So you wanna be a rock star — sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and … big hair?
Sorry, that ship has sailed. It’s heyday was in the 1980s when acts like Journey, Poison, Styx, Pat Benatar and Bon Jovi drew millions of screaming fans, an era celebrated in Theatre Cambrian’s production of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages. The show is built around those rock anthems, delivered with lots of energy by an enthusiastic local cast.
Stringing together existing hit songs into a story, you’ll probably end up with a paper-thin plot. That’s the case with similar shows like Suds and Mamma Mia, and it’s also true with Rock of Ages.
The action takes place on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, beginning in a club called The Bourbon Room where wannabe rock star Drew Boley from Detroit meets small town girl and aspiring actress Sherrie Christian, and love starts to smoulder.
Drew’s working as a busboy and helps Sherrie get a job as a waitress. But some developers from Germany have convinced the mayor to let them demolish most of the Strip and redevelop it to help clean up the city.
The Bourbon Room’s owner Dennis tries to save his club by convincing rock superstar Stacee Jaxx to hold a farewell concert there (Stacee’s splitting with his band Arsenal). Just as Drew wins the chance to be the opening act for the show, his relationship with Sherrie hits a bump and she’s seduced by Stacee Jaxx.
That sets up a long path to reconciliation that will force the couple to decide what really makes them happy.
Will Drew and Sherrie get back together? Will the show find a way to work in the Steve Perry hit “Oh Sherrie?” Hard to guess, right?
The plot also offers up community protests, a strip club, sleazy record producers, generational rebellion and some very strange moments (I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to listen to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” or “Can’t Fight This Feeling” quite the same way again.)
Along the way you’ll rock on to songs like “We Built This City”, “I Wanna Rock”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, “Harden My Heart” and a ton more.
The Theatre Cambrian cast impresses with their vocal abilities and some very sexual choreography. Especially leads Jeff Burton as Drew and Kelsie Carroll as Sherrie — they have the chops to sing ’80s rock, and that’s not easy. But there are lots of other worthy performances, too.
It’s all about the fun of watching your favourite ’80s memories come to life, so be sure to blow dry your hair as big as you can when you go see it.
Rock of Ages runs at Theatre Cambrian through March 12th. The box office number is 705-524-7317 or reach Theatre Cambrian online here.
Scott Overton is the author of the thriller Dead Air. He writes theatre reviews for Northern Life.