OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: 'Rock of Ages' Chicago return is blast from past

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-03-13T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: 'Rock of Ages' Chicago return is blast from pastBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Wednesday was my fourth time seeing a national Broadway tour of the musical hit "Rock of Ages."

Having graduated from high school in 1998, this silly retro romp back to the decade of the 1980s features all of the music from my teenage years, blended with humor and parody for a two-hour and 30-minute one intermission immersion to another era.

And every time, there's always one repeated reference/running gag that never fails to make me laugh. It's the characters mentioning of "the new delicious Arby's" restaurant recently opened near Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, the latter being the setting for the show's story.

(While the first Arby's was founded in Boardman, Ohio in 1964 by brothers Forrest and Leroy Raffel, with the name "Arby's" based as a play on words of the brothers' initials R. B., short for "Raffel Brothers," the chain didn't expand to the West Coast until more than a decade later.)

Broadway In Chicago is hosting a quick return run of "Rock of Ages" as a non-equity tour stop produced by Phoenix Entertainment at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe, until Sunday. The last time this stage salute to big hair and neon color fashions was in the Windy City, it was for a summer run at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place produced by Broadway in Chicago in 2012.

This basic "boy-meets-girl" familiar tune-filled tale works so well because it connects to the audience.

Dominique Scott is back once again in the role of honest and likeable Drew, the rock-wannabe lead and he's once again opposite Shannon Mullen as Sherrie, his waitress love interest who has dreams of acting.

As I mentioned two years ago, the two have admirable vocal range and natural timing. However, some of their spark and energy seems to be waning after so many years trapped in time.

New face and talent Joshua Hobbs is far more energized and at the top of his glam rock game as rock star Stacee Jaxx. He commands the stage, as does Andrew Sklar as narrator (and Arby's fan) Lonny and actress Kadejah One as the owner of the Sunset Strip's most popular strip joint.

Some of the musical numbers are off with the timing, especially those featuring two blended hits at the same time. Actress Jessica Pucek is weak in the role of Regina, a young city planner with hippie habits trying to save favorite landmark haunts along Sunset Strip from being razed for economic development. Her voice is faint and the character doesn't have the force and personality I've witnessed in previous performances.

In addition to the stage cast, other stars for this show are the hit songs of iconic rockers Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, and many more.

"Rock of Ages" is directed by Kristin Hanggi and choreographed by Kelly Devine . The book is by Chris D'Arienzo and the Music Supervision, Arrangements and Orchestrations are by Ethan Popp.

It features set design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Tony Nominee Gregory Gale, lighting design by Jason Lyons, sound design by Craig Cassidy, and projection design is by Zachary Borovay.

Ticket prices range from $18 to $85. A select number of premium seats are also available for all performances. FYI: (800) 775-2000 or BroadwayInChicago.com or rockofagesontour.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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