The only thing missing from the rock 'n' roll extravaganza that is Rock of Ages at The Venetian is the smell of marijuana wafting over the audience.
Rock of Ages takes you back to the days of rock 'n' roll hedonism where big bands had big egos, big hair and played big guitar solos. So complete is the experience that for 90 minutes, you'll believe it's 1987, Ronald Reagan is president, leather miniskirts and jean jackets are cool, mullets are a fashionable hair style, and bands like Poison, Guns 'n' Roses, Whitesnake and Journey are climbing the Billboard charts.
Set at the fictional Bourbon Room on L.A.'s infamous Sunset Strip, Rock of Ages chronicles the love story of Drew, a boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, both in L.A. to chase their dreams of fame (cue song).
Throwing a wrench in their plans is a greedy German developer who wants to transform the Sunset Strip (and the Bourbon Room) from sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll to lattes, legwarmers and strip malls. Complicating matters further is the egotistical machinations of Stacee Jaxx, lead singer of the hit band Arsenal, who's splitting the band up to go solo.
Powering the whole show is a string of '80s rock anthems (more than 30) including "Sister Christian," "We Built This City," "We're Not Gonna Take It," "Wanted Dead or Alive," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "I Wanna Know What Love Is," "Any Way You Want it," "I Wanna Rock," "Oh Sherrie," "Here I Go Again," "Don't Stop Believin'" and many, many more.
Although Rock of Ages is billed as a musical -- it was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Musical -- it's really an arena rock show with the requisite powerhouse lead singers, amazing band, loads of concert memorabilia being hawked outside the theater and beer being sold by the can in the theater. Just like any self-respecting rock fans -- the audience at Rock of Ages sings along with the songs, raises their (LED) lighters during the ballads and dances through the finale.
Driving the whole experience is a powerhouse performance by the onstage fictional band Arsenal. In the Vegas show, Arsenal is composed of real life rockers Chris Cicchino (lead guitar), Andy Gerold (guitarist), Alan Childs (drums) and Dan Grennes (bass). Playing what amounts to a rock concert every night, Arsenal brings down the house with blistering renditions of your favorite '80s hits. Ladies, get your Arsenal groupie shirts now.
No rock show would be complete without a lead singer (or two). Becca Kotte and Justin Mortelliti (Sherrie and Drew) bring the vocal attitude you want in rock star. But with this ensemble cast, the supporting performers all get a chance to shine. Jon Robert Hall as Stacee Jaxx is a potent combination of sleaze and sex appeal. But it is Mark Shunock as Lonny and Matt Meigs as Franz who slide in and out of scenes stealing the limelight with wickedly humorous moments.
If you love big hair, big laughs, glam rock and a great storyline, this is one show you won't want to miss.
-- By Jennifer Whitehair