The 1980s, full of bright colors, big hair and loud guitar licks, are often derided as a time when style was more important than substance. If that's true, then "Rock of Ages" is certainly a product of its time.
Touring musical "Rock of Ages" — which actually dates from 2006 — is a look back at some of the biggest "hair band" hits of the '80s with a paper-thin plot and even thinner characters tacked on top of them.
So you've seen the small-town girl with a dream and the nice young man who just needs a break. And, golly gee, the evil rich guy wants to ruin the common folk's life, in this case by tearing down the seedy bars on L.A.'s Sunset Strip.
All it needs is someone to say, "Hey, kids, let's put on a show."
Oh, wait: They do put on a show, a rock concert.
The good news is if you're prepared to let your brain take the night off, you might find yourself partying like it's 1989.
Among the songs: Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" and Europe's "The Final Countdown," which opens the second act with its triumphant opening melody line.
Also put to good use: Damn Yankees' "High Enough" and Survivor's "The Search Is Over," both of which become power duets; and REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling," a love song between … no, I won't spoil the one possibly surprising moment of the night.
The cast is game enough and make themselves heard over the rock band, reverb and offstage backing singers — though it's a sign of the wobbliness of the book that you're never sure if they're paying tribute to the music or mocking it.
Constantine Maroulis as nice-guy Drew has a wonderfully nebbish delivery when he's not in his rock-star persona. And he gets laughs over his anguish when a record-company exec tries to force him into a boy band (Ah, the perils of the '80s.)
As his plucky love interest Sherrie (yes, as in Steve Perry's "Oh, Sherrie"), Rebecca Faulkenberry holds her own with "American Idol" alum Maroulis.
But the supporting players often shine brighter: Patrick Lewallen as the dippily gleeful narrator, Travis Walker as a fey German, Casey Tuma as a spitfire Berkeley protester, Teresa Stanley as the big-voiced owner of a strip joint, and especially MiG Ayesa as a burnt-out, bad-boy rocker.
Of course, enjoyment of the evening will depend in part on how fond you are of the 1980s — or how well you remember them: Would you get a reference to "Cory and Cory"? (Feldman and Haim, two teen heartthrobs). Do you know how to do the fast-clap in Styx's "Too Much Time on My Hands"?
If not, well, you might be trapped in a time warp you'd sooner escape.
Some of the visual '80s jokes already seem tired: The extra-large portable phone and the briefcase-sized boom box lugged around on your shoulders.
Others land more successfully: On a picnic, Drew triumphantly produces a four-pack of Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers to impress his date. (I always liked the peach ones.)
At times, it feels like book writer Chris D'Arienzo just tossed in any idea that came to mind from a recurring llama joke to an onstage birth during Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."
He occasionally has his characters address the audience directly — for example, explaining why there will be jazz hands at the end of the first-act finale, Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again."
Theater review: 'Rock of Ages' from Florida Theatrical Association
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