IS not liking musical theatre as far along the scale of grumpiness as, say, telling your own kids Santa Claus is made-up? The question is a redundant one for the most part, since I certainly have to own up to the first and as for the second — well, let’s just say I disappointed my boys a long time ago. (In, they would add, so many ways. But that’s another story.)
I know I’m in the minority around this place for my dim view of musicals, but I fear having got this far through life seeing less artistic merit in them than toenail painting or ant farming, there seems little point contemplating change now.
But why the prejudice? There’s nothing generically distinguishing about the form that one could object to, other than that it is people singing songs on stage with some linking bits of dialogue. Just like opera, really. And some of its defining examples are truly terrific — you’d hardly dismiss West Side Story as not being great art, and I’m pretty sure I had the music of Joseph’s Coat and Jesus Christ sodding Superstar drilled in to me at roughly the same time I was acquiring simple language skills.
OK, the Andrew Lloyd Webber examples qualify as sublime only depending on what you think of the genial Englishman’s composition skills. But, still, the prospect of being locked in a theatre with a bunch of people simultaneously leaping about and singing stuff in a desperate bid to hold my attention never quite appealed. If I want to hear music, I’ll go to a concert.
So the adaptation of Rock of Ages from wildly successful Broadway show to a film starring Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough in an ensemble cast that also includes Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige and Alec Baldwin had me more than a little sceptical. Not only was it a musical but it was one deliberately designed to butcher the music of my teenage years.
And while I might have thought I was way too cool in the 1980s to be listening to the big-hair offenders of this piece like Van Halen and Def Leppard, these were nonetheless songs that had at least some connection to every significant moment of several years of my life. And the truth is, every indie music kid — which is how that younger self would like to be remembered — still has at some time had a dirty big guitar riff floating their boat.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying Rock of Ages (Roadshow, M, $26.95) should have missed its mark entirely with me — but in fact it’s a hoot. Boneta and Hough are the starry-eyed kids looking to crack it big in showbiz, Cruise is the rock god Stacee Jaxx, Baldwin is the nightclub owner looking to get out of debt and Zeta-Jones is the moral majority wowser, all with some astonishingly good musical performances linking the dialogue. (And if you doubt Cruise can hold a tune, just think back to, oh, nearly every film he’s ever made: there’s always been a songbird there just bursting to get out.)
I still don’t much like musicals. There’s usually something a bit try-hard and confected about them. But I’m prepared to soften.
(M) Fox (165min, $24.95)
(MA15+) Roadshow (96min, $39.95)
(M) Warner Bros (536min, $29.95)