‘80s musical fails to rock
On Monday evening, Kitchener’s Centre in the Square had a full house of people attending an unforgettable musical experience—Rock of Ages. Rock of Ages has become a musical sensation as it has done something completely groundbreaking in the world of musicals: it has turned ‘80s rock tunes into musical ballads. The crowd was made up of an overwhelming number of ex-‘80s rockers who still clearly had some nostalgic yearning to let loose and listen to some White Snake.
This ‘80s throwback was obvious even before the musical began, as situated in the lobby were two hairdressers crimping, frizzing and tripling the size of dozens of audience members’ hair. Because, let’s be serious, nothing tops off a night of ‘80s madness better than the excessive use of hairspray.
Rock of Ages’ plot is framed around what is probably the most legendary song of the ‘80s Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Drew Boley (Dominique Scott), is an aspiring rocker, “born and raised in South Detroit,” now living in Hollywood where he works at The Bourbon Room, a famous Hollywood rock venue, as a busboy. Drew falls in love with Sherrie Christian (Shannon Mullen), “a small town girl,” from Paolo, Kansas, who just moved to Hollywood to begin her career as an actress.
This musical was entertaining mainly through its shock value as it satirized the ‘80s by making a mockery of the rock ‘n’ roll culture. Though certain moments of ‘shock’ were undeniably humourous, on a whole, there was a distasteful imbalance of satirizing cultural stereotypes versus feeding into oppressive typecasts. A musical that had the potential to push the bar, and address real social issues, ended up being no more than a lightweight and stereotypical recollection of bad hairdos and too much heavy metal.
Sherrie, the female lead, was just about the worst of it. Sherrie’s story was the classic tale of a young, naïve small town girl moving to the city and realizing it is not what she imagined it to be. That was fine, though not creative, but not once did she move beyond this type of character. She was easily manipulated, had no personality and from the moment she stepped on stage she might as well have been naked with how skimpily she was dressed. The only time she even showed a hint of strength was when she slapped the male rock star, Stacee Jaxx (Joshua Hobbs), in the face. Even then, she only did this because the guy she really loved caught her giving him a lap dance at the strip club she worked at.
Sherrie is not guided by a personal desire to defend herself or her femininity but is guided by the desire to win back the man she loves.
For most of the female characters, the only narrative purpose they had was to be sexual objects purely based on their attractiveness. The few females such as Regina, the social activist, who were not sexualized, were presented as eccentric, social outliers. Rock of Ages was structured entirely on various stereotypes delivered through crude humour, sexual and racial archetypes, and other uninteresting, predictable narrative devices.
The only relationship that was interesting was that of Lonny (Andrew Skylar) and Dennis (Brian Ashton Miller), the co-owners of The Bourbon Room, who near the end of the musical profess their love for one another as they belt REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” The musical can be seen as undeniably provocative; however, in terms of its content it was the same story, tropes and ideas we have seen reinforced countless times before.
Besides the music element, this musical was generally uncomfortable and disappointing.
Centre in the Square, on March 8, will be presenting Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical.