Full scale Broadway musical ‘Rock of Ages’ invades the Boardwalk at Caesars
When the let-it-all-hang-out musical Hair became a hit on Broadway in 1968, it began a seismic shift in musical theater. While traditional musical theater continued to thrive, rock music was now also a permanent part of the landscape.
Hair could be called the spirit guide for Rock of Ages, the 1980s era arena rock musical whose continuing run on Broadway has put it in the top 100 for Broadway longevity.
Rock of Ages has taken up residence on the Boardwalk at Caesars and unlike most touring musicals presented in Atlantic City, it has not been sliced and diced to fit into a casino-friendly time slot and get the gamblers back at the slots. This production is the full two and a half hours with an intermission.
That was a smart move by Caesars since Rock of Ages is an all out blast. How can you not enjoy a celebration of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll that features a terrific cast belting out such insanely infectious rock anthems as “We Built This City,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Any Way You Want It” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
And, if you think you know Rock of Ages from the recent movie version starring Tom Cruise, you don’t. The fun was drained out of the screen version to misshape it into a star vehicle for Cruise, and it didn’t begin to capture the energy and delightful choreography of the stage show.
The year is 1987 when hair metal/arena rock dominated the music world. In Los Angeles, the epicenter of rock was at the Sunset Strip. Dreamers arrive every day looking for rock stardom, including Sherrie (Shannon Mullen) who meets Drew (Dominique Scott), a young man who dreams of being a star as he works behind the bar at the world famous Bourbon Room.
As their budding romance develops to the tune of “Waiting For A Girl Like You” our hilarious narrator Lonny (Justin Colombo), doing an effective Jack Black School of Rock tribute, explains that love will go sour, heartbreak will happen but that a happy ending will eventually arrive.
Rock of Ages also weaves in a story about political shenanigans that threaten to force the rock clubs and exotic dancer joints on the Strip to close. A love story and a chance to root against slimy, corrupt corporate types? Rock of Ages offers just enough plot to provide an anchor for the sweet and funny musical numbers.
Other characters who embrace the Rock of Ages world with a musical highlight or two are the Bourbon’s owner Dennis (Matt Ban), rock god Stacee Jaxx (Matt Nolan), Franz (Stephen Michael Kane), the son of the businessman trying to buy out the Strip, and protest organizer Regina (Katie Postotnik). The latter two have a showstopping duet with “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
Thanks to a terrific ensemble, great music and clever choreography, set design and costumes, Rock of Ages has brightened up the Boardwalk with an authentic Broadway vibe.
Rock of Ages’ Matt Ban
Matt Ban stars in Rock of Ages as Dennis, the owner of the Bourbon Room where the action takes place. Ban is coming home, a native of West Milford, NJ. Prior to the show’s opening night, he gave Atlantic City Weekly the lowdown on what to expect.
AC Weekly: I must confess that the only thing I know about the show is seeing the movie and that wasn’t so memorable.
“We didn’t speak to each other for awhile. But it was inevitable that we would have some contact eventually since Dan and Justin are brothers.”
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