May 3 - June 2, 2024
at Gateway Playhouse

The Long Island Advance

May 8, 2024 - Linda Leuzzi

Come And ‘Feel The Noize’

“Rock of Ages,” The Gateway’s season opener, begins with a blistering guitar riff, then Lonnie the narrator proclaiming, “Welcome to Sunset Strip,” as the full cast of 21—in leather, beards, long hair and big hair, fishnet stockings, short skirts and bare midriffs—blast out from doors singing “Livin In Paradise,” “Cum on Feel the Noize.” Oh baby! You’re in for a hilarious, rollicking night.

In 1987, The Bourbon Room is the last legendary L.A. club that offers raucous rock ‘n’ roll acts, including slithery Stacee Jaxx, adorned with a leopard vest and tight sequined leather pants, who wails out the music and drives groupies wild.

Christopher Persichetti as Lonnie narrates the story, addressing the audience often, with a winking edginess that’s flamboyantly funny as he stalks the stage. (Watch out, front-rowers.) And there are so many silly, humorous moments that emerge one after another—angels and activists running down the aisles, furry puppets appearing for emphasis, exaggerated singing, clapping along to the songs, confetti thrown—that along with the fabulous voices and dancing, the show is a welcome, outrageous romp.

While Lonnie is a cynic, he tries to help sweet, naïve Drew (an adorable Woody Scott White), who wants to be a composer and singer at The Bourbon Room, but is relegated to cleaning bathrooms at the club while he has eyes for Sherrie (Malia Monk). She’s a bit of a naïf, too, excited to be in Los Angeles to pursue acting and winds up at the club getting a job as a waitress.

Will they, won’t they? No spoilers, but a few of the stunners.

“We’re Not Gonna Take It,” sung by Sarah Michele Lindsey as Regina, is a fireball number that Lindsey and the cast grab by the throat. It’s a stomping, twirling anthem, and they rock it after German developer, Hertz, played by Ian Knauer, great as the villain, wants to clean up the strip and seize the club via public domain. He’s accompanied by his son, Franz (Ethan Carlson), reluctant to go along with his dad’s wishes. Plus, Franz admires Regina (more about them later).

When Drew sings the lovely “More Than Words” and “Heaven” thinking about Sherrie, his gorgeous voice is as plaintive and beautiful as his yearning. He’s joined by the heavenly white-robed cast, who surround him up on a landing and on the sides. (Hey, it’s a musical!) But the poor guy just can’t express his feelings to Sherrie. Which discourages her.

Oh, that Stacee Jaxx, played to sleazy perfection by Mark Ryan Anderson. He’s the lead singer for The Arsenal and comes to The Bourbon Room for an interview. Girls hover over Stacee as he flips his hair back, seduces Sherrie, and both sing “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Then the cad dumps her.

When Sherrie, now a stripper in a gentlemen’s lounge called The Venus Club after Stacee gets her fired, encounters a drunken Stacee who comes in for a lap dance, she refuses but is convinced by Mother (amazing Asia Kaleem, especially in “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”), who owns The Venus. In “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “In the Heat of the Moment,” Sherrie gets her revenge. Stacee gets elbowed, bitten, slugged as Sherrie nails him with every lyric.

Pure gold. Great voice.

And don’t miss when Dennis, the owner of The Bourbon Room (Aaron Fried), and Lonnie, upset that the club is about to close, admit their attraction to each other in “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” They jump on poles and throw their arms out dramatically like quasi opera stars.

There were cheers when Franz finally stands up to his father, who threatens to strike him. (Ethan Carlson is terrific in his role.) He strips down to a pink sparkly tank top and shorts, while Regina does the same, and they sing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” in a jubilant, somersault production number. (Franz jumps on Regina in the end! Yay!)

This musical, with its 33 hit songs, was nominated for five Tony Awards and was made into a movie for good reasons. The choreography in the show is just superb and the songs, singing and musicians, well, they were all smokin’ and raised the roof.

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