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Rock of Ages – it grows on you.

December 5, 2012

We’re not big fans of the music of the 1980s, particularly the hair-metal bands that seems to have dominated the era. Part of it is the fact that by the ’80s we were far past the phase where pop music had much influence on our lives. Another part of it is that it music was loud, derivative and often self-important, none of which added to its “artistic” content.

So what appeal would a show like Rock of Ages, now at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts as part of its Broadway series, have for us? Set during the rockin’ Reagan Era, the loosely defined narrative follows the adventures of naifs Sherrie (Shannon Mullen) and Drew (Dominique Scott) as they see their hopes and dreams rise, fall and then rise again on Los Angeles’ fabled Sunset Strip, all set the melodic strains of Whitesnake, Poison, Twisted Sister and other bands of their ilk. Toss in a gaggle of “colorful” characters and a silly subplot about German industrialist Hertz (Philip Peterson), his conflicted son Franz (Stephen Michael Kane) and their attempt to bulldoze the street’s bars and strip joints to establish a Footlocker store and you have the usual musical theater pap, all played at an elevated decibel level.

The truth is, the show had no appeal for us … at first. But just like a Guns ‘n’ Roses tune, its charms begin to grow on you, and by the end of two-and-one-half hours … well, we weren’t exactly fist-pumping to “Don’t Stop Believing,” the Journey number that closed the show, but we were having a good time. In fact, we were having a very good time.

Much of that had to do with the energetic performances of characters like Lonny (Justin Colombo), Dennis (Matt Ban), Regina (Megan McHugh) and others treading the stereotypical waters of L.A.’s pop music scene. The actors worked hard for their money, even if the profanity-lasced book by Chris D’Arenzio didn’t necessarily help their success. But they made sure the audience had as much fun listening as they had in the telling.

We’re still not hair-metal band fans, but having been invited to “cum on feel the noize,” we don’t mind falling under the music’s spell every now and then. And Rock of Ages does just that.





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