The Music of Rock of Ages

by Katie Gile
Rock of Ages strutted its way into the Moran Theater at the Time Union Center for Performing Arts.
If there’s one thing that stands out in Rock of Ages, it’s the tunes. Jamming to some of the most recognizable ‘80s rock, this musical wails out every note with fire and fun.
The play itself tells the story of a small-town girl named Cherrie who moves to Los Angeles to become an actress and a Detroit boy named Drew, biding his time as a bar-back awaiting his big music break. Both young hopefuls end up at the infamous Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip, an establishment with a long history of sex, drugs and Rock ‘N’ Roll.
This location proves to be more than scenery, however, with its every detail telling a new story. Acting as a safe haven for the free-spirited joy and cheeky excitement of rock, as well as the many colorful characters that create and enjoy it, the Bourbon Room is a symbol for the era and the focus of an anti-rock movement from the figurative “Man.”
The musical features hits from Journey, Whitesnake, Styx, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Poison, REO Speedwagon, Night Ranger, Twisted Sister, and many others. So if you’ve ever even accidentally tuned into a classic rock radio station, you’ll have plenty to sing along to during this huge, hilarious show.
The setup of the musical begs for improvisation. Ignoring the possibility of any “fourth wall,” Rock of Ages encourages audience participation almost to Rocky Horror proportions. And like a Rocky Horror production or any rock concert, hecklers are torn to shreds. It’s a great community experience and was a fantastic treat to see the buttoned-up T-U patrons let their freak flags fly to the catchy rock hits of the ‘80s.
Unlike many stage musicals, Rock of Ages features a live band onstage through the entire show. The band members act both as characters in their own right and give the principal characters tunes they can rock along. At times, the principles’ vocals don’t quite mesh with the musical tempo, but it’s all impressive nonetheless. If a music genre ever favored a little error here and there, it’s rock.
With big hair, huge laughs, hard rock and middle fingers a-plenty, Rock of Ages tells a universal story in the words of rock greats. Its gleeful irreverence, sly sense of humor and outstanding vocals make it a night to remember.