Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rock of Ages

GRADE: B-




Book by Chris D'Arienzo; Music/lyrics by Various Artists. Directed by Kristin Hanggi. Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

Despite high critical marks from several reviewers, a lot of B grades and a few naysayers bring Rock of Ages' score down. The thing is, everyone agrees on this show: It's a vapid, thinly constructed, big, brash, and aggressively dumb Jukebox Musical featuring thirty hair-metal hits from the 1980s. The issue is really whether or not the reviewer in question thinks all of the above are bad things or not. Those who liked (and loved) the show find that its self-knowing wink and exuberant performances save it.


American Theater Web A
(Andy Propst) The most recent transfer to Broadway is the jukebox tuner Rock of Ages, which after a well-received and often extended debut at New World Stages last fall, opened last night at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The move has proven to be a wise one; "Ages" has retained all of its goofy innocent charm and has been tweaked perfectly to fit its new venue....This thinner-than-air – and that's okay – musical still rumbles and thunders along under the sure-handed direction of Kristin Hanggi, who, with bookwriter Chris D'Arienzo, have tweaked the piece so that sentimentality and snarkiness now coexist comfortably in the show.

Village Voice A
(Rob Havrilla) Tucked almost shamefully into a subterranean, antiseptic lair at the New World Stages complex, the Off-Broadway iteration was a raucous but chintzy affair, meeting your appallingly low expectations but never rising above so-bad-it's-good status. Your smug sense of superiority emerged unscathed. Now, unleashed in all its defiant glory on the Great Whitesnake Way, the grandiosity, the absurdity, the audacity of it all is just too overwhelming, lethal in its charm even for those cloaked in full ironic-detachment body armor.

Theater Mania A
(Patrick Lee) The cast is perfectly in tune with the cartoon spirit of the material. Spanger is a vivacious delight in rock chick with a heart of gold mode, soaring high with her power ballads and putting a comic spin on even her most benign dialogue. Carpinello is deliciously over the top as the bad boy rock star. From his first on-stage scene being interviewed by a hilariously nervous starstruck reporter (Katherine Tokarz) he gives the audience permission to laugh uproariously with him at the character's overblown ego and self-involvement. Taylor turns his smaller, swishy role into comic gold; his second-act number with Lauren Molina, irreverently funny as a hippie protester, nearly stops the show.

Time Out NY A-
When it premiered Off Broadway last year, this jokey tuner impressed me as a conventional book musical, albeit one that constantly winked at its contrivances—a Urinetown scored to recycled songs by Journey, Foreigner, Pat Benatar and the like. Kristin Hanggi’s sight-gag-stuffed production, in the transfer to Broadway, is now harder, louder and even more self-aware of its silliness, and the fit is excellent: tribute rock and broad comedy reinforcing one another in perfect proportion.

NYTimes A-
(Charles Isherwood) Written with winky wit by Chris D’Arienzo, directed with zest by Kristin Hanggi, sung with scorching heat by a spirited cast, and featuring a towering stack of heavy-rotation favorites from the glory years of MTV — hits from Journey and Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar and Poison, Whitesnake and Twisted Sister — this karaoke comedy about warped-vinyl dreams is about as guilty as pleasures get. Call it Xanadu for straight people — and straight-friendly people too....Rock of Ages does not possess the deadpan brilliance of the classic mock-doc This Is Spinal Tap (what does?), and two-plus hours may seem a long time to spend inside a David Lee Roth video. But in These Straitened Economic Times the allure of nostalgia cannot be underestimated.

AMNY A-
(Matt Windman) The jukebox musical, built on familiar pop songs, is the most reviled genre of modern theater. But what makes Rock of Ages so refreshing is how it makes no reservations about offering a paper-thin story, clich├ęs and poop jokes set to distorted guitar riffs and hard-hitting drumming... Credit must go to director Kristin Hangii for taking 30 well-known metal rock songs and churning out such a feel-good, tongue-in-cheek experience.

