Kansas City Theater Review: “Rock of Ages”

Starlight Theater - Kansas City, Missouri
May 31, 2019

My first Broadway show was “42nd Street” in 1981. Yes, I’m old. But I’m also able to tell people that I saw Jerry Orbach on Broadway. And Julie Andrews. And Chita Rivera. But enough about me. I’ve seen plenty of shows in the past three-plus decades but I have never seen anything as fun and exciting as “Rock of Ages.”

Our story begins in the small town of Paola, Kansas. Yes, it’s a real town and, yes, it’s really small. My son’s baseball team used to play there every year and I remember the big hoopla when Walmart showed up! We meet Sherrie (Katie LaMark). She’s a small town girl…living in a lonely world. And her dream is to make it to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. Despite her parent’s disapproval she heads west and ends up on the Sunset Strip. She is soon mugged and is rescued by Drew (Anthony Nuccio). Drew works at the Bourbon Club, famous for helping launch the careers of many a band. Drew gets Sherrie a job and soon….well, you’ll have to see the show.

Drew (Anthony Nuccio) and Sherrie (Katie LaMark) share a dream of stardom.

I’ve been seeing shows at Starlight for years, and this was, by far, the BEST one I’ve ever seen there. I had only seen the film so I wasn’t prepared for my evening at the Bourbon Club. The music is all classic 80s rock and metal hits. Pretty much every band you can remember is represented. Except, ironically, Def Leppard, whose hit song gives the show it’s name. We are told by the Narrator (an amazing John-Michael Breen) that there is no Leppard in the show because the band wouldn’t license their music. Ironic, isn’t it?

The performances were also outstanding. As Sherrie and Drew, LaMark and Nuccio have a strong chemistry and an underlying sweetness that has you rooting for them. Both also have great voices. During “Oh, Sherrie” Mr. Nuccio held one note for an amazing 33 seconds, which brought the already enthusiastic audience to near euphoria. I would love to see him tackle the lead in “Jekyll and Hyde.” And extra credit to Ms. LaMark for dealing with a major technical glitch (her face mic was not working at the beginning of Act II and, with her character having to remain on stage for some time, delivered a strong performance using a hand-held microphone. Also credit to the tech crew because, in the few seconds she was able to go off-stage, the problem was corrected. Fine performances were also delivered by the supporting cast, with many in the audience falling under the spell of Sam Harvey, who plays quintessential (and problem child) front man Stacee Jaxx – which is possibly the coolest rock star name ever. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the kick-ass band that provides the music.

John-Michael Breen

I’m saving this paragraph for the highlight of the show – John-Michael Breen. He not only narrates the show but appears as the Bourbon Club’s sound guy, Lonny. Lonny loves three things. Rock and Roll and his Fogmaster 5000 fog machine are two of them. Mr. Breen gives the show the majority of it’s laughs and both the cast and the audience feed off of his enthusiasm. I will definitely keep an eye on his career and hope to catch him on stage in the future.

As I said in the beginning, I’ve seen some great Broadway shows, from “Phantom” to “Les Miz” – from “Cats” to “Spamalot – and “Rock of Ages” has definitely jumped onto my all-time favorites list.

Curtain Call

“Rock of Ages” is only in Kansas City through Sunday, June 2nd. For information on upcoming tour dates, click HERE.

“Under the Wizard Moon” – A Great Book for Children of All Ages!

Under the Wizard Moon
Author:  Aunt Raini – some illustrations by Nikki D. Caravella
Publisher:  Art Bookbindery
Hardcover – 36 pages
A weaver of dreams.  A talking toad.  And kittens that roam at night.
These are just a few of the magical characters you’ll meet in the new book for children of all ages, “Under the Wizard Moon.”
Full of smartly written poems, and brilliantly illustrated by both the author and PhoenixIllustrations’ Nikki D. Caravella, the stories are fun to read while the brightly colored accompanying illustrations will help describe the story even more.  And while some things may naturally frighten small children, the wordplay used will soon make them friendly and acceptable, an important lesson for children.  Of all ages.
To order a copy of “Under the Wizard Moon,” you can contact her on her Facebook page HERE

Beware the Kitties at Night!


