TOUR RELIVES HAIR-METAL GLORY DAYS WITH SONGS BY JOURNEY, BON JOVI, PAT BENATAR
April 6, 2012 12:25 PM | If the title weren’t taken, they might have called it “Hair.” Instead, they went with “Rock of Ages,” which is appropriate enough. This smash-hit musical is anything but religious, but it does take us back to a time when rockers with glittering makeup and flowing locks were worshiped as gods.
“I love my wig. I call her Betty,” says Matt Nolan, who plays jukebox hero Stacee Jaxx in the national tour that visits the Valley this week.
“She’s a nice long, blond wig, lots of curly tendrils,” he says. “It was a struggle to get used to at first, with
figuring out how to move my head and not choke on my hair. But it’s definitely a lot of fun. As soon as the wig goes on, that’s when I feel myself completely transformed into Stacee. It starts with the tattoos, then goes on to the guyliner, and then as soon as the wig is on I feel like I’m ready to go.”
First performed in 2006 in Los Angeles, the show opened on Broadway three years ago and is still going strong. It’s a loud, crass and unapologetically cheesy salute to the glam anthems and power ballads of the ’80s. In the former category are Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”; in the latter, Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” and Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive.”
Just remember: In the ’80s, fans waved lighters in the air during the power ballads. So you have no excuse for not turning off your cellphone.
The story is set in 1987 at a club on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip called the Bourbon Room, where a busboy named Drew Boley dreams of stardom. He’s romancing waitress/wannabe actress Sherrie Christian, but they’ll both be out of a job if German developers Hertz and Franz have their way and demolish the club. The plan to save the place involves a big reunion concert for Stacee Jaxx and his band, Arsenal.
Yes, it’s about as hackneyed a plot as ever made it to the Great White Way. And that’s just about perfect for a jukebox musical that includes a song once named the worst in rock history, Airplane’s “We Built This City.”
“They’re not the most brilliantly thought-out lyrics, but it worked for people,” Dominique Scott, who plays Drew, says of some of the hits he sings eight nights a week.
“I think the show looks back in a very loving way. It’s still very self-aware and it still kind of has that winky
attitude, but it’s fun, like, ‘Look how silly we were back then.’ People really loved the music, the same way that I have a guilty pleasure with Justin Bieber. Although people would make fun of me for it, that’s me.”
Wait a minute, did he just say “Justin Bieber”?
Yes he did. He’s also a fan of Adam Lambert, but what did you expect? A bona-fide ’80s headbanger would be way too old to star in this show. And Scott says he likes to rock out, too. He even has his own band in New York City, Domin8trix, which he describes as “Maroon 5 meets Led Zeppelin.”
His first love as performer, though, is musical theater, which makes touring with “Rock of Ages” “the best of both worlds.”
“I get to sing a plethora of the best classic-rock songs ever, and the audience’s responses are always great,” he says. “We always have big houses, and by the end of the show they’re standing up and just cheering and dancing around. It’s one big party every night.”
Castmate Nolan agrees: When it comes to living out a rock-and-roll fantasy, “Rock of Ages” is way better than playing Guitar Hero.
“You feel like you’re at a rock concert, because our band is onstage the whole time, they’re not hidden away in the pit, and just as much as we are putting on a show, they put on a show,” he says. “Our lead guitarist is headbanging at the front of the stage with a big huge fan blowing his hair all over, and they interact with us during scenes in the show, they have lines in the show. So you feel like you’re watching a rock show, but we’re also telling this really funny story at the same time.”
Nolan is best known as a finalist on the reality show “Grease: You’re the One That I Want!” (He lost out to Arizona’s own Max Crumm, who won the right to play Danny Zuko on Broadway.) As a musical-theater buff who grew up in New York, Nolan thinks crossover entertainment, from “Rock of Ages” to NBC’s “Smash,” has been great for his chosen art form.
“It’s opening up people’s eyes,” he says. “I’ve always felt that people who do musicals, who are legit triple threats, are some of the most talented performers in the world. So for people to get to know these performers now and see them on TV is just increasing the fan base and the interest.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-4896.
ROCK OF AGES starts Tuesday, April 10 at the Mesa Arts Center and will run through the 11th. It will then move locations to the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix, AZ and run April 12 – 15.
It is recommended for Mature Audiences.
SHOWTIMES FOR PHOENIX
Thursday (4/12) | 7:30 p.m.
Friday (4/13) | 8:00 p.m.
Saturday (4/14) | 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
Sunday (4/15) | 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.