Big hair + big love story = laughter to the point of tears

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The music of the ’80s that I got into was often of a New Romantic bent: Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The Thompson Twins, and, well, okay, a little bit of Wham! My music idols would posture and pout, but their clothes, though loud, were usually couture-inspired and their hairdos well-kempt, always looking like they’d just stepped out of a salon. Any act that boasted long straggly locks and wore tight pants (Twisted Sister, Poison, Europe, and Journey) would be jeered by me and my trendier New Romantic friends.

In the wake of the recent ’80s musical revival – thanks to the mainstream success of television’s ‘Glee’ – it came as no surprise that the Broadway musical ‘Rock Of Ages’ would soon grace the Australian stage, and although the aesthetics of the show do go against my better sartorial judgement (and the fact that half the soundtrack consists of music by those aforementioned cock-rock acts I once regarded with contempt), I figured I’d go along to a preview of it. Indeed, I got an even greater laugh: this time at performers pretending to be blonde-locked, painted-jeaned try-hard rock’n’rollers, for while ‘Rock Of Ages’ hones in on an era of excess and extremities, it does so with tongue firmly planted in cheek, political correctness thrown right out the window, and each of its colourful cast knowing just when to push the exaggeration button so that none of the performance need be taken at all seriously.

Set in 1987 on the Sunset Strip, the story follows rocker wannabe Drew – Justin Burford of End Of Fashion fame – as he falls in love with Sherrie – Aussie theatre veteran Amy Lehpamer – to a soundtrack of iconic rock from the decade that taste forgot (but boy did it deliver some anthemic choruses). Two things proved problematic with this stereotypical ’80s US setting. The first was that whenever an Australian icon made its way to the stage (a Bondi Beach surf life saver, for example), it kind of threw the audience off (er, are we still in California?). Secondly, while some performers put on an obvious enough west coast American accent, some chose to accentuate this to the point of sounding like Boo Boo, Yogi Bear or, worse, one of those dastardly cartoon characters from ‘Wacky Races’.

All up, though, ‘Rock Of Ages’ is a laugh-a-minute production, and even had this closet rocker humming along to a couple of Foreigner songs. Nominated for five Tony Awards when it first performed in the US, the show continues to sell out on Broadway, and across the US and Canada. You can bet it’ll eventually have a host of mullet-haired roadies packing up its kitsch sets to take it across to other cities in Australia. In the meantime, if you’re in Melbourne, or planning to take a trip there, this is one theatrical outing that ought to make it into the diary. 

 

‘Rock Of Ages’ ticket enquiries on 1300 111 011 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.au