Sunday, June 11, 2017

“Rock of Ages” rocks, really rocks, Cain Park

Cain Park’s Alma Theatre is rocking and rolling with the classic up-beat sounds of the ‘80s.  Yes, “Rock of Ages” features the likes of “The Final Countdown,” “Here I Go Again,” “I Wanna Rock,” “High Enough,” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  That’s right, the songs of  Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe.

“Rock of Ages,” based on the 2012 film, is a juke box musical.  It takes songs written before the script was conceived and intersperses them into a less than well-put-together story.   Interestingly, for no apparent reason, the title song, as written by Def Leppard, is not included in the goings-on.

The original stage production, which ranks in the top 30 of the longest running shows in Broadway history, played 2,328 performances.

It’s 1987.  Sherrie Christian (the adorable, sweet-voiced Lauren Ashley Berry), a young, small-town virgin (what would you expect with a name like that?) gets off the bus in Los Angeles, ready to become the next great film star, and is immediately robbed.  Into her life comes her “hero,” the handsome Drew (Shane Lonergan), who works at the Bourbon Room, the fabled West Hollywood club, the home of rock and roll stardom. 

No, Drew is not an R&R star, just a busboy, with stars in his huge doe-like eyes, a guitar in his hands, and a stellar voice which hits long-held high notes and slips nicely into a cool falsetto. 

As happens in these fairy-tale tales, Drew is love-struck, gets Sherrie a job at the club, and it looks like we are headed for a “happily ever-after tale.” 

Oh, come on, we have an hour-and-a-half to fill with songs, so there has to be conflict, chaos, heartbreak and then, a happy ending.

The conflict comes in the form of Hertz Klinemann (the funny, over-the-top Kevin Kelly, complete with very bad accent), who dreams of designing formal wear for pets, but instead is planning on knocking down the Sunset Strip and building an upscale shopping center.  His sidekick is his fey son, Franz (David Turner who lisps and swishes his way through his stage-time).  The duo is eventually foiled by a group of activists, who picket to stop the destruction of the strip.

Meanwhile, our heroine, good girl Sherrie, who fight off of the advances of super-rock god Stacee Jaxx (Connor Bogart O’Brien, not quite reaching the sensual level needed for women to lose their undies over), gets Sherrie fired from the Bourbon Room.  She is taken in by Justice (Trinidad Snider, a wailing momma with a big voice, who almost steals the show).  She runs a strip club. 

In the meantime, the show’s MC (the hysterically funny Douglas F. Bailey, who knows his way around a laugh line and does steal the show), and bar owner Dennis Dupree (smarmy Phillip Michael Carroll) discover they are “in love” and delight while singing “Can’t Fight this Feeling.” 

Lots more goes on, but of course, in the end, our Sherrie hooks up again with the still love-struck Drew and, as is the case with all good juke box musicals, they know “The Search is Over,” kiss their way to “Heaven,” knowing that they will never say, “I Hate Myself for Lovin’ You,” and the entire cast and the audience claps, sings and dances to”Don’t Stop Believing.”

The band (Jesse Fishman, Jeremy Poparad, Tim Keo and Justin Hart), under the leadership of Jordan Cooper, rock.  Yeah, man, they really rock!  

Kevin D. Marr II's creative choreography, is spot on!

Director Joanna May Hunkins has the cast psyched, and, after a slow, often hard to hear first act, and lots of overacting, the assemblage gets focused and lets loose in Act II, earning a screaming final reception.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  If you are a fanatic for rock and roll, especially from the genre’s golden age, you will absolutely love “Rock of Ages.”  “Oh Sherrie,” “The Search is Over,” as you’ll think it’s “Just like Paradise” and believe that you are in “Heaven,” having “Nothin’ But a Good Time,“ which is pretty darn good!
The show runs through June 25, 2017 in the Alma Theatre in Cleveland Heights’ Cain Park.   For tickets call 216-371-3000 or go to

Upcoming musical theater events at Cain Park:

August 5 & 6--“The Music Man in Concert,” with Eric Fancher, as Harold Hill, and Nicole Sumlin, as Marian Paroo, in Meredith Wilson’s classic musical.

July 20, 7 PM--The Musical Theater Project presents “For Good:  The New Generation of Musicals,” examines Broadway shows from 2000 until today in narration and song.  Hear selections from “Hamilton,” “1776,” Wicked,” “Book of Mormon” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”

August 10, 7 PM—The Musical Theater Project presents “Luck Be A Lady:  the Songs of Frank Loesser,” a multi-media concert featuring the music of “Guys and Dolls,” “Most Happy Fella,” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”