Category Archive for: ‘Harry Duke’
Take a couple of dozen songs by a musical artist, group or genre, construct a flimsy plot around them, throw it up on the stage and – voila! – you have what is known as a jukebox musical. Whether utilizing music from the Harlem Renaissance from the 20’s and 30’s (Ain’t Misbehavin’) or modern punk from Green Day (American Idiot), your enjoyment of the show is heavily dependent on your appreciation for the specific music featured. So it is with SRT’s Rock of Ages, a show that takes two dozen or so glam metal songs from various artists of the 1980’s and grafts a simplistic story of “small town girl comes to Hollywood to make it big” onto them.
Set at The Bourbon Room, an LA Sunset Strip club run by Dennis Dupree (David Miller), the story of small-town girl Sherrie (Jessica Merghart) and wanna-be rocker Drew (Nate Stuckey) is told via the narration of club employee Lonny (Justin Genna). Sherrie and Drew “meet cute” but conflict soon arrives in the form of rock star Stacee Jaxx (Mark Jammal) and a couple of German redevelopers (Tom Meglio, Bryce Baxter) bent on tearing down the club and erecting a Foot Locker. Sherrie ends up working in a “Gentlemen’s Club” and Drew ends up in a boy band before all is resolved.
Shakespeare it ain’t, but who cares? It’s all about the music. With tunes from Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, Journey, Night Ranger, Poison, Quiet Riot, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Van Halen and others woven into the plot (often cleverly), Rock of Ages is two hours of ‘80’s music nostalgia delivered by a talented cast in gaudy 80’s outfits and outrageous wigs.
The vocals were generally well handled, though some voices were a bit ragged at times and there were some significant sound issues at the performance I attended. Mics were erratic and dialogue (particularly by the ‘Germans’) was often unintelligible. Vocal standouts were Michelle Owens as Venus Club Proprietor Justice, Makenzie Morgan Gomez as developer-turncoat Regina, and Nate Stuckey as the earnest rocker with a heart of gold.
Genna makes for an affable narrator, often breaking the “fourth wall” and interacting with the audience. Miller grew on me as the show progressed as I recognized more of the Southern California character coming through. Unfortunately, both gentlemen are involved in the show’s one sour note, as director Kari Hayter plays the changing nature of their relationship for cheap laughs. The scene really seemed out-of-tune compared to the rest of the show.
Overall, Rock of Ages is a fun show, with as much light, color and spectacle associated with a stadium concert that Burbank Auditorium can provide. It’s the type of show that demands little of its audience but to sit back and enjoy the ride. Like a good concert, by the end the audience ended up on its feet cheering the performers and clapping to the beat. Shout out to Music Director Adrien Ries and his band (Brian Bonarti, Robert Bowman, Quinten Cohen and David Lechuga-Espadas) who do a head-bang-up job with the 30+ songs.
The ‘80’s come alive at SRJC through August 11.
Rock of Ages
presented by the Santa Rosa Junior College Summer Repertory Theatre
plays in rep through August 11
Santa Rosa Junior College
1501 Mendocino Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Photos by SRT