Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rocked Ages

Back from Rock of Ages at the National Theatre, and what turns out to have been the second to last show of the current U.S. tour, starring Constantine Maroulis.

Footnote: Constantine from Season Four of American Idol was one I'd predicted would win and, that very week, was eliminated at number six. That was the year Carrie Underwood conquered the world.

I'm not going to try to review a show that is so outside of my genre, especially one that is closing in a few hours anyway, but as is my custom, I like to give my singular perspective as a member of the audience. (Hello from the balcony!)

Rock of Ages is loud, energetic, and entertaining. The fact that I came home with a headache I blame more on Metro, whose hot weekend delays left me without the opportunity to grab a burger before the show. But the rest of the audience was appropriately responsive, even if it was a Sunday matinee. (Edward Duke told me they were always the worst houses.)

Right off, one thing about the plot (and yes, it was cartoonish and breaking the fourth wall-ish like Spamalot) bugged the hell out of me, but through no fault of the show itself. It just so happens that I saw this show about reveling in the rocker lifestyle on the same weekend that singer Amy Winehouse was found dead at the age of 27. The addictions and seedy dissipation were comical in the show, but as a matter of fact it's just not something I can laugh at.

The music is of my generation, my age, though it's not my music. Set in the Reagan era, ROA seemed more like the 1960s nostalgia version of Rock, with scruffy hippy stylings for most of the rockers. Glitter made its way into the rock aesthetic, as did boy-band sell-out. In the eighties, what did I listen to? After a year of grad school and NPR, I mainly switched to all jazz and classical. I knew who Madonna and Michael Jackson were, but that was about it.

What surprised me about this show was that even I recognized a few of the tunes: I thought using "covers" was taboo for Broadway musicals, even if they are about rock of a certain vintage. The one that of course stuck out the most for me was "I Want to Know What Love Is," which was a duet on Clay Aiken's 2006 album, A Thousand Different Ways.

So we're left with a Broadway show about rock, and how is rock used in this context? When rock was born, it was used as a medium of protest. In the ROA plot, protest is used to save the rock lifestyle on seedy Sunset Boulevard from a fate worse than stripper clubs: strip mall development.

Well, whatever dude. I didn't buy it. This isn't John Lennon's protest or Dylan's.

Still, the good natured plot brought happy endings to the ridiculous but lovable characters. What the protests really were protecting were the right to keep dreaming your dreams: "Don't Stop Believing." I just wish that message were enough. Unfortunately, as attested by Amy Winehouse's death (and name any other horrific tragedy of our time, manmade and otherwise) we need something worth believing in, too.

love, hosaa
rocking out in her own contrarian way

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