Rock of Ages Brings 80s Arena Hits

Altar Boyz Parodies Faith-based Band

If you don’t count trial runs, Rock of Ages took three years to make it from Broadway to Omaha, where fans of 80s arena rock have waited patiently for its 28 songs and its love story set on Sunset Strip.

They’ll hear Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Jefferson Starship’s “We Built This City” and others March 6-11 at the Orpheum, thanks to Omaha Performing Arts. American Idol’s Constantine Maroulis won a Tony nomination in the original cast, but promotion of the road tour focuses on the songs, from Pat Benatar, Styx, REO Speedwagon and Foreigner,etc., rather than the cast.

And the tunes outsell the story: small-town girl meets big-city dreamer and love blooms in a legendary L.A. rock club. Sounds like another chance for younger audiences to outdraw the usual older crowds for Broadway Across America. Tickets start at $25.

**Expect an entirely different sort of song and dance when Altar Boyz opens Friday at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Big city cynics expected a bust when it opened off-Broadway, given its soul-saving Christian boys band plus a Jewish member named Abraham.

But Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan played it straight-faced while performing parody songs such as “Girl You Make Me Wanna Wait” at their “Raise the Praise” concert.

It won a bunch of awards and a good long run, which suggests its irreverence isn’t mean-spirited. We’ll see if spoofing of faith-based music slips into mockery.

The cast includes Paul T. Hanson, Joseph T. O’Connor II, Quinton Stewart, Roderick Cotton and David J. Zenchuk, directed by Susie Baer Collins and Jim Boggess. It runs March 2-25 on the Playhouse main stage.

**Producer Susan Clement-Toberer kept busy Saturday evening finding open seats and even adding some up front for a packed house at In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play at the Blue Barn.

It lives up to the promise of the staged reading we’d seen earlier, benefitting especially from the performance of Gage Wallace, not seen in that first version, as the young artist. I was especially anxious to see how director Amy Lane handled the closing scene, where Dr. Givings (Matthew Pyle) and his wife Elizabeth (Ashley Spessard) undress and embrace in the snow.

This scene and others showed modest restraint. As far the play’s many orgasms, one hesitates to judge whether the actors obeyed playwright Sarah Ruhl’s request to avoid cliché responses. Depends on whether you consider your personal experiences representative of all orgasms.

Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to coldcream@thereader.com.

 

posted at 04:48 pm
on Sunday, February 26th, 2012

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