 'tings' on his abs are yummy" one fan said) singer of the band Arsenal.

4. SING ALONG! Of course you know the words to Keep On Loving You and Don't Stop Believin', the show's finale (so good that even Steve Perry would have approved). If you can fight off the tears  -- hey, my eyes were just watering! I wasn't crying! -- then sing along with the cast. They'll love it. Just tone it down for the dialog so that Constantine won't have to "shhhsh" you, which he did Tuesday night. (We asked him about it afterward. No, it wasn't part of the script; he just didn't want the audience to miss some critical lines.)

5. YOU'RE ALLOWED TO DRESS LIKE THE '80s: I'm not proud to say I was one of maybe THREE PEOPLE in the entire audience who dressed up for the night. Skinny, black, checkered tie. Van shoes. Everybody else obviously thought they were going to see Phantom of the Opera. Take advantage of the cute, LED "lighters" that the ushers will give you before the show. Flick your Bics during the ballads. Tease your hair up with Aqua-Net. Have a good time. That's what the decade -- and Rock of Ages -- is all about.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 4:57pm]


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