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NY Theater Reviews

Constantine Maroulis and Amy Spanger/Ph: Sara Krulwich

DON'T STOP BELIEVIN'

By MATT WINDMAN

Rock of Ages isn't exactly rocket science, but it's extraordinarily entertaining and extremely catchy

When was the last time you were encouraged to drink beer during a Broadway show? Or, for that matter, wave (fake) lighters during power ballads and occasionally sing along?

Welcome to Rock of Ages, the relentlessly silly 1980s heavy metal musical that offers a wide spread of big hair band hits from the likes of Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Whitesnake, and Damn Yankees.

The jukebox musical, built on familiar pop songs, is the most reviled genre of modern theater. But what makes Rock of Ages so refreshing is how it makes no reservations about offering a paper-thin story, cliches and poop jokes set to distorted guitar riffs and hard-hitting drumming.

It's a plot you've heard before. But in case you get lost, a narrator who could be described as Jack Black with a mullet is present to lead us through the journey.

Shy, sweet boy (Constantine Maroulis) dreams of being a rock star instead of a dishwasher, while idealistic girl (Amy Spanger), straight off the bus from Kansas, dreams of being an actress. Her name, Sherrie Christian, serves as inspiration to sing Steve Perry's "Oh Sherrie" and Night Ranger's "Sister Christian."

The subplot concerns land developers who want to reconvert the Sunset Strip into a modern Times Square, leading a determined protestor break into rock anthems like Starship's "We Built This City" and Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." Of course, it all ends on a happy note set to the Journey anthem "Don't Stop Believin."

Maroulis, an American Idol contestant, is unexpectedly charming. Amy Spanger is deliciously funny. James Carpinello, who was supposed to be in Xanadu last season but broke his foot during previews, plays the rocker Stacie Jaxx, who temporarily breaks up the young lovers, as a ridiculous combination of David Lee Roth and Axl Rose.

Credit must go to director Kristin Hanggi for taking 30 well-known metal rock songs and churning out such a feel-good, tongue-in-cheek experience. Rock of Ages may be stupid as hell, but it's extraordinarily fun and extremely catchy. You might say that the silliness is even more intoxicating than the alcohol.

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