NY1 A-
(Roma Torre) Rock of Ages is not for everyone, but I bet a lot of people who wouldn't expect to like this goofy musical will be smitten. Count me in that group...Director Kristin Hanggi and choreographer Kelly Devine inject sincerity into the silliness while energetically shaping the material into a sexy, feel-good romp. Everyone seems to be having a blast in this show and it's contagious. I have to concede that Rock of Ages is bound to divide audiences along generational lines, but I can also say a show that features this much talent is ageless

Theater Scene B+
(Eugene Paul) Rock of Ages has a book, a written story with a plot and characters and everything bookish that goes into a Broadway musical. And – the show has a director who does all those requisite directing things Broadway musicals require, a choreographer, ditto, sets, lights, costumes, and—something unexpected: attitude. Attitude redolent of Broadway sensibility. Rock of Ages is a Broadway show, cheeky, spunky, brutally amoral, manufactured brazenly out of crassest commercial instincts and proudly so, on its own terms a roaring success.

The New Yorker B+
(Unsigned) Chris D’Arienzo, who wrote the surprisingly clever book, knows how to make his audience howl: by keeping the guitar anthems and the Reagan-era references pumping. But the show’s secret weapon is Mitchell Jarvis, who, as our faithful narrator, Lonny, has all the antic energy of a Jack Black with nunchakus and a mullet.

That Sounds Cool B+
(Aaron Riccio) The 80s have become a genre at least as much as the modern Broadway musical, and Kristin Hanggi's direction helps the show succeed as a tribute instead of a generic knock-off. From the fake billboards sweeping out into the box seats to the tacky projected palm trees that occasionally jut onto Beowulf Boritt's louche bar, Hanggi forcefully embraces all that's good and bad about the show, speeding through awkward riffs from "We're Not Gonna Take It," acknowledging the fans with an introduction to the Venus Club's strippers set to "Anyway You Want It," and drawing out the irony of hard-to-stage songs like "The Final Countdown," which is now used for the evil German construction conglomerate. It's telling that the program doesn't list the songs of this musical: then again, they're not used as songs so much as they are as citations of authenticity.

NY Daily News B+
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Will love survive? Will the club? It all plays out in predictable fashion, but Kristin Hanggi's cheeky staging and Kelly Devine's pulsating choreography makes it an enjoyable journey. Factor in a couple dozen feel-good tunes and a rocking band and you've got a cranked-up crowd-pleaser.

Variety B
(David Rooney) Director Kristin Hanggi knows better than to loiter long between songs, and while it's overstretched for a show that waves its lack of substance like a banner, Rock of Ages keeps moving. Choreographer Kelly Devine gleefully apes the worst excesses of the era's pole-dancing, crotch-grinding, big-hair-tossing moves; costumer Gregory Gale re-creates the wardrobe crimes with flair; hair guru Tom Watson has worked overtime with the curling wand; and Jason Lyons' aggressive lighting cranks up the heat. While The Wedding Singer failed to sustain a Broadway audience with its '80s campfest, that show didn't have around 30 of the decade's quintessential hits sampled by a cast that screeches, roars and purrs as if to the power chord born. It's safe to say nostalgists won't feel cheated by Rock of Ages, and that it won't be stealing audiences from South Pacific. But by the time the ensemble unites on Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," even nonbelievers may start inhaling the Aqua Net and embracing their inner rocker.

TalkinBroadway B
(Matthew Murray) It’s that confident individuality that makes it the smartest dumb show in town. If your eardrums can’t handle Peter Hylenski’s cranked-to-12 sound design, you’re out of luck - for better or worse, that’s what this music needs. If you don’t like the ushers handing out beer during the spoken scenes, you’ll just have to not drink one. And if the book offends you with its giddily glad-handed pointlessness and its full-frontal-assault references to other stage works and their cheesy ineffectuality, that shows you’re paying attention. Rock of Ages isn’t trying to be theatre the way Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys are. It’s just trying to be a good time.

NYTheatre B
(David Gordon) Rock of Ages may not be the most sophisticated musical around, but who cares? It doesn't purport or set out to be.

Newsday B
(Rafer Guzman) The most successful jokes are the outdated props: denim vests, midriff tees, a cooler full of Bartles & Jaymes. It's breezy, silly fun, but a genuine musical set against this colorful, chaotic era - the "Rent" of hair-metal - has yet to be written.

The Hollywood Reporter B
(Frank Scheck) If you're wondering how the generic songs are shoehorned into the plot, the fact that one of the central characters is named Sherrie Christian -- thereby enabling both Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" and Steve Perry's "Oh Sherrie" -- tells you everything you need to know. The show's resemblance to an extended music video is further enhanced by the ensemble of barely clad, lithe female dancers popping out periodically to perform stripper-inspired routines.

