OGDEN — The Ziegfeld’s latest production is the 2009 Broadway musical Rock of Ages. This production deals with adult themes, subject matter, and has suggestive language and dancing. The company is very careful to point this out on their website, and in all of the advertisement within the theatre. As I was in line to pick up my tickets, I observed the box office attendant explaining to a parent the play’s content before the person purchased tickets. I bring this up because I overheard some people at intermission express displeasure at the content and then leave. I commend the theater for not hiding the existence of the content, and encourage the readers of this review to understand that the content is there when deciding whether or not to attend.
The story follows a young lady, Sherrie, played by Natalie Nichols, and Drew, played by Jake T. Holt, who aspire to be an actress and a musician, respectively. They deal with the challenges of life, show business, and the struggles of falling in love in the late 1980s in Los Angeles. Holt and Nichols have good chemistry, and they seem to play the starry-eyed dreamer characters with enough sincerity that makes the show more enjoyable. There is a scene, where the two are having a conversation in a car, that stood out as an example of excellent character building, as well as an understanding of comedic timing.
The first thing to discuss about this production is the costuming. As a person who was a young girl in the 1980s, the costumes designed by Alina Gatrell were spot on and very amusing. I had to wonder how many hours were spent in thrift shops trying to find the perfect costumes for this time period, but as different characters came on the stage, I confess I laughed as I remembered myself, friends, and family members wearing those types of clothing. I laughed as I decided the outfits and fashion on display on the stage were so bad that yes, Gatrell had accurately pictured the style of the 80s. Additionally, the set design by Erica Choffel and the lighting design by Daniel Pack added a great deal to the 80s rock concert feel.
The songs in Rock of Ages are all familiar pop and rock hits from the time period, woven into the storyline in amusing and creative ways. While the story sometimes bordered on silly or cheesy and superficial, the cast excelled at bringing the songs and humor to life. The show is narrated by Lonny, played by JJ Bateman. Bateman plays a rather crass 80s rocker, who likes to make inappropriate jokes and break the fourth wall to ensure the audience understands all the action. I have to admit, in the beginning, Bateman seemed to be a bits
over the top. However, throughout the evening, his performance grew on me and I felt he was one of the strongest performers. Another stand out was Maggie Goertzen, who plays Justice, the owner of a strip club that Sherrie goes to work in when times get tough. Goertzen has a lovely voice that transitions from more serious ballads to belting with ease. Choffel’s performance as Regina also stood out to me. Regina is a young lady determined to stop a rich developer, Hertz, played by Brent Jorgensen, from tearing down the bar that also serves as a place for musicians to get their beginning. At one point, Choffel breaks into the 80s hit, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” where all the chorus joins in with some of the best choreography and vocals of the evening. Music director Rick Rea and choreographer Heidi Hunt excelled at finding the fun and excitement of all these familiar numbers. The music and choreography were one of the main highlights of this production. Jorgensen, along with the character of his son, Franz, played by Bryan Andrews, added a great deal of humor to the evening, especially in the first number they appear in, “We Built This City.”
The entire production was like taking a trip back to the memory of the music, fashion, and lifestyle of the 80s. I found it to be a fun evening with a lot of great music. The website for the Ziegfeld gives the production an R rating, and I would agree with that assessment. This is a show that may be best to leave the kids home for, as well as those who may not appreciate this content.