Rock of Ages may be the ode to the 1980s, but the show itself has passed the 10-year mark—having first opened on Broadway in 2009—and its popularity only continues to grow since its Tony-nominated Broadway run.
When the big hair band jukebox musical returned in 2019 to its first Off-Broadway home at New World Stages, it was inevitable that the limited run would extend indefinitely.
“Everyone’s got a story behind the music,” says choreographer Kelly Devine of the jukebox score, which features songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Cum on Feel the Noize,” and “Waiting For a Girl Like You.” “There’s nostalgia with these songs. People have made out, made babies, and broken up to so many of them.”
Devine has experienced the musical from the audience’s perspective a handful of times. She always notices a buzz in the room, and that first guitar strum ignites a sing-a-long that lasts the entire show. “It’s a combo platter of good times with a warm heart, great dancing, and rocking music. The fact that 10 years later it still has that effect is really awesome,” she says.
Like a real rock concert, the audience is participatory in ways that might seem taboo for a stage production—including the women throwing their bras onstage. While those behaviors aren’t encouraged, the choreographer says it’s all part of the atmosphere. “You want the audience to feel that they’re coming into the Bourbon Room, and I think it gives them license to just play along.”
It’s not just the nostalgia or party vibes that draw in a crowd. The creative team, book writer Chris D’Arienzo and director Kristin Hanggi along with Devine, were trying to tell a great story with music, love, dancing, and humor—and succeeded. “The way it’s weaved together, I think we did a really good job as far as the jukebox musical,” the choreographer says.
On top of all that, the music of the ’80s is respected by those who lived it and simultaneously discovered regularly by younger generations. “It’s like the Beatles in a way,” says Devine. “They were so iconic at the time, and everything trends around again.”