“Rock of Ages” is a ridiculous 1980s jukebox musical — absolutely filled with plot holes and simply ludicrous. For goodness sakes, the lead character’s name is “Sherrie Christian” so the musical can incorporate both “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger and “Oh, Sherrie” by Journey into the show.
And I love it.
When the show first came to the Kentucky Center via Broadway in Louisville, I was skeptical. But the show was a rip-roarin’ good time. File “Rock of Ages” under “so bad it’s good.”
Now Acting Against Cancer has brought the show to the Henry Clay with the strongest cast of actors and singers I’ve seen from them thus far.
The “plot” of the musical — and I use that word loosely — follows wide-eyed ingénue Sherrie (Sara Troxel) as she makes her way from her small town home to the Sunset Strip where she hopes to be discovered as an actress. She takes a waitress job at The Bourbon Room, a strip club icon, where bar back Drew Boley (Michael Detmer) has similar hopes of becoming a rock god.
Meanwhile, Big Mean Germans (Jared Burton and Justin White) seek to raze the strip and turn it into a sanitized strip mall. Regina (with a long “I” for comedic effect) and her merry band of protesters will defend their beloved sleazy neighborhood by any means necessary.
Womanizing Rock God Stacee Jaxx (the perennially shirtless Remy Sisk) is causing love trouble for our young heroes. And Bourbon Room owner, Dennis Dupree (Phillip Hubbard), and his bartender Lonny Barnett (Jason Cooper) are working through their own complicated relationship.
It’s a delightful mess made more delightful by the truly talented cast, band and strong direction by AAC founder Whitten Montgomery.
Cooper slays as the metalhead Lonny. He serves as our narrator and guide through the mecca of big hair, short skirts and tight pants. He will karate kick his way into your heart and reminds me of half the lovable dudes I hung out with in high school (the other half were nerds).
Troxel’s Sherrie nails the sweet fish-out-of-water newbie vibe and does so in incredibly high heels. Her voice is strong and pretty. But when it comes to strong voices, no one beats Justice Charlier, played by Sydney Magers, the strip club owner with a heart of gold. Holy cow, that woman has pipes!
One of my only beefs with the show is that some of these voices were hard to hear. The hard-rocking band led by Gayle King shreds (and exhibits a lot of personality for being in the background). It’s hard to tell if the mics weren’t up to the job or the mix was off. Here’s hoping AAC fixes that for future shows.
Another reviewer questioned the authenticity of the costuming, and I can only assume that said reviewer was not alive in the 1980s, because Montgomery and Sisk’s choices were pretty dead on. So much Spandex. So many vests. Sisk himself had something like 10 costume changes during the show.
The trilevel industrial stage designed by Corie Caudill served the narrative well and kept sight lines clean.
I’m definitely part of the target demographic for this show. I made out in cars to Journey. I slow danced to REO Speedwagon in the gym. Pat Benatar was my girl crush. But this cast of (largely) millennials brought the same joy to these songs that Gen-Xers felt when they first came out.
I definitely didn’t hate myself for loving it.
“Rock of Ages” continues Feb. 2-10. Tickets are $20 and available online.