Welcome to the 1980s. A time when the “fist pump” was a more horizontal motion than a vertical one, big hair had nothing to do with volume injections but plenty to do with the brushstrokes of a comb and the men wore more makeup than the women.
Let’s be honest, the 80s freaking rocked. From the music to the hair to the oh-so-awesome acid-wash denim, it was truly a magnificent time. OK, yes, truth be told, I was only alive for about seven years in the 80s but it was enough time for me to truly appreciate the incredible decade and be proud to share a birthday within its hard-rock era.
It was also enough time for me to thoroughly enjoy – and understand most of the references in — the two-hour-plus musical, “Rock of Ages” Tuesday night at the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Orpheum Theatre.
To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect going into “Rock of Ages.” I knew it was all about the songs of the great 80s, but beyond that, I took my seat Tuesday night half wondering if it was going to be a cheesy musical full of lame hair jokes and washed-out, lackluster talent.
The show wasn’t even into its second song of the evening and I was already eating my preconceived notions.
Seriously, what a fun musical. I was totally – 100 percent – that weird, nerdy audience member creepily grinning throughout the show, clapping along and not able to resist the urge to sing along. It was heavenly – though admittedly, probably not for my direct neighbors.
I’ll admit, it’s not a show for the hoity-toity snobs or the people who still wear their Sunday furs to the theater and ask their butler to fetch their “good” diamonds from the vault. It’s a show for the people who lived it, love it and just plain can’t get enough of it. It’s a show that encourages more than the two-drink minimum, has an audience where half the people show up in leather and the other half in vintage ACDC T-shirts.
And no, this is not a show that’s going to probably take home every possible Tony Award, but it’s one that effortlessly combines musical and concert – no easy feat, let me tell you. Like I said with a group of friends after the show, it’s like a great cover band – you recognize all the songs, it gets you energized and even though their not pumping original material, you’re blissfully happy just to sing along and enjoy the show.
“Rock of Ages” is just that – a cover band that has the power to shake you all night long (sorry, I promise that’s my one hard-rock pun.) Sure, there’s the love story that every show needs and yes, a “will they, won’t they” moment or two and of course, the “everything’s going to hell in a hand basket” scene, but none of that really matters. It’s the actors on stage that perfectly entertain, without fail, and the songs that bring nostalgic moments that you completely forgot about, that brings this show to its brilliance.
I don’t want to give away any of the songs performed in “Rock of Ages” – because half the fun is seeing which songs pop in and how each perfectly works with the subplot – but trust me, if you have any happy memories of the 80s and the music inspired by that decade, go see this show. You won’t regret it.
It honestly doesn’t even matter that a leading “American Idol” contestant is the star of the show or that there’s enough skin shown in two acts that would make the Déjà Vu blush. Everything about this show – the quasi-fruity Kenny Powers character Lonny, the “German” native Franz or the Ken-doll abs of Stacee Jaxx combined to create a performance that kept the audience both entertained and about two seconds away from jumping on stage to headbang with the best of them.
If it wasn’t apparent by the overly teased hair walking into the opening night performance, it was clearly obvious by the audience “shout-out” after a humble self-loathing joke about how the show’s only about “poop jokes and a bunch of Whitesnake songs” – this was an audience full of children of the 80s, those that associate themselves more with the music of the decade than any other historic events.
So c’mon Minneapolis, whip out those devil horn fists (you know, the universal symbol for “rock on”), get ready to laugh and prepare your pipes for some serious rocking.
“Rock Of Ages” runs through Oct. 24 at the Orpheum Theatre. For tickets, go to the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s website.
Sara Boyd is a web producer and columnist at WCCO.COM.