In 2005 Matthew Weaver created the multi-genre entertaining musical Rock of Ages. It debuted as a new kind of musical in Los Angeles at the King King club on Hollywood Blvd. With its success, it was made into a motion picture, and also opened on Broadway. After performing over 2,350 shows, Rock of Ages earned 5 Tony nominations, and branched out to 20 productions worldwide. It appeals to all ages who appreciate classic rock. This show spotlights 30 hit songs from the 80s.
Dave Gibbs, who played in the original Los Angeles and Broadway productions of Rock of Ages, is the music supervisor for the Rock of Ages Hollywood, now at The Bourbon Room. Music Director/ Keyboard Jonathan Quesenberry sits above drummer Kevin Kapler, setting the pace of this immersive show.
During previews, I walked up to the dark entrance of the Bourbon Room, and mentioned Rock of Ages to the doorman. As he opened the door, he placed a paper bracelet on my wrist and granted me access to proceed up the stairs. A rocker with an electric guitar greeted me while strumming as part of the pre-show upstairs on the lounge.
The bar offers a rock themed drink menu with names that include, ‘Pour Some Bourbon On Me”, “Oh Sherry”, and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Snacks and bites include corn hush puppies, chicken tenders and a juicy Bourbon burger. A new food menu will be offered soon.
Rock n’ roll posters and photos hang on the walls in a lively atmosphere. After ordering a rockin’ Motorin cocktail, I was escorted to my seat inside the specially built theater. There are tables for 2 to 4 people that are pushed together for parties of 8 or more.
There are multiple performance stages named after venues on Sunset Blvd. At the center of the show is The Bourbon Room. There is also the iconic ROXY sign in red neon lights, Chateau Marmont, The Whiskey, and Girls, Girls Girls! On the back wall are multiple MTV-style screens displaying popular music videos by Van Halen and other rock bands.
Director Kristin Hanggi earned a Best Direction Tony nominee for Rock of Ages in 2009. She has a stellar Rock of Ages cast in Hollywood who gyrate all over the room, while singing rockin’ songs from Styx, Asia, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe.
This is the type of show where audience members dress in 80s’ rock n’ roll attire to be part of the immersive experience. On the tables there are lighters with LED lights to flick on during favorite songs. Be prepared to have cast members dance and sing right next to you, they might even sit in your lap.
The night I saw the show, actress Callandra Olivia who plays “Sherrie” took the night off, so swing actress Marisa Matthews stepped in. She was fabulous as a sweet blonde dreamer hoping to make it big in Hollywood. She shined singing “More Than Words” by rock band Extreme, and also when she sang with Ian Ward playing “Drew,” an aspiring rock star. Ward has a golden voice and rocks the house at the end signing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ and “Oh Sherrie” by Journey.
Other stand out performances were Frankie Grande as “Franz Klineman,” son of the villain real estate developer ‘Hertz Klineman” played by Pat Towne. Klineman wants to tear down The Bourbon Room and redevelop Sunset Blvd., from Doheny to La Cienega. Soon the cast sing a rockin’ version of “We Built This City On Rock n’ Roll” by Starship that caused the lighters to be held up high flickering.
Grande’s fan club was sitting at the front tables cheering him on throughout the night. Not only did he star as this character Franz on Broadway, he is a well know reality TV personality and social media mogul. As a stand-out finalist on the hit CBS series, “Big Brother 16,” he was also a judge on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” and houseguest on “Celebrity Big Brother” in the U.K. Grande shines on the stage and is one of the most lovable characters, especially during his scene with Berkeley environmentalist Stephanie Renee Wall as “Regina” singing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar.
The audience swooned over actor Sean Lessard’s physique, as lead singer “Stacee Jaxx.” Full of himself, he is ready to leave his hit band Arsenal and go solo. His arrogance is hysterically funny. When he sings “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi, he has every audience members full attention.
Other electrifying numbers include when the entire cast sing Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” and “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake. As the cast disperse into the audience, lighters are held up flickering again.
Nick Cordero as The Bourbon Room owner “Dennis” and Matt Wolpe as Dennis’ loyal sound set up man “Lonny” are a hysterical comic duo from the beginning of the show to the end. Their scene “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” by REO Speedwagon had the audience laughing out loud.
Regina Levert as “Mother” at the Venus Club invites Sherrie to work as one of her dancers. Lavert has a sensational voice singing “Harden My Heart” by Quarterflash and “Anyway You Want It” by Journey with Matthews. “Mother’s” dancers put on quite a sexy show for the audience.
At Rock of Ages you will sing aloud with the people you arrived with and in harmony with those sitting around you. Everyone has a rockin good time!
Director: Kristin Hanggi. Cast: Tony Award Nominee Nick Cordero as “Dennis,” Rock of Ages alum: Regina LeVert as “Justice Charlier,” Frankie Grande as “Franz Klineman”, Sean Lessard as “Stacee Jaxx,” Tiffany Mallari, Chuck Saculla, Marisa Matthews, Callandra Olivia as “Sherrie,” Stefan Raulston, Justin Ray as “Joey Primo,” Pat Towne as “Hertz Klineman,” Zoe Unkovich, Stephanie Renee Wall as “Regina,” Ian Ward as “Drew,” Matt Wolpe as “Lonny,” and Neka Zang as “Constance.”
Musicians: Music Director/ Keyboard Jonathan Quesenberry, Greg Coates at Bass, Kevin Kapler at Drums, Seating in the venue is based upon the ticket price tier. All seats are table seating. Go to http://rockofageshollywood.com for tickets,
The show is about 2 hours and 10 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission. Rock of Ages Hollywood can be seen every day except Monday & Tuesday when the theater is dark (and available for private event rentals, btw). Performances are Wednesday thru Saturday at 8pm, 2pm matinee on Saturdays and Sunday evening at 7pm. Note that kids under 12 may be too young for the content.
The Bourbon Room is located at 6356 Hollywood Blvd, 2nd floor. Tickets: https://www.rockofageshollywood.com.
THIS REVIEW WAS FEATURED on ONSTAGE BLOG on January 16, 2020.