'Rock of Ages' dirtier than necessary, but still fun

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If every rose has its thorn, it shouldn't be surprising that the Broadway hit "Rock of Ages" is a bit tough to handle.

However, despite being somewhat raunchier than necessary, the musical entertained Popejoy Hall audiences at five shows within the past week, bringing in one of Broadway's few live shows that has a complete rock band as part of the act.

Even with the dialogue containing a seemingly endless series of dirty jokes going, "Rock of Ages" still produces its message that rock 'n' roll dreams can come true, and that miracles happen.

As electrifying as it is to hear some outstanding singers and a high-powered rock band crank out hits such as Poison's "Nothin' But a Good Time," and Pat Benetar's "Shadows of the Night," it would have been nice if the script were a bit more family-friendly.

"Rock of Ages" debuted in Los Angeles in 2005 and made it to Broadway by 2009, before being made into a 2012 motion picture featuring Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand.

Popejoy has been able to secure a number of Broadway acts in the past few years, including "Mamma Mia" and "The Lion King," and while getting "Rock of Ages" is a bit of a score as well, regulars at Popejoy's Thursday premiere seemed a bit taken aback by the juvenile comedy — perhaps not because they hadn't seen it before, but because it seemed excessive and out of place in the show.

Some in the front-row, well-dressed Popejoy crowd shook their heads at some of the vulgar jokes about the Hollywood scene.

The story basically expands upon the lyrics of the show's closing number, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin.'"

The small-town girl, Sherrie, heads to mid-1980s Hollywood to pursue her dreams of stardom, and meets Drew in a night club, where he and his guitar are trying to make it big as well.

The two part ways out of financial need, as Sherrie ends up working as an exotic dancer, and Drew gets stuck in a boy band. The two-act play goes to intermission as the entire cast performs Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again," to cheers from the Popejoy audience.

Eventually, of course, Drew and Sherrie meet up again, with Drew's epiphany naturally portrayed using the Steve Perry hit "Oh Sherrie."

The musical works chorus lines, themes and lyrics from the songs into the ploy in a wonderfully playful way.

In fact, this five-time Tony-Award-nominated musical could have almost no dialogue at all: just let Joan Jett, Warrant, Styx, REO Speedwagon and Poison tell the story themselves.

The knowledge and clarity of vocals in the songs chosen brings the story too late, and while the idea of a narrator/supporting cast member with funny jokes is amusing, the music is enough to carry the story by itself.

While many dressed in the usual Popejoy formal attire for the show, "Rock of Ages" played the role in costume, with concert or band T-shirts and jeans — torn jeans, in some cases.

The show is definitely enjoyable, especially for ages 30 to 55, who know '80's music as the last great, fun decade of music before grunge ruined everything, and the Internet changed the entire business. It just could have been cleaned up a bit.

For those who enjoy karaoke as a primary means of reliving and celebrating bands such as Survivor, Asia and Damn Yankees, the songs are enough.

A Broadway performer is a truly multi-skilled dancer, singer and actor, and leaving the dirty jokes at home would showcase the "Rock of Ages'" skills even more.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.