Aired on KSDS-FM on 7/26/19
RUN DATES: 7/2/19 – 8/25/19
VENUE: Cygnet Theatre
This may not be the Summer of Love, but it certainly is the Summer of Rock ‘n’ Roll in San Diego. No fewer than five musicals focus on songs of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s. Two shows are exclusively 1980s – the reprise of Lamb’s Players Theatre’s musical revue, “Mixtape,” and the jukebox musical, “Rock of Ages,” at Cygnet Theatre.
There’s a little overlap in the record selections, but the main difference is that “Rock of Ages” wraps a storyline around its two dozen songs, sometimes, as is usually the case with jukebox musicals, a tad clumsily. But the fun factor is very high.
The book, by Chris D’Arienzo, sets the action in Los Angeles, and the show began in L.A., ultimately running on Broadway for six years.
A love story at its core, the plot concerns one central romance and several ancillary hookups.
As Narrator, comical, amiable Victor Chan often breaks the fourth wall, reminding the actors that they’re in a musical. He tells the audience it’s the mid-to-late ‘80s on the Sunset Strip. A popular club called The Bourbon Room is being threatened by demolition and strip-mall replacement by a German entrepreneur. Despair and political demonstrations ensue.
Meanwhile, the budding relationship between a small-town girl and a city boy (cue Journey’s “Don’t’ Stop Believin’”) is the oft-told tale of Hollywood wannabes – she as an actor, he as a rockstar. It’s all about dreams… doggedly pursued, and amended as disillusionment mounts.
Like the music of the era, the show is often absurdly over-the-top. Cygnet artistic director Sean Murray and his crackerjack band, killer cast and audacious design team pump up the volume (which occasionally drowns out the dialogue), while exaggerating the glam, sexy moves, skin-tight clothes and vocal and instrumental pyrotechnics.
Megan Carmitchell is adorably irresistible as the ingénue, and she pairs endearingly with Rory Gilbert. Zackary Scot Wolfe is a howl as a mincing young German, and Bryan Banville nails the fading narcissistic superstar.
Styx, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar. If this is your era, prepare to be transported and hard-rocked.
©2019 PAT LAUNER