Last night, my mom and I went to “Rock of Ages” in Saint John as part of their tour through Canada. The musical was put on through Phoenix Entertainment, and as my first play in quite a while, it did not disappoint.
For those who haven’t seen it, the jukebox musical is basically about a young man and woman struggling to follow their dreams in Los Angeles: Him wanting to be a rock star and her wanting to be an actress. They fall in love amongst a quirky cast of supporting characters, betrayal happens, it all ends happy, and along the way they risk losing their rock and roll workplace to a German businessman who wants to “purify” the streets. The reason I’m not going more into it is that while the plot is pretty simple and pretty cliched, it does throw in a few surprises here and there via the supporting characters. And since it IS a simple story, it made it easier to connect to the various characters and gave more time for their personalities to shine.
Which brings me to my next point: The actors/actresses all did a fantastic job in their roles. They were believable and man, all of them were great singers. I seriously found no problem with anyone’s vocal talents. I also felt that because of this, they did each song justice. The songs range from hits like “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Dead or Alive” to “We Built This City” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” I really loved the mix of songs and they were integrated into the plot well, mostly to reflect the characters’ emotions in the moment.
The absolute best thing about it, aside from the music, is the humor. Nearly ALL of the characters get something funny to say and there’s plenty of styles: From the occasional lowbrow, crude joke to one that breaks the fourth wall. It’s a play guaranteed to make you laugh and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The production values were also great. The stage, aside from a few rotating pieces, was fixed for the duration of the play. This wasn’t a bad thing, though, as they used the space to its fullest and had some cool neon lights to liven it up at the right times. It also had a screen at the top to show backgrounds for locations, such as streets for when people are travelling, and also for a humorous intro reminding people to turn off their phones and such. The instrumentals were all performed by a live band that was present onstage at all times. I have no complaints about them either, as they performed each number spot-on to the originals.
If I had any gripes whatsoever, there would be just a minor one. Because the theater I was in is huge and because the music was done live, there were times during songs that the instrumentals came close to drowning out the singers. Granted, the singers usually had to belt out the songs, so it was more an issue of loudness than anything. It didn’t take me out of the play, though, and I could make out 99% of everything. Like I said, only a minor gripe.
“Rock of Ages” from Phoenix Entertainment is an awesome play. I went with my mom, and even though we had free tickets through a contest, I would gladly pay the full price to see it again some day. If you see this play or another version of it headed near you, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And that’s especially if you love 80’s rock and roll.