Related Content

Blu-ray Review “Rock of Ages: Extended Edition”

Starring: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Bryan Cranston
Director: Adam Shankman
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Bros.
DVD Release Date: October 9, 2012
Run Time: 123 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to Broadway plays being converted into feature films, it is hit or miss.  “Rock of Ages” is an amazing play that translates into a good movie with great music.  This film features the amazing musical hits of Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and more.  The movie gets lost a little in the music, which is a good thing. This release features the extended edition of the film, which features over 13 additional minutes of more songs, more dancing and more laughs.  I really enjoyed the extended cut much more, which is rare in a release. Director Adam Shankman knows how to correctly turn a stage play into a feature-film, like he did with “Hairspray”.   Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones are great but for me personally Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise really steal the show. Must watch for fans of great 80’s music, you will easily find yourself air-guitaring and singing along.

Warner delivers a fantastic Blu-ray presentation.  The 1080p video transfer really looks perfect and showcases the film’s fantastic set designs.  Since music in the film is very important, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 really gets a chance to shine and really belt out the hits.  The special features are equally as good as the film itself.  “Rock of Ages: Legends of the Sunset Strip Hosted by Bret Michaels” let’s you hear from the musicians like Def Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, and more as they chat about the good ‘ole days. “The Stories We Sing” gives the behind the scenes stories on our favorite rock anthems of the 80’s. “Defining a Decade” features the cast/crew as they show us how they created the 80’s.  There is a music featurettes for “Any Way You Want”. Lastly there is a look into the “Rock of Ages” premiere with “Def Leppard – LIVE!”.

Premise: “Rock of Ages” tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.

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Film Review “Rock of Ages”

Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta and Tom Cruise
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hours 3 mins
Warner Brothers

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It sounded like a good idea. Take a bunch of popular song from an era long past, add some singers and a couple of actor cameos and, voila, you have…”Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Best known for being the only film in which Carol Channing, Leif Garrett and “Bowzer” from Sha Na all appear, the film was blasted for being nothing more but a bunch of hit songs strung together (though it does have a small place in my heart and in my DVD collection). But like the saying goes, that was then; this is now! Or at least 1987.

Small town girl Sherrie Christian (Hough) arrives in seedy Los Angeles from her small Oklahoma town via bus. After having her suitcase stolen (not to worry, the only thing in it were her albums) she ends up at a popular rock and roll club called the Bourbon. There she meets bar assistant Drew Boley (Boneta), who convinces his boss, Dennis (Alec Baldwin) to give her a job. Sherrie is a singer and she KNOWS that soon she’ll be, as John Lennon used to say, “the toppermost of the poppermost!”

Full of some of the biggest songs of the late 1980s (I hate to use the words “rock and roll” because, and no offense to Kevin Cronan or R.E.O. Speedwagon, but “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” is NOT a rock song!), “Rock of Ages” is almost like one of the old Hollywood musicals where everyone gets together and puts on a show in the barn. In this show, somebody just put a bunch of songs in a show and wrote a story around them. Sherrie Christian only has that name so that everyone on that night bus from Oklahoma can sing Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” while, when Sherrie’s name is mentioned, you get a few bars of Steve Perry’s “Oh, Sherrie!” They did the same thing in “Sgt Peppers” when they named Peter Frampton’s love interest “Strawberry Fields.”

At least the cast has fun. Hough is engaging enough as a girl who must follow her own dreams, no matter the sacrifice. Boneta starts off shaky. His character claims to have stage fright but he has no problem butchering “Juke Box Hero” inside a crowded record store. But it’s the rest of the cast that make me recommend this film. As a Tipper Gore-like mayoral wife, Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones gets to belt out some Pat Benatar while channeling Michael Jackson’s moves from the “Beat It” video. Baldwin is a hoot as is Russell Brand, as his assistant. But the star here is Cruise, who stars as Stacee Jaxx, lead singer of the band Arsenal looking to go solo. And when he announces that he’ll be giving his first performance as a single on the big stage at the Bournon, Jaxx rocks the house. Part “The Jungle Book’s” Kaa, the snake and part Guns and Rose’s Axl Rose, Cruise rocks the house’s socks off! He has the look and moves of a bonafide rock star, as well as a more then passible voice. When Cruise is on screen the film come to life! The songs are catchy (they should be, they’re pretty well known) and Shankman’s direction is brilliant. He did a great job adapting “Hairspray” from Broadway and does the same here. The script is hit or miss, with one of the biggest misses being Sherrie pretty much meets Drew, gets a job, buys new clothes, gets a place to live AND finds the cure for cancer all in one week’s time. Just kidding about the cancer curing.