We Wanna Rock!

The unfortunate thing about seeing the same play multiple times by multiple casts is that you know what to expect and more often than not, there are some pretty big shoes to fill. A long time ago, before the existence of this very blog, we first saw Rock of Ages at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and it blew us away. The glitter, the hilarity, the strong Canadian cast… it’s really hard to top that. The 2012 film adaptation, however, strips the story of everything that made it special and kind of ruined the whole appeal for us.

Last night, Rock of Ages returned to Toronto once again with a touring cast for a short run at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts and we were hoping that it might reignite that feeling inside for men in tight pants and epic 80s power ballads. 

We’re very familiar with this venue from a musical standpoint and were interested in how it would house a theatrical production that isn’t just a rock and roll show. The show plays out very much the same, same old story, same old songs, but it did seem to take on more of a rock and roll vibe at the Sony Centre. 

Maybe it was just the influence of the venue or maybe it was because people are far more familiar with the production this time around, but the crowd was really into it, shouting, singing along, and screaming. It was a lot louder and a lot more interactive than the Royal Alexandra production, which increased the energy and the overall feel of the entire production.

The sound, however, kind of faltered. There were a few technical glitches during some of the scenes with some interference in the mics cutting off the performers and at certain points during the show; you could hardly hear a voice over the band. But it was opening night; it’s hardly going to go off without a few bumps in the road. Luckily, those bumps did little to derail the show from its path to awesomeness.

Our lovable narrator, Lonny (Justin Colombo), was drinking in the crowd’s energy and using it to fuel his raunchy sidekick role from start to finish. Blessed with delivering some of the play’s best lines, Lonny kept things moving right along at a quick, entertaining rate, dragging Drew (Dominique Scott) and Sherrie (Shannon Mullen) through their rocking love story.

Scott and Mullen both fell a little shy of Canadian power duo Yvan Pedneault and Elicia MacKenzie, but they fit incredibly well together and carried the show with the fierce confidence you expect from budding rock stars on the LA strip. Their bashful flirtations and misplaced anger bounced off each other in a delicious mix of chemistry that has you rooting for them through the whole production, even when you already know how the story ends.

Rock god Stacee Jaxx (Universo Pereira) is one of our favourite characters. It could be the long, flowing blond hair, those tight pants or his chiselled abs, but his rock bottom drunken ego and cowboy hat lures us in every time. Pereira’s arrogant strut and powerful performance of Wanted Dead or Alive was a fan favourite as well.

The second act, however, pulled out the big guns and stirred up a louder roar of laughter and audience hollering. Particularly the flamboyant rebellious Hit Me with Your Best Shot number performed by Franz (Stephen Michael Kane) and Regina (Megan McHugh) in matching blue and silver spandex suits. It’s not something that can ever properly be described in words, you have to see it to believe it.

And then there was also the other romance story, or should we say bromance story, between Lonny and Dennis (Jacob L. Smith), which is beautifully explored during the choreographed number to I Can’t Fight This Feeling, complete with lift. Colombo and Smith create a hilarious but also rather touching and emotional relationship between the two long time friends, it almost breaks your heart that it took them that long to finally confront those feelings they’ve long since been harbouring.

From that point forward, they toss out song after rocking song, tying together all the loose ends right up until the happy ending and the final number – Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. Everyone was on their feet, glittered confetti was being shot out into the audience, not a single foot stood still as the Sony Centre turned into a concert venue and everyone rocked out through that final song.

So, it may not ever compete with the Rock of Ages of 2010, after all, there’s always something special to be said about your first time. But Rock of Ages at the Sony Centre by far surpasses the movie adaptation and is still nothin’ but a good time.

Rock of Ages is only running until March 24, so act fast, this is the final countdown.

images from the Rock of Ages Facebook page