‘Rock of Ages’ shows the lasting power of ’80s music’

Reviewed by Lincoln Pennington
Times-News correspondent

 DURHAM — Acid-washed-jean-wearing rockers have invaded Durham. Actually, it is just the cast of the Broadway tour of “Rock of Ages.

The Tony-nominated show currently is running at theDurhamPerformingArtsCenter, The American Tobacco District, 123 Vivian St. Set to iconic ’80s rock songs, the show follows two young lovers as they try to make it big on the Sunset Strip.

The show opens with Lonny, played by Justin Colombo, setting up the story and telling the audience about the different characters, while also making clear that the show is purposefully predictable. While the story of the lovers is extremely formulaic, the period-based backdrop is extremely interesting. The ensemble’s subplot focuses on the struggle between the mayor and developers, who want to clean up the strip, and the rockers, who want to protect what it is all about. These concurrent stories are told through songs that the almost everyone will know, like “We Built This City,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and countless others.

Dominique Scott and Shannon Mullen play the lovers, Drew and Sherrie, respectively. Scott’s portrayal of the young rocker is spot-on. From his voice to his personality, Scott has managed to truly embody the spirit of an ’80s rocker. Mullen’s emotional arc is perfect. Her transformation from a dreamer to a stripper is perfect, as she appears to truly question and struggle with how she is going to survive.

The standout performers, though, were the supporting cast. The audience erupted in applause for Amma Osei, who plays the gentlemen’s club owner, the first time she opened her mouth. Her sultry voice is heard in bit solos throughout the show, always leaving the audience wanting more. The audience’s request is finally granted in “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” where Osei is able to show her range both vocally and emotionally.

The other scene-stealer was Lonny (Colombo), whose range of humor means there is something for everyone to laugh about. While the amount of choreography in the show is quite limited, the moments that do involve dancing are brilliant. The moves are reminiscent of the music videos from the ’80s, which happens to be the same time that MTV was created. Although the basic set of the show never changes, they use a screen above the stage to help the audience keep track of where the characters are. Also, the screen adds several comedic moments to the show that couldn’t have been pulled off otherwise.

“Rock of Ages” is the ’80s version of “Hair,” but with a more cohesive plot, better characters, and a lot more humor. Whether you lived in the ’80s, wished you lived in the ’80s, or just enjoy shows, “Rock of Ages” is guaranteed to be entertaining.

It should be noted that the show is not recommended for anyone under the age of 14, due to language, sexual content, and drug/alcohol references.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29 and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Ticket prices start at $11 and can be purchased through DPACnc.com, all Ticketmaster outlets or by calling (919) 680-2787.

 Lincoln Pennington is a senior at The Elon School and a Teens & Twenties writer.

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