Michael Detmer in Rock of Ages. Photo by Ryan Noltemeyer.
Rock of Ages
Book by Chris D’Arienzo
Arrangements and Orchestrations by Ethan Popp
Music by a Bunch of Really Sweet ‘80s Bands
Review by Leila Toba
Entire contents copyright © 2018 Leila Toba. All rights reserved.
Rock of Ages is a rock/jukebox musical that features classic rock and metal bands from the 1980s. I had never seen any version of this, so I was able to attend this performance with a fresh and open mind. At the entrance of the show, Music Director Gayle King chose wisely with the five-piece rock band which lent itself exquisitely to a scene that made its audience feel ready to rock. I found myself slightly dubious about the set design, but as the players rolled out, it proved to be a solid selection that made good space value for both band and cast.
Jason Cooper really shows his chops as Lonny Barnett, commanding the stage effortlessly as part owner of The Bourbon Room, the bar at the center of the action. His energy is infectious and exhilarating, with a promise of more fun and laughter to come, which he makes good on. Phillip Hubbard adds to the performance as Dennis Dupree, and together they make an enchanting duo that evokes mirth and pure entertainment.
Michael Detmer carefully creates his character, Drew Boley, A.K.A. Wolfgang Von Colt, playing him as a timid but tenacious dreamer, with clear and potent vocals. He shares a profound intimacy with his audience and discovers the deeper meaning to already familiar songs. His opposite, Sara Troxel, is very believable as a wide-eyed ingénue, gently complimenting Detmer with sincere vocal moments that are very touching and sweet.
Brandis DeWilligen is passionate and thrilling as Regina Koontz. Her vigor in this character is electrifying. It was a pleasure to see her intensity in her vocals and choreography, and the entire audience wanted to burn alongside her. She truly becomes the character. Franz and Hertz Klineman, played by Justin White and Jared Burton, are enjoyable to watch as her adversaries, and White is a constant delight. His shy but affable character is realized through tiny quirks and good stage instinct and a high powered number that leaves his audience wanting more.
Justice Charlier, played by Sydney Majors, is a vocal powerhouse that takes no prisoners. She manages to belt out challenging songs with ease, and yet is still very tender and compassionate in this role. Remy Sisk is hilarious as washed up lead singer Stacee Jaxx, owning every bit of smarm and depravity while still being lovably aloof.
The company was on point with their energy and choreography. Some of the vocal choices were questionable, and a lot of times, vocalists were struggling to be heard, drowned out by the excessive volume of the band. Some of the costumes were problematic for me and did not appear to be 1980’s regalia as much as stereotypes of 80’s regalia. In the opening company number, it seemed that some cast members were inhibited in their movement because of precariously placed wigs. A lot of the wigs were very messy and almost seemed unnecessary, and my rule for wigs on stage is, if you can’t wig correctly, DO NOT WIG.
Director Whitten Montgomery has pieced together a very fun and uplifting show, leaving you on the splendid note, “Sometimes the dreams you come in with aren’t always the dreams you leave with, but they still rock”. Great energy, comedy, and music make this show nothin’ but a good time and it’s refreshing to see this company successfully execute mature entertainment. Rock of Ages will have you on or tapping your feet. You will not want to miss this one.
Rock of Ages
January 26, 27, February 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 @ 8:00pm
January 28 & February 4 @ 2:00pm
Acting Against Cancer
The Henry Clay Theatre
604 S. Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Leila Toba is an actress who has worked with various theatre companies in Louisville.