TOP: The cast of the “Rock of Ages” 10th anniversary tour. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
Rock of Ages revives the towering anthems
and power ballads that make the sounds of the 1980s
indelible, even today.
The 10th anniversary tour of “Rock of Ages” plays the Fox Theatre on Jan. 3-4. Details, tickets HERE or at 855.285.8499.
ROCK OF AGES, the Broadway musical that features songs from such 1980s’ rock acts as Journey, Styx, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and Foreigner, is in the midst of a 10th anniversary tour. What can audiences expect?
“The same terrific music,” says director Martha Banta, “and the really funny, fun time that you have when you come to the show.” But, she adds, “This is a new production. It’s not a remount of what was already done.”
The musical, set on the Sunset Strip in 1987, is described as a cheeky, self-referential fable of Hollywood and rock ’n’ roll wannabes. The book was written by Chris D’Arienzo, a Michigan-born actor and self-professed theater geek who loves ’80s rock.
As he wrote it, he says, “it was very much like an olive branch between worlds that don’t feel like they have anything in common — the rock world and the Broadway world. And so, I decided what I wanted it to be was just as much a love letter to theater as it is to music and rock.”
So, even as audiences hear familiar songs like “Any Way You Want It,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “Don’t Stop Believing,” D’Arienzo says there are theatrical references. “I was influenced by Shakespeare — things like A Midsummer Night’s Dream — and musicals like Into the Woods.”
The show had a winding road to Broadway. It was first staged in 2005 in a Los Angeles club on Hollywood Boulevard. Then it played Las Vegas and other L.A. venues.
“The trajectory was constantly stop-start-stop,” D’Arienzo says. “Every time we did it, it felt like maybe it was the last time we would do it.”
Not so. The musical opened off-Broadway in January 2009. Within two months, it was on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. It relocated to the Helen Hayes Theatre in 2011 and ran for six years or a total of 2,328 performances, earning a tie at the time as the 29th-longest-running Broadway musical ever. It was nominated for five 2009 Tony awards, including best musical. (The others: best actor for Constantine Maroulis’ Drew, direction, costumes and sound).
As you might imagine, the tour’s set design — by David Gallo — has a strong rock vibe. “The overall concept is that it’s a rock ’n’ roll tour,” Banta says. “So, you’ve got the road boxes, and it looks just like a blank stage.” But, she says, the set — like the musical itself — is filled with surprises. “Things drop in and the boxes open up. A briefcase opens and something else is inside. And you roll out something, and now you’re somewhere else.”
Perhaps the show’s greatest draw is its re-creation of some of the biggest musical hits of the 1980s — songs written by the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, Joan Jett, Bret Michael, Steve Perry and David Lee Roth. The show’s band is visible throughout the performance, at times moving downstage to the center of the action.
Banta says part of the success of Rock of Ages is that D’Arienzo had a huge catalog of songs to draw from. “He wasn’t stuck to just the Beach Boys or just ABBA,” she says. “He could kind of go wide and far. But I do know that he actually started with a whole bunch of music and then made the story.”
D’Arienzo says that, for him, Rock of Ages is a tremendous gift. In addition to its Broadway run, the show has been seen across the country and across the world, and even became a movie with Tom Cruise.
“Any time there’s a production of Rock of Ages, part of me is kind of blown away,” he says. “Like, ‘Wow. They still want to do this?’ It makes me so happy.”
This article was provided by the producers of the “Rock of Ages” tour.