"Rock" gives '80s hair-band songs their day

A Broadway street sign hangs in New York's Time's Square, November 29, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - That “Rock of Ages” is determined to be a different sort of Broadway musical is evident from the moment you enter the Brooks Atkinson Theater.

It has been transformed into a garish suggestion of Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, complete with billboards and logos advertising the likes of the Chateau Marmont. Scantily clad waitresses stroll the aisles selling drinks to audience members, and everyone is handed disposable flashlights to wave during the power ballads.

Power ballads in a Broadway show? Well, yes, if it’s a jukebox musical celebrating the heavy metal, hard rock and hair bands of the 1980s. You won’t find music by such critical favorites as the Clash or Elvis Costello here, but rather songs by the likes of Journey, Styx, Poison, Foreigner and such lesser hit makers as Quarterflash, Quiet Riot, Mr. Big and Extreme, among many others.

This cheesy exercise in rock nostalgia has already been a hit in Los Angeles and Off Broadway, and this transfer to the rialto should prove an equally critic-proof success.

Forget the silly plot, which has to do with a rock club threatened with being turned into a strip mall by a greedy German real estate developer (Paul Schoeffler). There’s also a romantic triangle between a sexy waitress/struggling actress (Amy Spangler), a sweet busboy/struggling musician (Constantine Maroulis, of “American Idol” fame) and a debauched glam rock star (James Carpinello).

Instead, just wait for the less-than-subtle cues for such instantly recognizable songs as “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “Here I Go Again,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and others, performed at deafening volume by the hard-rocking five-piece onstage band.

If you’re wondering how the generic songs are shoehorned into the plot, the fact that one of the central characters is named Sherrie Christian -- thereby facilitating the performance of both Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” and Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” -- tells you everything you need to know.

The show’s resemblance to an extended music video is further enhanced by the ensemble of barely clad, lithe female dancers popping out periodically to perform stripper-inspired routines.

The audience at a recent preview ate it all up, enthusiastically singing along and dutifully waving their flashlights. Clearly, “Rock of Ages” is tapping into a target demographic that has little use for the music of ABBA or Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.