Venetian musical Rock of Ages succeeds as a tongue-in-cheek time machine
Wed, Jan 9, 2013 (2:42 p.m.)
Photo: Denise Truscello
- Rock of Ages
Great news: Somebody extracted the beloved clichés and blissful cheesiness from Saved by the Bell’s Zack Attack Rockumentary and turned it into a full-fledged musical. It’s called Rock of Ages, and it just arrived at the Venetian. (I know, I know, the show’s been around for a while, but it’s new to me. Didn’t see the movie, either. Heard it sucked.)
A 1980s hurricane blew through the Venetian’s Blue Man Group theater, leaving behind blue and pink neon signs, janky video screens and dated posters. The Bud Girls, Recording Artists Against Drunk Driving … they’re all there. House band Arsenal cranks up the amps, and our mulleted narrator takes us “back to a sexier time, the Reagan era.” We meet the staff of the Bourbon Room, a “legendary” rock club on the Sunset Strip, where men wear tight pants and women proactively eat tri-color Popsicles.
The story is simple: Rock boy meets rock girl, boy loses rock girl to megastar Stacee Jaxx, rock boy wins her back. Along the way, two evil Germans convince the mayor to turn the Bourbon Room into a “clean, efficient living” facility. These “Germans” are really German. Their accents aren’t just fake, they’re aggressively fake. Zeees eees vhhat I mean!
But it works. The show is satire; the characters don’t break the fourth wall so much as knock through it with a wrecking ball. One character is called “Waitress No. 1.”
Before the night is over, the mullet has sucked us into his tongue-in-cheek world of rock and won us over. The woman sitting in front of me stood up several times to dance. She even turned around and encouraged my date and me to do the same.
The singing is solid. Yes, trained Broadway singers are performing classic rock songs, Broadway style. Deal with it. They’re doing it well, though the female lead can’t quite keep up with the rest of the cast … including Waitress No. 1. Maybe that’s why the leads’ romance didn’t feel as sincere as the subplot bromance between the Bourbon Room owner and the mullet.
If Rock of Ages succeeds, it will succeed for two reasons: 1. It portrays the ’80s with the right balance of sentimentalism and mockery, and 2. The whole show is, essentially, an advertisement for the Bourbon Room, which is also a real bar in the Venetian. So, children of the ’80s, see the show, drink the bourbon and relive your glory days.