by Jane Primerano
The rock musical Rock of Ages is the stage equivalent of a beach book.
Which is perfect. You wouldn’t want to watch Titus Andronicus in the summer heat any more than you’d want to read War and Peace at the Jersey Shore!
The plot is good-guy entrepreneurs vs. evil developers plus a love story straight out of a 70’s rock song. As the narrator says in one of his fourth wall breaking moments, “poop jokes and Whitesnake covers.”
Admit it, that’s just what you need right now.
Ok, it’s Centenary so I barely have to say the scene design is inspired (way to go, Chuck Lid), turning the stage into the Sunset Strip’s seamier side, a bar, a strip club and a construction site and the lighting enhances each of these.
I hate to mention there was a bit of a glitch in the sound on opening night. But the tech crew stopped the show and attempted to get the computers to talk to each other. When that failed, they hauled speakers to the side of the stage and put on a road show at home. I can’t say there was no difference in sound quality, but I can say the sound was terrific. And the audience got to see Centenary Stage Company Artistic Director Carl Wallnau crack jokes and offer free refreshments which was worth the delay.
The cast was amazing, led by Brandon Conti as Lonny, the manager of The Bourbon Club and the show’s occasional narrator. Conti’s non-stop energy (he even turns cartwheels) keeps the slightly bumpy plot running smoothly.
Lou Steele’s portrayal of the rock god Stacee Jax, without a monkey, is so good you cheer when Sherrie decks him.
Two outstanding featured players are Maria Alessi as Regina and Dan F. Sims as Franz, the adversaries turned...well, come see the show. Franz has the best line in the play, “I’m not gay, I’m just charming.” The two bring some almost head-spinning surprises to the storyline.
Speaking of gay...you might be surprised by Lonnie and Dennis, the bar owner, but whatever, you will love Conti and Andre Williams.
Under Michael Restaino’s direction, the action never lags and his choreography never stops wowing the audience.
Performances are Fridays, July 7 and 14, 8 p.m.; Saturdays July 8 and 15, 8 p.m.; Sundays, July 9 and 16, 2 p.m., and Thursday, July 13, 7:30 p.m. For tickets, go to centenarystageco.org or call 908-979-0900.