REVIEW: "Rock of Ages" — The Bourbon Room, Los Angeles

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

Do you remember the glam-metal rock of the 1980s, when MTV was actually about music?

Well, it seems this rock has managed to hang on for dear life, literally over decades, crossing over to a brand new generation and wondrously breathing new life into the dregs of Journey, Bon Jovi and Styx, et al, transforming them into a resurgence of countercultural, iconic glam worship. That movement culminated in one of the hard rocking-est shows ever on Broadway only a few short years ago called, "Rock of Ages."

And now, Los Angeles, who's been ripe and ready for a regional reincarnation of this post-hip celebration of what creator Chris D'Arienzo calls "a sexier time" of big, big dreams, finally delivers the goods with home-turf charm as if '80s rock were invented right here. Come to think of it, much of it actually was.

That said, you are invited to journey with us back to this sexy Era of Big! — big bands, big egos, big guitar solos, and even bigger hair — in a new immersive production of the Broadway hit, “Rock of Ages,” Hollywood-style. The jukebox musical, with its rock ’n’ roll story of a small-town girl/city boy romance on the Sunset Strip, is now in its new home on Hollywood Boulevard, and takes place in a virtual, custom-built version of the show’s Bourbon Room, featuring rock hits from some of the hottest bands of that day.

Prepare to be dropped straight into the late 1980’s rock scene from the second it begins. It’s loud, flashy, energetic and tons of fun. Centering on a touching love story, it brings with it a classic hard core rocking score, a liberal slice of light-hearted comedy, and some of the best choreography in theatre. Part musical, part rock concert, "Rock of Ages" is a high-octane performance full of big numbers, big talent, and of course, that big hair.

Performed in an authentic dinner theater experience (yes, you can order dinner and drinks), the show is directed by Kristin Hanggi, choreographed by Kelly Devine with arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp. Music supervision is by David Gibbs. Since debuting on the Great White Way in 2009, this five-time Tony Award-nominated musical has spawned replica touring productions worldwide in Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom, among many other countries.

The set design team of Beowulf Boritt creates the dive bar in seedy detail; it's the closest thing to the original Bourbon Room you can get. So close, you can almost smell the barf in the men’s room. Posters of real and fictional bands adorn the walls of the theater. Cell phones are the size of bricks, and several of those old-fashioned, vintage art deco neon lights hum and flicker all through the smoky bar room set.

In the "theatre," Zachary Borovay handles projections, Jason Lyons expertly creates the perfect lighting ambiance, and Ben Soldate balances the sound creatively inside the performance room’s excellent acoustics. The show’s top-notch band is comprised of expert guitarists Pat Lukin and Maddox, bassist Greg Coates, drummer Kevin Kapler and keyboardist/music director Jonathan Quesenberry. The music is genuine, and as with most rock music back then, a lot of the lyrics are unintelligible.

Eva Maciek is in charge of an array of authentic costumes, and Tommy Kurtzman styles all hair and wigs - and with that kind of volume, has to be burning out blowdryers daily. Klint