Why mince words? Don’t miss the Broadway jukebox musical Rock of Ages, now playing at Caesars Atlantic City through Sept. 2. And certainly don’t avoid it based on past experience with legitimate plays in a casino showroom.
Unlike most Broadway shows presented in Atlantic City over the past 34 years, the national touring company of the 1980s-themed production performs the show as it was originally staged. Nothing has been eliminated from the New York version — not one word, song, verse or scene.
They’ve even thrown caution to the wind and kept the 10-minute intermission, which has long been considered a no-no in the casinos industry’s get-’em-in, get-’em-out entertainment philosophy.
Historically, Broadway shows have almost always gotten a critical bum rap when casinos have inserted them into their entertainment schedules, and deservedly so.
With the exception of A Chorus Line, whose owners refused to allow any cuts during two casino runs in the early 1990s, legitimate shows have been surgically altered to fit the self-imposed time constraints gaming halls have placed on showroom offerings.
Ninety minutes was about the longest the casinos wanted to separate customers from the slot machines and gaming tables. Today, it’s down to about 75 minutes.
Producers would have to scour their scripts looking for ways to cut the running time without sacrificing quality. To save time, songs, dialogue and even entire scenes would often be eliminated.
That’s not the case in Rock of Ages. The same show (with a different cast) that audiences saw on Broadway is exactly what they’ll see on the Boardwalk in what might be the best legitimate show presented in Atlantic City since a national tour of A Chorus Line was a singular sensation at Trump Taj Mahal in 1991.
Rock of Ages is a show that embraces the big metal and hair bands and solo artists of the 1980s and the music they produced. A thin love story that connects the scenes and the songs is about all that keeps the show from becoming just another of the dime-a-dozen tribute shows casinos have relied on over the years as cost-effective ways of entertaining customers.
But it’s not the plot (a love story) and sub-plot (fighting City Hall) that makes Rock of Ages. At the end of the day, it’s all about the music, capably sung by a talented cast and supported by a butt-kicking five-piece band that provides all the backing the performers need. In fact, the musicians are considered part of the cast, and the band is on stage for the entire show — a rarity in the legitimate theater — offering up some tasty licks and attempting (most times successfully) to duplicate memorable solos from the original recordings of the songs.
With all due respect to their talent, the real stars of Rock of Ages aren’t the actors. They’re the songs that are artfully woven around the dialogue, most of them classics of the era.
During the show’s two-hour 15-minutes (complete with intermission), Rock of Ages presents somewhat theatrical interpretations of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” Foreigner’s “Waiting For a Girl Like You” and “I Want To Know What Love Is,” Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Poison’s “Nothing But a Good Time,” Whitesnake’s first act finale “Here I Go Again” and Journey’s show-closing “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
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