If you know anything about Rock of Ages, now playing at Theatre on the Square, Indianapolis, then you know that it is by no means a typical musical. In fact, its razor-thin story line merely serves as the backdrop for an over-the-top, absurdly raunchy celebration (falling somewhere between a tribute and a parody) of the excesses of classic 80's Rock 'n' Roll musicians.
What little story there is centers on Drew (Davey Pelsue), an aspiring rocker who works as a bus boy at Sunset Strip's Bourbon Club, and Sherrie (Sarah Hoffman), a small town Midwestern girl who’s come to Hollywood to make it big in the movies.
Throw in club owners, with a secret yet-to-be-revealed, Lonny (John Kern) and Dennis (Dave Ruark), fading rock star and sometime sex addict, Stacee Jaxx (Thomas Cardwell), and two German developers, Hertz (Bryan D. Padgett) and his sexually ambiguous son, Franz (Zach Ramsey) who are intent on buying, and tearing down, the club. Also include city planner Regina (Andrea Heiden) who is vehemently opposed to any remodeling of the Sunset Strip, and Madam Justice (Paige Scott) and the working girls (Jordan Fox, Tessa Gibbons and Katherine Jones) of the Venus Strip Club. The storyline – sometimes artfully, sometimes awfully – weaves in the music of such 80's giants as Journey, Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon, (among others) to tell its tale.
The stunning renditions of Harden My Heart/Shadows of the Night and Here I Go Again ending Act I – just as Drew is about to give up his dream of becoming a rock star and join a boy band and Sherrie sees no future for herself beyond joining the working girls at Venus as a stripper – are well worth your time. So is the lovely, all-cast rendition of that quintessential 80’s love song Every Rose Has Its Thorn.
If high camp is more to your liking, you’ll enjoy over-the-top performances (and sudden surprises) of Hit Me with Your Best Shot and Can’t Fight This Feeling. Ages’ stirring finale, Don’t Stop Believin’ – in which cast members break the fourth wall and invite audience members to join them onstage as part of the celebration – will certainly have you on your feet.
Like the 80's rock scene itself, TOTS' Rock of Ages is heavy on the raunch. It’s rough and raggedy, with enough poop jokes, double entendres and simulated sex acts to offend almost everyone, while making you howl with laughter. The show makes no pretenses at being a work of art but, whatever your mood is going in and for however briefly, it will take you away from your problems and have you singing along/dancing in the aisles … and there is a lot to be said for that.
Images: provided by TOTS
John Simmons recently moved back to his hometown of Indianapolis from New York City, where he stage managed or produced numerous off-Broadway shows. John was also General Manager of The Active Theater. Active Theater alumni who have gone on to bigger and better things include Grace Gealey (aka Anika on Fox’s Empire) and Lucy Owens (now appearing in Miss Sloane).
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a luxury, travel, features, food and wine writer, travel, wine and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on television and radio. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook.