Rock of Ages: The wittiest rock show on the scene

Story by Jacklyn Leo, freshman at Lusher High School

This weekend the Broadway show Rock of Ages stopped in New Orleans and played at the Mahalia Jackson theater on its 10th anniversary tour. The show was written by Chris D’Arienzo and follows the story of Drew, Sherrie, Dennis and everyone else on the Sunset Strip. Of course, the show wouldn’t be the same without the witty and self-aware narration from Lonny, Dennis’ friend. The story, of course, also uses classic glam metal rock music from the 80’s like Styx, Bon Jovi, and Whitesnake to move the plot forward.

Stacee Jaxx played by Sam Harvey surrounded by the women in the ensemble cast
Photo from Rock of Ages

The Music

The music in Rock of Ages was exactly that; classic Rock and Roll from the 80’s. Some of the biggest hits were played live by a band conducted by Marshall Keating. The live band was incorporated into the set very effectively; they were used almost as props or other actors instead of hidden behind a curtain or just using pre-recorded audio.

The way the music was added into the story was also masterful. There was a good mixture of diegetic and non diegetic songs, or songs that exist within the context of the story and songs that are metaphorical and don’t actually happen in the story. On top of that, the songs moved the plot forward and gave the audience important information about what was going on. The songs that were chosen for each moment had significance. They weren’t chosen just to encourage a reaction of nostalgia, although that was a bonus; they were put in a specific spot with specific dialogue leading into it to help tell a story.

The Sets and Lighting

The lighting was one of the best parts of the show by far. It was reminiscent of a rock concert and really hyped up the audience. The sets were also really well done. They were simple, yet they did what they were supposed to do. The sets that needed to be intricate and detailed were made beforehand in roadie cases on wheels that were moved on and off stage. They weren’t just used to have intricate sets, but also to show that character was in a different place. These cases were also used for other parts of the set like the bar in Dupree’s Bourbon Room. Using musical equipment in the sets was just another nod to the subject of the show.

Anthony Nuccio, Katie Lamark, and John Michael-Breen playing Drew, Sherrie and Lonny.
Photo from Rock of Ages

The Vibe of the Show

When you first walk in and find your seat it’s a bit quiet, but before long the lights fade and all focus goes to the stage where the narrator and hype man in the form of the character Lonny begins to speak to the audience. It put an instant feeling of anticipation in the audience, then the music began to play and the cast started rhythmically prancing around stage. They managed to keep that feeling all throughout the show with occasional nods towards the audience. Even right before the intermission they left with a bang.

Final Review

Rock of Ages is filled with cliches and overused tropes, but puts an entertaining spin on it with winks at the audience and commentary about the genre, and of course with a soundtrack full of classic glam rock. The show is going to be most appealing to people who have a passion for 80s hair metal, but anyone who enjoys a classic musical or just a fun night in general could get a lot out it.