“Chicks get very horny at Rock of Ages! They’re waving their lighters and singing Journey songs!”
There once was a time when the anthemic earnestness of '80s hard rock was considered giggle-worthy, and keeping a straight face while listening to self-helpy bombast ballads like "Don't Stop Believin' " and "Here I Go Again" was possible only with several veneers of snarky irony. Now — well, it's still kind of true, but far more people are looking back nostalgically to the early-MTV era, and in particular the glam-rock revival of "hair metal." Critical mass of hair-metal appreciation has built up to the extent that it now has its own jukebox Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, where the archetypal Midwestern boy gets off the bus in the big city hoping to make his dreams come true amid the sleaze and decadence — and the songs of Bon Jovi, Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Poison, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, et al. Constantine Maroulis, a hard-rock kid who placed sixth in American Idol's fourth season (booted off for belting Nickelback!), plays that top-billed boy in Rock of Ages (which will rock the Colonial Theatre like a hurricane when it opens this Wednesday) in a Tony-nominated performance. I talked to the Boston Conservatory grad about what makes hair metal sexy to today's theatergoers:
I assume there's no way you could have done this musical for so long [since the Off Broadway production in 2008] if you didn't have a fondness for the music of the period.
Totally! I'm a huge fan of this era — I grew up loving MTV and the cool videos and the cheesy outfits and all that, the hair and the girls and the guitars. But at the same time, you can take away the make-up, the leather pants, the girls, the lifestyle, and you have great songs. These guys wrote earnest blue-collar stories about losing your girl, getting her back, and fun stuff like, you know, everyday things that happen in your life. These guys were all poor kids who grew up with a guitar in their hand. And despite how they got famous, with their image and all that, their songs have lasted, and they certainly lend themselves very well to a theatrical setting. Because rock and roll is great theater, and Chris D'Arienzo, our very gifted writer, he's found the earnestness in all of this as well, and I think it works. And the songs are crafted into the story, so it's not just "Hey, and now we're singing." The songs move the story along, which is really unique.
This production has caught on with audiences, and especially audiences that aren't the Broadway-musical type. Why is that? Is it the era of music? Is it these specific songs?
A lot of people have tried and failed, miserably, to do a jukebox musical with the greatest songs. I mean, there was a Beach Boys musical, and that was — well, let's just say it didn't work. And the Queen musical, We Will Rock You — it had great success overseas, but it came over here and just didn't work. And on and on. This one just comes at the right time — people want to laugh, bring their girl, have a great night out. I mean, most guys don't go to Broadway shows. And this show sort of allows them to have that — they can enjoy a Broadway experience, they can have a few drinks, see some sexy girls, and they can be the guy that brought their friends to the show and get kudos for that, man. I mean, his girl is gonna flip out, it's super sexy. Chicks get very horny at Rock of Ages! They're waving their lighters and singing Journey songs!