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Rock of Ages is a rock/jukebox musical, with a book by Chris D'Arienzo, built around classic rock hits from the 1980s, especially from the famous glam metal bands of the decade. The musical features songs from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe among other well-known rock bands.
It is directed by Kristin Hanggi and choreographed by Kelly Devine with music supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp and David Gibbs.
During the performance, the performers frequently break the "fourth wall", directly addressing the audience and seemingly forgetting (or perhaps reminding the audience) that they are actors in a musical. Despite the musical's title, the Def Leppard song of the same name is not included in the musical.
The original Broadway production ran for 2,328 performances, closing on January 18, 2015 as the 27th-longest running show in Broadway history. Since debuting on the Great White Way in 2009, it has spawned replica productions worldwide in Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom among others, as well as several touring productions.
Lonny Barnett, who serves as the show's narrator, sets up the story: In 1987, an aspiring rocker named Drew Boley works as a busboy in the Hollywood bar/club called The Bourbon Room, owned by Dennis Dupree and assisted by Lonny ("Just Like Paradise/Nothing But a Good Time"). He falls instantly for a girl, Sherrie Christian, who just arrived from Paola, Kansas, hoping to make it big in acting ("Sister Christian"). Drew convinces Dennis to hire Sherrie as a waitress.
A pair of German developers, Hertz Klinemann and his son Franz, convince the city's Mayor to abandon the "sex, drugs and rock-n-roll" lifestyle of the Sunset Strip and introduce "clean living" into the area, much to the anger of the City Planner, Regina ("We Built This City"). When Dennis learns that part of the plan involves demolishing The Bourbon Room, he believes the club can generate more money by having rock star Stacee Jaxx and his band Arsenal, who recently announced their break-up, perform their last show at The Bourbon ("Too Much Time on My Hands"). He calls Stacee and convinces him to play the band's last show in the club where he had begun. As Drew struggles to write new lyrics, Sherrie urges him to go after his dreams ("I Wanna Rock"). Regina begins protesting Hertz and Franz's redevelopment plans ("We're Not Gonna Take It").
Later, after arguing with her parents during a phone call, Sherrie begins to discover feelings for Drew, who supports her dream. Also, Drew, auditioning to open for Arsenal, finds the lyrics he has been searching for and realizes that they have come from his feelings for Sherrie ("More Than Words/Heaven/To Be with You"). After obtaining the opening slot for Arsenal, Drew invites Sherrie to have a picnic in the hills overlooking Los Angeles ("Waiting For a Girl Like You"). There, he mistakenly suggests that the two are merely friends to calm their nerves, disappointing both of them and ruining the date.
Stacee Jaxx arrives at The Bourbon and gives an interview about his life ("Wanted Dead or Alive"). Sherrie is immediately smitten with him, and believing she means nothing to Drew, has sex with Stacee in the men's room ("I Want to Know What Love Is"). While Stacee and Sherrie are copulating, Drew opens for Stacee and Arsenal, not knowing a record producer is in the audience. After their tryst, Stacee tells Dennis to dismiss Sherrie before the concert begins. His guitarist realizes what Stacee did and knocks him out. The record producer in the club was impressed with Drew's performance and suggests he take over for Stacee. He then offers Drew a contract, which he accepts. Sherrie seeks comfort from Drew after she is fired, but having seen her go into the men's room with Stacee, he dismisses her ("Cum on Feel the Noize"). In the midst of these events, Regina continues her protest ("We're Not Gonna Take It [Reprise]").
An upset and unemployed Sherrie meets Justice Charlier, the owner of the nearby Venus Club, which Justice prefers to call a "gentleman's club." She relates to Sherrie's story, saying that many of the small-town girls hoping to hit it big in LA end up making a living as strippers. Grudgingly, Sherrie accepts Justice's offer to work in her club ("Harden My Heart/Shadows of the Night"). As the act closes, everyone is alone – Drew, as an upcoming rock star; Sherrie, fending for herself as an exotic dancer; Regina protesting the redevelopment; and Dennis, trying to save his club ("Here I Go Again").
Hertz and Franz begin demolition on the Sunset Strip, alienating them from each other as Franz falls for Regina and sees "the error of their ways." Dennis and Lonny join the fight with little success ("The Final Countdown"). Drew's rocker image is upsetting the record producer, and Sherrie is learning how things work at the Venus Club ("Any Way You Want It/I Wanna Rock [Reprise]"). When they meet on the street, Sherrie is embarrassed about her job and Drew is upset that his record company is attempting to reshape him into part of a boy band. They argue and Sherrie admits that she was crazy about Drew, but failed to make a move because he said they were friends. They part ways more troubled by these new revelations ("High Enough").
