Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rock of Ages (Atlantis Productions)

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Rock of Ages is your typical-reach-for-your-dreams kind of story featuring two young individuals trying to develop a love affair amidst all the drama unfolding all around them. Drew (Nyoy Volante) is an aspiring rock star working as a busboy at The Bourbon Room, a bar at the Sunset Strip threatened to be shut down by the efforts of a father-and-son developer tandem from Germany using their money to influence the mayor to get rid of the city’s lifestyle heavily influenced by rock & roll, sex, and drugs. Sherrie (Vina Morales) leaves her parents to try out her luck as an actress, gets hired at the same club, and becomes infatuated with Drew. In an effort to stay afloat, club owner Mr. Dupree, aided by his loyal assistant Lonny (Jett Pangan), enlists the help of Arsenal frontman Stacee Jaxx (Mig Ayesa) by persuading him to hold his band’s last performance at The Bourbon Room before they disband. His arrival, along with Drew's friend-zoning of Sherrie, disrupts the budding romance between the two. Eventually, he becomes a member of a failed boy band while she ends up as a stripper. Singing through popular rock tunes from the 80’s, Rock of Ages brings you back to an era when big hair and rock & roll were the norm.

The set is simple and having a mini concert stage as a centerpiece creates the illusion of attending an actual concert. The support cast is a good mix of what seemed to be seasoned performers whose infectious enthusiasm really kept the stage alive and just blasting with energy. The story is not something new but what makes it unique despite the rehashed plot (have we not witnessed such a story too many times before?) is the collection of 80’s rock hits that will leave you waving your glow sticks and rummaging through your pile of cassette tapes for some good old sound tripping once you get back home. Most of the songs are familiar and would still appeal to the younger generation because most of them are staples in singing competitions in spite of their age.

MiG Ayesa is rock personified. I have not seen the movie version yet but I am betting that Tom Cruise’s portrayal would not even come close to MiG’s. Period.

Vina Morales is a living proof that giving birth is not an excuse to not rock a hot body and members of the audience seemed to agree given their evident reaction when she was stripped down to a sexy two-piece ensemble during that Any Way You Want It number. Acting-wise, she is okay. However, there is something disconcerting about her accent and her singing was either drowned by the drums or easily overshadowed by a fellow performer in almost the entire run of the musical. She could not seem to match their intensity. Her singing only became louder during the The Search is Over duet, which makes one wonder if her voice is just too soft for rock or she just experienced a bad technical glitch. In any case, the audience loved her, but she would probably end up being identified as the weakest link. She is a theater newbie anyway, so there is plenty of room for improvement.

I used to not like Nyoy Volante as a theater actor but his portrayal here makes me want to change my mind. His rock star scream is simply awesome and his singing style fits the rock theme of the musical very well.

Bringing the house down coming out as a transvestite stripper in a revealing one piece outfit, Aiza Seguerra owned two of the night’s most wildly applauded moments. Her portrayal of her other role, that of city planner Regina (pronounced REH-JAY-NAH), was also well-received by the audience.

Jett Pangan had the advantage of playing the narrator who drops most of the witty and raunchy punch lines while also getting to break the fourth wall, reminding the audience that the characters are in a musical in production. This creates an instant rapport between him and the audience which explains why they go wild every time he makes an appearance onstage.

All in all, what makes this musical appealing to the theater fan, young or old, is its universal theme of pursuing one’s dreams and learning how to reconcile it with reality. Come to think of it, the premise is pretty much the same regardless if you are in the 80’s or in 2012. The fashion sense and methods to fame might be different but the central issue does not vary. In this day and age when people are conditioned more than ever by the media to crave attention, this musical would not really go out of date. Well, except maybe for the big hair and fancy clothes, but then those add to the novelty and entertainment, so what the heck. I really had a good time.

PS: Concluding everything with an upbeat and oh so uplifting rendition of Don’t Stop Believing, this musical does a better job in getting the audience on their feet and ready to party than Mamma Mia! did during its Manila run earlier this year.

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