For lovers of rock music who just can’t get out of the ‘80s, you have until Aug. 9 to visit The Barn Theatre in Augusts, MI for two hours-plus of tunes from that decade literally “mashed” together in an ear-shattering production titled “Rock of Ages.”
It is a tribute to the decline of originality in the world of musical theater, but obviously not a deterrent to ticket-buyers. It played more than 2,300 performances on Broadway and now is permanently in residence in Las Vegas.
The “score,” in which many of the songs are literally mashed together, does not contain one song original to the show. Instead, all are classic rock hits from the 1980s, easily identifiable to fans of the era, even though only the ballads are lyrically decipherable.
It is the perfect example of a jukebox musical — existing taking music and forcing it around a totally (and ridiculously) contrived “plot.” Which is not to say that the predominantly young company at The Barn does not give it their all.
In leading roles, Kevin Robert White, Michael Tuck, Eric Parker, Jamey Grisham and Julie Grisham never let down for a minute, even under the weight of some of the ugliest and most ludicrous wigs since Halloween. They obviously can belt vocally and let no chances go under-sung.
The band is on stage throughout as Arsenal, the band with which rock star Stacee Jax (Jamey G.) is about to connections. He is convinced by Dennis Dupree (Parker), owner of The Bourbon Club, to play his final concert in the club. Aspiring songwriter Drew Boley (Tuck), a Bourbon busboy, is encouraged by new waitress Sherrie Christian (Julie G.), who is falling in love with him, to follow his dream of opening for Arsenal.
Taking her on a date to the Hollywood Hills, Drew (who loves her) ruins the budding relationship by saying they should just be friends. This makes Sherrie so angry that she has sex with Jaxx in the Bourbon men’s room.
Drew, who has opened for Arsenal and scored a record contract from a producer in the audience, knows what Sherrie did and drops her, as does Jaxx who has her fired. She winds up in the nearby Venus Club where owner Justice Charlier (Penelope Alex) convinces her that stripping is the easy way to make money.
Meanwhile, developer Hertz Klinemann (Charlie King) and son Franz (Hans Friedrichs) are about to bulldoze everything on the Sunset Strip, including the Bourbon Club, to make way for a mall. Against this plan is the mayor’s secretary Regina Koontz (Kasady Kwiatkowska) who leads protesters to save the strip.
Along the way Dennis’ assistant Lonny Barnett (White), who also serves as narrator, and Dennis discover they are in love.
All this — and a lot more — is played out to appropriate ‘80s rock hits by Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Steve Perry, Pat Benetar and many others, although not the title tune either in hymn form or from Def Leppard. Fans of the music obviously have to overlook the laughably unbelievable book by Chris D’Arienzo and just go with the flow, which stops more often than it starts.
The multi-level set by Shy Iverson covers many locations but primarily seems to serve as a workout site for the unidentified young man who constantly exits and enters on a variety of levels to bring on/take off props and set pieces. He deserves applause for knowing just when and where he is to be.
We got tired just watching him!
“ROCK OF AGES’ plays through Aug. 9 in the theater on M60 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For performance times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121.