PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Rock of Ages — The Night of Drunken Fireflies

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08 Apr 2009

Amy Spanger and Constantine Maroulis
Amy Spanger and Constantine Maroulis
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Meet the first-nighters of Broadway's Rock of Ages.


The crowd that came out for the opening of Rock of Ages at the Brooks Atkinson on April 7 could conservatively be termed "well-lit." Not only were flashlights in the shape of mini-cigarette lighters supplied to the customers — the better to streak the sky with, in moments of musical madness — Coors beer was hustled in the aisles at $6 a pop, and executives from all three theatre chains imbibed as if to say, "Drink up!"

You'd think in something called Rock of Ages that Rolling Rock would be available, but no. People with different tastes were directed to a solitary Blue Moon stand elsewhere in the theatre. For all practical purposes, Coors had the concession, and, to keep that thought uppermost in your mind, six different Coors signs littered the set — a sad and seedy little Sunset Strip rock bar called The Bourbon Room, which designer Beowulf Boritt extends invitingly beyond the stage into the audience.

An enthusiastic salute to hard-driving '80s metal is not everybody's cup of Coors, of course. It was entirely possible on opening night to have two-and-a-half hours of songs from the vintage music-video era of the '80s wash over you without recognizing a note, while the person next to you is banging his head back and forth, mouthing the words. The theatre traditionalist is likely to feel he has entered the Twilight Zone. As one asided to me at the half-time — er, intermission — "Is this the end of the world?"

No, but it's another world. (Rock of Ages must have Brooks Atkinson rolling!) And nothing betrayed the schism of the first-nighters more than the symbolic hoisting of the lighters, swaying supportively to and fro with the music. With this particular group, that gesture came off like ill-coordinated lightning bugs colliding in the dark.

There seems to be some sort of storyline running along side, and in and out, of the golden oldies of Bon Jovi, Poison, Styx, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Journey, Whitesnake, et al. Book writer Chris D'Arienzo has gone about his task as if he were doing an MTV Mamma Mia!, never interrupting the ebb and flow of replays for long.

[flipbook] As plot would have it, the fabled Bourbon Room is marked for the wrecking ball to make way for a mall, and only a rock benefit can bail the club out. In terms of human development, there's a slight pass at a love story between two wannabe rockers from out of town — Sherrie, as in "Oh, Sherrie" (Amy Spanger), and Drew (ex-"American Idol" contender Constantine Maroulis) — disrupted momentarily by his brief stint in boy band-land and her fling at pole-dancing strip-teasing. Then, there's the other-man complication, Stacee Jaxx (James Carpinello), a sleazy rock icon.

That's all director Kristin Hanggi and choreographer Kelly Devine need to keep the joint jumpin' — and the evening comes to a crashing end just like a chaotic rock concert.

The opening night party was held a few yards east of the theatre at the Edison Ballroom, which has been underused this season as an after-party venue but proved perfect for this occasion because it provided a stage where rock-stars among the first-nighters could perform till dawn's early light if they had a mind to.

Night Ranger (Kelly Keagy, Brad Gillis and Jack Blade) charged the Edison stage first, followed by January Jane (with Maroulis) and, into the a.m., Evolution.

Jim Peterik, who wrote Journey's "The Search Is Over," arrived like a true rocker, with multicolored hair. Jamie & Beverly came via VH1's "Rock of Love Bus."

Others up for the '80s nostalgia were Mark Schoenfeld (who wrote Brooklyn for Broadway), Nikki Blonsky from the "Hairspray" flick, Patrick Wilson, chef Rocco DiSpirito, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (apparently open to new tricks), Noah Emmerich (with his revved-up teenage niece), Michael Urie from "Ugly Betty," Justin Tranter of "Semi-Precious Weapons," producer-actress Tamara Tunie, Max von Essen (looking like Clark Kent in glasses) and Cry-Baby's Elizabeth Stanley (both back from a Xanadu tour) and John Bolton (bound for Goodspeed this summer to test the waters of Lucky Guy with Gary Beach).


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