Chicago Theatre Review
Feel the Noize
Rock of Ages – Drury Lane Oakbrook
Never hiding the fact that this lighthearted musical is Nothin’ But a Good Time, Scott Weinstein has beautifully directed this enjoyable jukebox musical that cleverly masquerades as a heavy metal rock concert. His pleasure chest party of a play, with some terrific choreography by Stephanie Klemons, is basically another boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back-again story. The best part is that the show revisits 28 nostalgic classics from the 1980s.
Drury Lane’s high octane, polished, professional production sports a terrifically versatile cast of actor/singer/dancers. It dazzles with big hair, gobs of glitter, tight spandex, micro-mini skirts, thigh-high boots, acid-washed denim and lots of bare skin. This musical, which may not appeal to every taste, is highlighted by loud, over-the-top vocals accompanied by pulsating electric guitar, percussion and synthesizer and lit by blinding, concert lighting. Clapping, chatting with the characters and singing along is highly encouraged. It is, in essence, a party with a plot.
The story is simple and very familiar. A boy with dreams of becoming a rock star meets a girl who hopes for a glamorous life in the movies. They strike up a relationship, go their separate ways in pursuit of fame but, inevitably, end up together in the end. A subplot, inspired by New York’s gentrification of Times Square, involves a German father and son team who want to shut down the bars and strip clubs along Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip and turn the area into a family-friendly mall. Along the way hit songs like “Anyway You Want It,” “Here I Go Again,” “We Built This City” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” move the story along.
This superb cast is led by the very talented Chicago actor, Russell Mernagh as Drew and, making her auspicious Chicago debut, Cherry Torres as Sherrie. Both are attractive, appealing young performers with magnetic charm and electrifying stage presence. Possessed with powerful voices capable of belting above Chris Sargent’s electronic onstage band (thanks to expert musical direction by Roberta Duchak), this likable couple easily wins over the audience, who cheer for them to get back together in the end.
Other standouts in this production include the incomparable Nick Druzbanski as a likable Lonny, the show’s Narrator/Sound Man, Gene Weygandt, as his devoted, stoned partner Dennis (their duet “Can’t Fight This Feeling” is one of the production’s highlights), Adam Michaels as sexy rock star, Stacee Jaxx and Donica Lynn as Mother, the owner of the nearby risque gentlemen’s club. George Keating hits all the right marks as the gentrifying German, Hertz; and Nick Cosgrove is hilarious as his flamboyant son Franz. Cosgrove’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” sung with spunky powerhouse belter Tiffany Tatreau as Regina, offers yet another comic highlight in this show.
A special nod of appreciation goes to the show’s gifted technical team. Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s Bourbon Room setting, which effortlessly transforms into the raunchy Venus Club, and other locales, is filled with nostalgic detail. Greg Hofmann’s blazing lighting and Ray Nardelli’s perfect sound design are everything required for this kind of show. And the team of Theresa Ham and Miguel Armstrong have created the perfect look for each character with their glitzy 80’s costume and wig designs.
Chris D’Ariezo’s loving ode to the music of the 1980s, with musical arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp, isn’t aimed at the serious theatre patron looking for a complicated plot with deep subtext and three-dimensional characters. This fun-loving musical comedy, filled with stereotypes and bombastic musical numbers, is a good-natured wink and nod to a more innocent time when America was enjoying the titillation of raunch and excess called glam rock. Audiences who want More Than Words should brave the Shadows of the Night and head out to Drury Lane Oakbook, ready to Feel the Noize. For many theatergoers, this show will simply be Heaven.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented August 24-October 15 by Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL.
Tickets are available in person at the box office, by calling them at 630-530-0111, by calling TicketMaster at 800-745-3000 or by going to www.DruryLaneTheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.