A drunken Stacee arrives at the Venus Club and is pleased to see Sherrie. After being forced to give him a lapdance, she beats him up while dancing ("I Hate Myself for Loving You/Heat of the Moment"). Drew arrives to admit his feelings to her, but becomes angry when he sees the two in a suggestive position and storms off. Justice later tells Drew that as soon as he left, Sherrie had punched Stacee in the jaw.
Regina continues her protest against the destruction of the Strip, but yields no success. She convinces Franz to stand up to his father if he does not believe in his father's vision. Franz admits that he has his own dream, namely to open a confectioner's store in Germany. He rebels against his father and admits his love for Regina ("Hit Me with Your Best Shot"). Meanwhile, Dennis and Lonny, upset at the loss of The Bourbon Room, suggest they have feelings for each other ("Can't Fight This Feeling").
Sherrie decides to leave the Venus Club after the scene with Drew, and Justice tells her that she had a similar experience with her first love. Everyone is in turmoil as they attempt to move on with their lives ("Every Rose Has Its Thorn"). Franz leaves for Germany and Hertz begins to regret the hurtful way he treated his son ("Keep on Lovin' You"). Regina arrives and explains to Hertz that Franz does not hate him; he simply wants his father to support his dream. Hertz later returns the deed to the Bourbon Room to Dennis and invests in Franz's confectionery store.
Drew, now a pizza delivery boy, realizes none of his dreams have come true—he still is not a rock star, and Sherrie is leaving on a midnight train. Lonny arrives and explains to Drew that his life is so miserable because they are all characters in a musical and that it was their book writer who made it so. He also reveals to Drew that he serves as the show's "dramatic conjurer" that if Drew wants a happy ending, it is up to him to get the girl. After hearing this, Drew realizes that he does not need fame to make him happy, only Sherrie ("Oh Sherrie"). He reaches her at the train station in time, and they realize that their love has survived all their trials and reconcile ("The Search Is Over").
In the epilogue, The Bourbon Room is spared from demolition and Stacee Jaxx, now a washed-up has-been who has been charged with statutory rape, flees to Uruguay ("Renegade"). Franz opens his confectionery store in Germany and has a long distance relationship with Regina, who becomes the new mayor of West Hollywood. Dennis passes away, leaving the Bourbon Room to Lonny, and Sherrie and Drew move to Glendale and start a family. Lonny notes that on The Strip, sometimes the dreams with which you enter are not always the dreams with which you leave, but they still rock ("Don't Stop Believin'").
Los Angeles (2005, 2006)
The musical premiered on July 27, 2005 in Los Angeles at King King, a club on Hollywood Boulevard where it ran for a limited engagement. It later moved to the Vanguard Hollywood in January 2006 for a second short run.
Following the successful run at the Vanguard, the show then moved to Ren-Mar Studios where it played to sold-out crowds. In May 2006 there was a short run at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.
The musical opened Off-Broadway at New World Stages on October 16, 2008 and ran through January 4, 2009. Kelly Devine was the new choreographer, and Ethan Popp was brought in to help orchestrate new songs added to the production.
The musical then transferred to Broadway. Previews began March 17, 2009 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, officially opening on April 7, 2009. The Broadway production temporarily closed on January 9, 2011 and moved to the Helen Hayes Theatre, where it resumed performances March 24, 2011.
The show's band had significant stage time compared to other musicals' bands and orchestra members. The band dressed in typical metalhead costumes, fitting with their role as Stacee's back up band, and always on-stage. The drummer played inside a cage with a sign on it that read "Please don't feed the drummer". One of the original guitarists in the stage band, Joel Hoekstra, is a former member of Night Ranger (whose hit "Sister Christian" was performed in the show) and current member of Whitesnake (whose song "Here I Go Again" was also performed in the show). Another guitarist Tommy Kessler is also a member of the band Blondie.
The show closed on January 18, 2015 after 22 previews and 2,328 regular performances, placing Rock of Ages in a tie with Man of La Mancha as Broadway's 27th-longest running show of all-time.
London's West End (2011–2013)
The UK premiere of the show began previews on August 31, 2011 at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End. Opening night took place on September 27, 2011. Amy Pemberton was originally cast as Sherrie but due to illness was forced to withdraw from the show. She performed for the first week of previews and at West End Live 2011. She remained on extended leave while her understudy Natalie Andreou played the role. Pemberton later decided that she would not be returning to the role and Andreou was given it permanently. Andreou performed on opening night.
The show transferred to the Garrick Theatre in January 2013, where it closed on November 2, 2013 concluding a two-year West End run.
