Sometimes I wonder how it is I made it to 37 years of age without ever being a rock band groupie. How is it exactly that I didn’t wind up following some band from coast to coast? Why did I never wait patiently at the stage door in a leather mini skirt, hoping the bouncer picked me to go “meet the band?” And, it’s shows like Broadway San Jose’s latest gift to the city, Rock of Ages, that make me re-examine these questions and come to the realization that it’s not too late. I can still live the Rock and Roll dream.
This show…how to describe… it’s really just a bunch of pop references loosely (VERY loosely, you can interpret that any way you want to) strung together with some 80’s rock. It’s crude, it’s crass, it’s cheesy, it’s nostalgic, it doesn’t take one second of itself seriously and it might be your next guilty pleasure. I will warn you though, if you don’t have a sense of humor, if you’re looking for depth and full character arcs, if you’re in search of high-art or consider yourself a fan of The Smiths and Depeche Mode with no appreciation what-so-ever for Bon Jovi or Poison, this show is not for you. If however you like to rock and are effing awesome, you’ll be needing to check this show out, like right now.
Some characters are better than others, some talent stronger than others, some scenes better, some song selection was better, but honestly, it was just a really good time. This show is going to clearly appeal to people in the 30-45 range mostly who are reliving this music in a slightly different way than a younger or older generation might, but this show has something for… maybe not everyone, but a ton of people. Think Broadway is just for broads? I got news for you fellas, based on the reaction from the dudes in the audience on Tuesday night, it would appear many of you don’t mind scantily clad women strutting around a stage while rock music is playing…at all!
Hands down, the band is honestly what made it for me. Live on stage, ballads to rock battles, each song bringing back a different memory of my youth. Guitar solos, attitude, leather cuffs, sunglasses, DRUMS, they are tight and they’ve got the looks to go with their swagger and musical talent too. If I sound like a smitten kitten, well, yeah, I was. For them, I’d even let my rule about boys and long hair slide. In all seriousness though, it’s a nearly 2 1/2 hour rock concert that delivers the rock with a really solid rock band who look and play the part to perfection.
The sound is loud enough that you can woop and sing along, breaking out the occasional fist pump even as you would in a concert, but it’s not mind numbingly loud and you shouldn’t require ear plugs or any similar paraphernalia. It still qualifies as a Broadway show and while there is some encouragement to show your appreciation for the characters and let go a bit, I would like to remind you to stay IN your seat. A couple of girls nearly got the holy-living-tar beat out of them for bringing their trashy, loud, drunken, talking-back-to-the-actors and would-have-been-ejected-from-the-club selves to the show instead of their live theater selves.
Special shout out to the lighting folks who design, rig and run those bad boys (you had me at flash and bang) and to Lonny’s T-shirts which got better and better as the show went on. A VERY special award also goes to best subplot involving a lama and best supporting actor awards for the poles on stage. Oh, they support. There were some mad skills going on there.
It’s not a perfect show, but it is perfectly fun and it gets the award for being pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to be. Get your two tickets to paradise now, because Rock of Ages plays through Sunday, February 3rd only at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown San Jose. And, a warning to the cast and crew… you might want to double-check the tour bus bathroom before pulling out of San Jose or you might just be stuck with a stow away if you aren’t careful.