What Rock Of Ages, which kicked off its national non-equity tour last night at Providence Performing Arts Center, lacks in quality and taste, it more than makes up for in volume and enthusiasm.
Set in Los Angeles in the mid-late 1980s, the juke box musical takes place in a rock 'n roll bar on the Sunset Strip. Corrupt politicians are trying to obtain by the club by eminent domain and demolish it in order to sell the land to foreign investors. The bars, clubs and strip joints that define the Strip are to be replaced by a squeaky-clean, sparkling new mall. Change is on its way, as evidenced by the new Arby's; which was apparently the Starbucks-like gentrification harbinger of its day.
The timing couldn't be worse for our two young leads Drew (Dominique Scott) and Sherry (Shannon Mullen) who have just arrived in L.A. from middle America to pursue their respective dreams of being a rocker and an actress. Will this dive bar be saved by the rag tag band of activists? Will the boy get the girl? Will they all live happily ever after until they go to Rock-n-Roll heaven? Spoiler alert: Yes, yes, and yes.
The two act musical is filled with VH1 classics including 'We're Not Gonna Take It', 'Wanted Dead or Alive', 'Here I Go Again' and 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot'. Some songs are sung in their entirety and some are pieced together in lengthy medleys. The smoking hot band, whose members include Chris Cicchino, Maddox, Alan Childs and Mark Dzier is led by Darren Ledbetter. The ensemble numbers are terrific fun, with the entire cast giving 100%.
As our hero and heroine, Mr. Scott and Ms. Mullen give fine, wholly enjoyable, if not riveting, performances. As Lonny, the show's narrator, Justin Colombo does a decent 120 minute Jack Black impersonation. Matt Nolan gives an electric performance as washed up musician Stacee Jaxx. Stephen Michael Kane who plays Franz is clearly better than his material. Amma Osei, has a small role - one wishes it was a bigger.
If 80s hair-band music is your thing, your are going to love Rock of Ages. There are, as noted above, some terrific performances that break through the musical's rote premise and over-wrought plot. There is a certain level of self-awareness that is evident, but the writers, unfortunately, choose earnestness over camp nearly every time. The finale, 'Don't Stop Believin' is dynamite; almost good enough to make you forget about the rest of the show.
Rock of Ages plays at the Providence Performing Arts Center through October 9, 2011. Ticket prices range from $39 - $66 and can be purchased at the PPAC Box Office which is located at 220 Weybosset St., Providence, RI; by calling (401) 421-2787 or at www.ppacri.org
Photo: The Touring Cast of Rock of Ages. Photo by Jeff Busby