First National UK Tour (2014)
Following its West End closure, the musical began a national tour of the U.K. and Ireland. Performances began at the Palace Theatre, Manchester on May 3, 2014. It is scheduled to visit 27 venues, before concluding at the New Theatre, Wimbledon, London on November 22, 2014.
Due to injury Stephen Rahman-Hughes (Lonny) missed the first five preview performances. A tour swing and two former London cast members filled in for his absence. On May 3, tour swing Chris Southgate played the role; on May 5 & 6, West End understudy Nathan Amzi played the role; and on May 7 & 8, Simon Lipkin (Lonny for the entire West End run) returned to the role. Rahman-Hughes began performances May 9.
Other notable productions
Previews for the Canadian production began April 20, 2010 at the Royal Alexandra Theater in Toronto, Ontario, with the official opening on May 11, 2010. An open casting call was held to find new talent. The run lasted for eight months, with closing night taking place on January 2, 2011.
First North American tour (2010–2011)
The first national touring production of North America began performances at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago, Illinois on September 21, 2010 and ran for ten months, closing at the National Theater in Washington, D.C. on July 24, 2011. The tour visited sixty additional venues.
Second North American tour (Non-Equity) (2011–2014)
A second national tour launched on October 4, 2011 in Providence, Rhode Island. It features a Non-AEA cast.
At the second national tour's 2012 stop in Austin, TX, critic Jeff Davis of BroadwayWorld.com gave the show a glowing review, calling it "the funniest, and often filthiest, jukebox musical" and gave high praise to the entire cast, saying "In addition to a stellar cast of principles, Rock of Ages features one of the hardest-working ensembles I've ever seen. They have more energy than a cokehead groupie, and they clearly have fun as the belt out rock standards, making the six-year-old show still feel fresh and new".
After nearly three years touring the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, the Second National tour closed at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. The two and a half week sit ran from August 6, 2014 through August 24, 2014.
Melbourne & Brisbane, Australia (2011)
The musical made its Australian premiere in April 2011 at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne, with previews from March 2011. The production moved to the Lyric Theatre, QPAC in Brisbane from November 2011, where it closed on December 4, 2011.
Manila (2012, 2013, 2014)
Rock of Ages made its Asian English-language premiere with Atlantis Productions in Manila, Philippines. In this production, Mig Ayesa reprised the role of Stacee Jaxx, along with Nyoy Volante as Drew and Vina Morales as Sherrie. Also of note was Aiza Seguerra as Regina. The initial production was performed in the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Plaza in Makati from June 15, 2012 to July 8, 2012.
In 2013, Rock of Ages returned to Manila for a repeat run. Most of the original cast returned with the most notable exception being Rachel Alejandro replacing Jinky Llamanzares as Justice. This second run was also performed at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater from July 12, 2013 to July 28, 2013.
A limited third run is scheduled for the Meralco Theatre from October 31, 2014 to November 1, 2014. In this production, MiG Ayesa and Nyoy Volante will return as Stacee Jaxx and Drew, respectively; however, KLA Rivera will replace Vina Morales as Sherrie, and Thea Tadiar Everley will replace Aiza Seguerra as Regina. Jinky Llamanzares will return to the role of Justice.
Las Vegas (2012–present)
At the June 1, 2012, opening of the Bourbon Room on the casino floor at The Venetian, Las Vegas, it was announced that Rock of Ages would be coming to one of the resort's theaters beginning in December 2012. A "surprise" flashmob was deployed at the grand opening as the Venetian's president, John Caparella, announced the musical's new residency. The Venetian features an actual replica of "The Bourbon Room" complete with 1980s video music hosted by VJ Marvellous Mark and professional dancers, known as The Bourbon Babes.
"Rock of Vegas" closed at Venetian on Jan. 3, 2016. The show now plays at Rio Las Vegas.
Norwegian Cruise Line Breakaway (2013-present)
After its initial trans-Atlantic cruise from Southampton, UK to New York City, the Norwegian Breakaway began weekly cruises to Bermuda on Sunday, May 12, 2013. Among the on-board entertainment is the full show condenced in a one-act version of Rock of Ages. Other itineraries for the Breakaway have included Florida & Bahamas and the Southern Caribbean.
Mexico City (2014-2015)
The musical made its Spanish premiere in Mexico City on October 27, 2014 at the Centro Cultural Teatro 2. Produced by Gerardo Quiroz Productions and directed by Ricardo Diaz. The cast featured Dulce Maria, Ernesto Dalessio, Arturo Echeverria and Juan Carlos Casasola. The show has the Vegas Script Version and some musical numbers were cut after the opening night.
