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Review: Clay Center audience was mad for 'Rock of Ages'

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tuesday night was the Clay Center's final installment of Broadway in Charleston.  The season culminated with "Rock of Ages," an over-the-top, melodramatic spectacle of '80s music, glitz and glam. It was the epic stuff of every former show-choir kid's fantasies. Well-known power ballads broken into four and six part harmonies set to intense choreography that had audience members out of their seats and head-banging along to the soundtrack.

The well-known plot of boy-meets-girl tension crescendos to tragic misunderstanding causing the inevitable break up but eventually boy and girl reunite and live happily ever after. This standard plot was played out in a tongue-in-cheek narrative filled with sex and rock 'n' roll.

The boy, Drew (Dominique Scott), and the girl, Sherrie (Shannon Mullen), are a perfectly matched set with loads of believable chemistry and two spectacularly large voices. They played perfectly together with flawless choreography and lovely duets.

The narrator, Lonny (Justin Colombo) was the perfect comic foil for what could have easily slipped into cheesy but was self-aware enough to be cheeky, and stay hysterical. 

Subplots included a few more cute love stories, the possible destruction of the Sunset Strip and a famous rock star who has outgrown his lead singer status and is embarking on a drunken, womanizing solo career, to name a few.  All of these secondary plots are cute and serve to keep the musical from sinking too deep and keep the action moving at an acceptable pace.

The cast routinely breaks the fourth wall, involving the audience in the action, making them part of the jokes, running up the aisles and throwing guitar picks and glitter. The people absolutely loved it. The inclusion of the audience gave the musical numbers more of a concert like feel.

Ballads like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "I Wanna Know What Love Is" had the audience crooning along while "We Built This City" and "Final Countdown" left spectators hooting and cheering like a Whitesnake concert.

It is worthy to note that while the actors sang and danced they were not playing instruments. However, the music was live and performed by the phenomenal Rock of Ages Band who remained on stage through the entire production at times taking part in the action and providing the music for every number from acoustic ballads to full-on rock anthems.

Overall it was the best-received program I have seen at the Clay Center this year. The people in attendance were absolutely mad for the show. This is understandable because the music is both addictive and reminiscent. 

Catchy tunes laced with coming-of-age memories came together with humor and drama for the perfect storm of musical theater. 


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