`ROCK OF AGES,’
Escape to amusing ’80s with ‘Rock of Ages’ show
Some hip-hop lovers hate “Hamilton.” To them, the Broadway smash, which is currently playing at the Boston Opera House, represents a bastardization, an exploitation of America’s last great artistic achievement. While I think that takes too narrow a view of what hip-hop can do — as a tool for rapidly delivering needed exposition, rap makes “Hamilton’s” deep dive into history possible — I understand the sentiment. However, the pop metal of the ’80s is so base it can’t be bastardized, so shameless it can’t be exploited. Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and The Roots’ “Things Fall Apart” inspired a generation to think critically about the world; Poison, Ratt and Motley Crue records inspired a generation to chug another beer and get tinnitus. With this in mind, “Rock of Ages” arrives in Boston to play opposite “Hamilton.” On its 10th anniversary tour, “Rock of Ages,” Oct. 23 to 28 at the Wang Theatre, reaffirms the enduring appeal of escapism. Twisted Sister may have not aged well, but our nostalgia for it has. If you haven’t seen the hit musical or flop 2012 film, “Rock of Ages” is “Bye Bye Birdie” on the Sunset Strip in ’87. It’s boy meets girl, rock star steals girl, boy wins girl back to the tune of Survivor’s “The Search Is Over” played by an always-onstage heavy metal band. The premise is both absurd and obvious. And if you like an old-fashioned Broadway spectacular, “Rock of Ages” hews much closer to “Guys & Dolls” than “Hamilton” does. Wisely, “Rock of Ages” is self-aware. The comedy is both raunchy and packed with ’80s jokes. The aforementioned boy and girl drink wine coolers in the Hollywood Hills before girl humps the hood of boy’s VW a la Tawny Kitaen in Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” video. The show seems to fulfill the ambitions of the songs it employs (“Sister Christian,” “More than Words,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”? Yes, yes and of course!) They finally become art. OK, OK, too much. They finally aspire to becoming art as part of a show that’s old-school Frank Loesser or Meredith Willson dressed up as something new and retro, hip and cheesy. I want to be clear: Do not see this over “Hamilton”! But if you have already seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece, may I suggest some song and dance numbers set to Journey, Styx and David Lee Roth hits.
“Rock of Ages,” Oct. 23-28 at the Wang Theatre. Tickets: $25 - $95, bochcenter.org.
GETTING IN TUNE: Anthony Nuccio and Katie LaMark star in ‘Rock of Ages,’ playing at the Wang Theatre, Oct. 23-28.