Wall St. Journal B-
(Terry Teachout) The premise of this unpretentious show appears to be that hair metal and power ballads are guilty pleasures, meaning that it's all right to enjoy them so long as you make fun of yourself for doing so. Chris D'Arienzo's book, whose girl-meets-guitarist plot is several notches sillier than a Mike Myers movie, is peopled with characters named Wolfgang von Colt and Stacee Jaxx and lines like "Stacee still owes me from that hotel incident with the Cool Whip and the baby llama." If you grew up listening to songs like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "Waiting for a Girl Like You," "Rock of Ages" will fill you with nostalgia for the days when you were young and foolish. If not, you'll find it to be an hour too long.

Associated Press B-
(Michael Kuchwara) Rock of Ages should satisfy nostalgists with a penchant for '80s kitsch, but its lack of depth makes it unlikely to impress a wider audience.

NYPost C+
(Elizabeth Vincentelli) When it comes to recycling, Rock of Ages pales compared to Xanadu, which actually improved on its source material with plenty of winks and one-liners. But Xanadu was a huge camp fest, while "Rock of Ages" is safe for skittish straight guys. This is, in fact, one Broadway show they won't need to be dragged to. And if dude magnets like Poison and Guns N' Roses aren't enough, you can order booze from your seat! (The unstoppable combo of alcohol and nostalgia has fueled "The Awesome 80s Prom" for the past five years.)

Backstage C
(David Sheward)
Rock of Ages
will appeal mainly to undiscriminating theatregoers who are more interested in hearing the tunes of their youth than in a credible story and characters with more than two dimensions. Not that there's anything wrong with a rollicking silly time, and the show partially delivers on that score.

Lighting and Sound America D+
(David Barbour) Anyway, Rock of Ages, ghastly as it as at certain moments, at least has a point of view, which is more than you can say for the dreadful revival of Grease that occupied the Brooks Atkinson for more than year. And, although I expect Rock of Ages is going to be there for quite some time, at least I'm done with it. And for producers contemplating other jukebox musical ideas, I have a message from the musical theatre fans of New York: We're not gonna take it anymore

NY Magazine D+
(Stephanie Zacharek) Rock of Ages... is too full of self-conscious winks, nudges, and wine-cooler jokes to be much fun. There's energy onstage, all right, but it's unfocused and muddled. The dancers—the show's choreography is by Kelly Devine—wriggle about in epaulette-shouldered leather jackets and neon animal-print Spandex, trying to conjure the big-haired ghosts of a lost era. They only end up looking cheap and desperate. This is no way to get your rocks off.

NorthJersey.com D-
(Robert Feldberg) If a musical’s book is purposely dumb, does it deserve more credit than one that’s stupid unintentionally? The result is the same, after all, for the paying audience...Silly needn’t mean bad, but D’Arienzo’s story, which exists mainly to cue the songs, is poorly written and casually constructed. There’s little appreciation that, no matter how spoofy the tale you’re telling, it should have its own dramatic drive and integrity, so the audience will have something to hold on to.

USA Today F+
(Elysa Gardner) If Ages appeals to those fans, it also mocks them, as surely as the stage adaptation of Xanadu mocked roller disco, and with even less imagination. There is a flimsy plot about a rock club under threat from a greedy developer, but Chris D'Arienzo's book is essentially a series of winking setups for songs by the likes of Bon Jovi, Journey, Poison, Whitesnake and Twisted Sister.

Bloomberg F-
(John Simon) One of the 18th century’s popular entertainments was visiting a lunatic asylum and one of the 20th’s was watching car crashes, to both of which Rock of Ages bears a striking resemblance.


ATW A 13; TM A 13; VV A 13; NYT A- 12; TONY A- 12; AMNY A- 12; NY1 A- 12; TNY B+ 11; TSC B+ 11; NYDN B+ 11; TS B+ 11; NYTR B 10; VA B 10; TB B 10; HR B 10; ND B 10; WSJ B- 9; AP B- 9; NYP C+ 8; BS C 7; NYMAG D+ 6; LSA D+ 6; NJ D- 3; USA F+ 2; BB F- 0; TOTAL = 213/ 23 = 9.26. B-

3 comments:

Aaron Riccio said...

I don't think this would be enough to push it up to a B, but here's another:

http://thatsoundscool.blogspot.com/2009/04/rock-of-ages.html

Anonymous said...

Here's another one:

http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-04-08/music/rock-of-ages-start-believin/

Anonymous said...

Worst show of all time. Don't waste your money.