Sunday, 3 April 2016

Would You Like to Come to a Piano Burning?

Stacee from Rock of Ages presented byTa Da! Events
Arts & Culture Centre, March 31-April 3, 2016

The week leading up to March 31st is customarily my busiest workweek of the year.  It marks the end of fiscal year for most of the organizations I work with and so it is a flurry of projects that need to be accounted for, records to be checked, etc.  Factor in my usual writing deadlines both short term and long term, unscheduled meetings, studio visits and off-the-wall invitations like, "would you like to come to a piano burning?" and you get an idea of what my week was like.  I couldn't make this stuff up…actually; I'm really looking forward to that piano burning.

My short-term writing deadline was a quick turn around for The Telegram:  go to The Rock of Ages on opening Thursday night and then submit copy by Friday morning.  How I like to handle these sorts of assignments is to jot down a few impressions at intermission time and directly after the show.  If I can, I will ask a few questions from my fellow audience members to broaden my perspective.  Often, I will deliberately look for someone outside of my age range and gender.  Next, I will sleep on my observations and then wake up and write the review while still in my robe.  I guess that makes me a morning person.  What has never ceased to surprise me is my internal word-meter.  For example, I was given a 500-word maximum, 400-word minimum for this review and it weighed in at 477.  Here it is:

Principal cast.

If you miss your suede fringe or nude Jell-O wrestling, Rock of Ages is the show for you.  It is a raunchy, raucous hard-hitting show that doesn't waste a heart beat setting the tone of the evening.  The program may politely state, "Please turn off all electronic devices." But the narrator bellows, "don't use your cell because it makes you look like a dick".  There is more tits and ass, pole dancing and 4-letter language in this show than a strip club could wish for.  It is all done in great humour and is completely and creatively appropriate to the production but parents be warned this is not a show to bring a young child to.  On opening night the audience was full of all ages from youngsters to senior citizens, which speaks to the appeal of Rock of Ages.

The 30-somethings were there because they had loved the movie, the older set because the 80s music was part of their musical coming of age.  I was curious to see whether the production was going to be a Rock romp down memory lane like an homage show or whether it was going to be a musical with musicians in the orchestra pit.  Perfectly, the show was neither.  The backdrop for the play is the legendary Bourbon Room with a dynamite live rock group on stage.  There are lots of visual treats like flashing lights and opportunities for audience participation from the word "go", which meant the evening felt like an adrenalin drenched rock concert rather than a musical.  The familiar songs were used to advance the plot in surprising ways.  And there are plots, subplots, gender bending and more twists and turns than on a soap opera.

Recognize NF's runner-up for Cdn Idol?

Rock of Ages is fuelled by a relatively large cast of 32– not counting its creative or production team whose thoughtfulness is reflected in every inch on the stage.– although it may be hard to recognize many of the well-known talents of St. John's under the big hair wigs like John Andrews as Dennis Dupree.  It was a reward to have Craig Sharpe, as Drew Bolely, whom you may remember as a runner up on Canadian Idol Season 4.  But I think the show stealer was Keith Power as the oh-so-colourful Franz Klineman, the unpredictable son of the show's villain.

Speaking of dastardly, it was intriguing to see how the show covered the elements that challenged rock music.  From euro-trash strip malls, sleazy record producers, the advent of boy bands or just the shifting cultural landscape it was all reflected on stage.  It was Teen Beat versus Metal Head Magazine come to life and singing its lungs out.  The Rock of Ages provides a rocking good night–and I dare you not to sing along.

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