Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: Rock of Ages

80’s Rock Songs and a Plot for Good Measure
By Lauren Yarger
The scene: long-haired, leather-studded, tongue-flicking rock stars; special lighting and fog effects; lots of drinks in the house; lighters waving in salute to the music. Oh, did I mention that this is in a Broadway theater, not a rock concert?

It’s Rock of Ages, playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theater where 80’s rock hits by Queen, Poison, Journey and other bands are showcased around a silly plot (book by Chris D’Arienzo) involving the romance of a small-town girl and a boy who dreams of becoming a rock star while working at the Bourbon Room, a club owned by friend Dennis (Adam Dannheisser).

Amy Spangler is Sherrie, the girl form Kansas, who misses true love with the boy, Drew (Constantine Maroulis, though I saw understudy Jeremy Jordan, who did well), when she takes up with hard-core rocker Stacee Jaxx (James Carpinello), whom “women love and who men want to be” (although an invitation to have sex in the men’s room at a club wouldn’t cause me to swoon).

Meanwhile, father-son developers Hertz and Franz (Paul Schoeffler and Wesley Taylor), with the help of the mayor (Andre Ward), try to close down the club, which they believe is a bad influence on youth, so they can proceed with development. Planner Regina (Lauren Molina) leads protests against the development and finds romance with the effeminate Franz.

Sherrie, used and dropped by Stacee, finds herself working on the shady side of town at the Venus Club, run by “Mama” who tells her that many small-town girls end up stripping at her “gentlemen’s club.” Lenny, the technical guy at Bourbon, is a sort of narrator for the musical and provides a great deal of its humor.

All of the look of ‘80s rock is recreated by costume designer Gregory Gale and makeup designer Angelina Avallone. The ever-talented Beowulf Boritt designed the set which extends into the house where Director Kristin Hanggi makes good use of space having actors interact with audience members on both orchestra and mezzanine levels. The bumping and grinding choreography is by Kelly Devine.

I’m not a fan of ’80s rock (OK, I’m not a fan of any kind of rock, or the 1980s, for that matter), but surprisingly, I knew a lot of the songs. Still, I didn’t feel qualified to comment on the music experience, except that I can tell you the band rocks the place out (Music Direction by Henry Aronson). So I chatted with a few audience members during intermission to get their reactions and they thought the songs sounded authentic, but that Spangler has a Broadway, rather than a rock voice.

The musical certainly feels more like a rock concert (yes, I have been to one, so I can compare) than a Broadway show, and it probably felt more at home off-Broadway (it ran there last season). The younger-than usual audience seemed to be enjoying it, however, especially the “drinks-in-the-house policy.”

Rock of Ages plays at the Brooks Atkinson, 256 W. 47th St., NYC. For tickets, call (212) 307-4100/ (800) 755-4000. For special group rates, click here.

Christians also might like to know:

• Suggestive dialogue and movements
• Scantily clad women and men
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain
• Sex Outside of Marriage
• Cross Gender/bondage
• Dennis returns from the dead as some sort of winged angel

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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