The hazy Fox Theatre in Midtown Atlanta was filled with an anxious crowd on Tuesday, July 5, in preparation for the debut of Rock of Ages, a musical about a wide-eyed rising rock star on the sunset strip set to an all eighties hair metal soundtrack.
As the lights dim, one could make out figures entering the neon sign lit stage and making their way toward a platform in the back to strap on guitars and basses. At this point, much of the crowd was wondering whether to expect just another musical or a flashback concert from 1986. The speculation of the concert idea was only heightened when a bang, bright lights and a shrilling guitar solo opened the night.
Though the crowd was treated to a mini-concert by the live band that made the back of the stage its home for the length of the performance, the musical itself did not lack an intriguing story.
Set in a struggling bar on sunset strip, a rising rockstar works for a post-hippie era bar owner and his mullet crowned barhand.
The rising star doesn’t find his trouble in his performing, but rather in his songwriting, which still seems to revolve back around to the adolescent idea of drugs, sex and rock and roll. The bar itself is also facing destruction due to new city planning ordinances.
As the play so boldly pronounces, no musical is complete without its love story. Introduced here is a runaway Middle America girl with big actress dreams. At her arrival to Sunset Strip she finds herself in the rockstar’s bar where love at first sight sets the pace for what will be a troubling love story.
The soundtrack for the musical was all but lacking, pulling out every eighties song from “Here I Go Again” to the strong closing “Don’t Stop Believing.” Vocally, the cast performed each song strongly and quite true to the originals.
Grittier voices and soprano range male vocals were not left to the wayside in the production. One should have expected this, however, as American Idol contender Constantine Maroulis was cast as the rising rockstar.
The acting was of high quality as well. The cast did a tremendous job of breaking down the fourth wall between the stage and audience, encouraging use of the faux lighters handed out at the beginning of the night, and with clapping and singing along to some of the tunes.
The show brought both the rock along with the sex appeal. With a small ensemble of female dancers along with the few main female characters, the show seemed to heads towards a burlesque feel without ever quite crossing the line. It was done quite tastefully though, and to no sacrifice of the rest of the production.
Rock of Ages held back nothing from the eighties as it brought the audience back in time for an evening of hair metal. Few musicals these days are set to a live metal backing band, burlesque dressed dancers and a struggling rockstar’s story.
However, Rock of Ages pulls it off magnificently with great taste, making it one show that will surely stick around on Broadway for years to come.