The film rights for Rock of Ages were sold to Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. The film is directed by Adam Shankman and was originally expected to begin production in the summer of 2010, but started shooting in May 2011, for a June 15, 2012, theatrical release. Tom Cruise plays Stacee Jaxx in the film. Shankman knew Cruise was in when he heard him during a voice lesson, confirming he "has a fantastic voice". Cruise sang five hours a day to prepare for his role. "It's this brilliant mashup, it seems, of Axl Rose, Keith Richards and Jim Morrison", Shankman said of what to expect from Cruise.
On February 14, 2011, it was announced that Mary J. Blige had signed on to play Justice Charlier in the film. On March 3, 2011, it was confirmed that Julianne Hough will play the role of Sherrie. On March 6, 2011, it was confirmed that Alec Baldwin will play the role of Dennis Dupree. On March 24, 2011, it was announced that Paul Giamatti will be in the film, playing the manager of Stacee Jaxx.
Constantine Maroulis, Broadway's original Drew, makes a cameo appearance in the film. Joel Hoekstra and David Gibbs also make appearances, as do Broadway producers Matt Weaver and Barry Habib. It was confirmed on April 13, 2011, that Amy Adams would not have a part. Anne Hathaway was also rumored to cameo as the reporter who interviews Stacee Jaxx during the song "Wanted Dead or Alive".
Many cast members of the Rock of Ages first national touring production appear as dancers in the Jukebox Hero scene in Tower Records. These were Angela Brydon (Waitress #1), Holly Laurent (swing), Patrick Lewallen (Lonny), Lauralyn McClelland (Constance Sack), Josh Sassanella (swing), Erika Shannon (swing/dance captain) and J. Michael Zygo (swing).
Casts of major productions
* Although Zizi Strallen was the Young Groupie of record at the time of closing, the role of Young Groupie was played by Cordelia Farnworth at the final performance.
Notable Broadway Replacements
‡ The song "Rock of Ages" by Def Leppard is not in the musical because Universal Music Group did not grant licenses for the song. However, the original recording is often played after curtain call.
The songs are played in the 80's rock music style by the house band (Arsenal) appearing at the back of the stage rather than in the more traditional pit.
Awards and nominations
The show was nominated for five Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Constantine Maroulis, Best Direction of a Musical for Kristin Hanggi, Best Costume Design for Gregory Gale and Best Sound Design for Peter Hylenski, but did not win any. It also received two Drama League nominations: Distinguished Production of a Musical and Distinguished Performance for Constantine Maroulis, as well as two Outer Critics Circle Award nominations for Outstanding New Broadway Musical and Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for Wesley Taylor In June 2009, The Boulevard Magazine featured Rock of Ages as their June – July 2009 Cover with inside features on Constantine Maroulis and Director Kristin Hanggi
On July 1, 2009, after a matinee performance of Rock of Ages, the cast set a new Guinness World Record for the Largest Air Guitar Ensemble. A total of 810 participants, including audience members and fans, shattered the previous record of 440 people playing air guitar simultaneously.
In March 2010, while starring as Drew in the Broadway production, Constantine Maroulis received the honor of being immortalized in a caricature at Sardi's, taking his place alongside other Broadway luminaries similarly honored at the legendary New York City establishment.
In June 2010, Rock of Ages Toronto won the TAPA's Audience Choice Award for Outstanding Production in the 31st Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards for the 2009/2010 season.
Golden Mullet Awards
On October 26, 2009, the show hosted the first ever "Golden Mullet Awards" after the 8pm performance. Billed as "Broadway's fourth biggest night", the show gave out "Golden Mullets" (a mock of the Tony Award) to the best on Broadway. Many of the categories that used for the awards were also puns of songs from Rock of Ages itself.
The winners were:
Nothin' But A Kick-Ass Band – Arsenal (Rock of Ages)
Can't Fight This Feeling to Touch Your Hair – Will Swenson (Hair)
Waiting For A Villain Like You – Christopher Sieber (Shrek the Musical)
Cast Most Likely to Dance On a Car in a Whitesnake Video – In the Heights
Best "In The Heat of the Moment" Moment – Constantine Maroulis and Kerry Butler (Rock of Ages)
One more award was presented to Bret Michaels of the band Poison in jest of his infamous injury at the 2009 Tony Awards, where after he was finished performing with the cast of Rock of Ages, a descending set piece knocked him down and broke his nose.
Official site of Rock of Ages London
Official site of Rock of Ages Broadway
Official site of Rock of Ages Australia
Official site of Rock of Ages Tour
Internet Broadway Database listing
Internet Off-Broadway Database listing