The hair, the attitude and the sound of ‘80’s rock are still alive in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s “Rock of Ages.”
The jukebox-musical follows young dreamers Sherrie and Drew, played by Mallory Vallier and David Ebke, both Playhouse newcomers, as they awkwardly (and adorably) fall in love. The LA dive-bar at which they work is being closed by evil German developer Hertz Klinemann, played by Joey Galda. The simple story stays out of the way of the show’s 24 musical numbers.
The song list doesn’t have any surprises, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. A full band lives on stage, led by music director Jim Boggess. Each song rocks hard by pushing the story forward and featuring most of the cast. Act I closer “Here I Go Again” featured especially impressive performances from everyone on stage.
Warning: audience members were urged to sing and clap along to more than one song.
The cast does a great job pressing through dialogue to get to jokes. Comedic timing is excellent. Retired rockers Lonny (Adam Hogston) and Dennis (Bob Gilmore) joke about sex, drugs and poop while their bar get shut down around them. Lonny jokes to the audience often, stepping in as a narrator when needed.
Paul Hanson’s performance as Franz Klinemann, German son of German man Hertz Klinemann, absolutely killed. Hanson pulled laughs from the audience with every accented line of dialogue, and his surprise second-act showstopper almost started a riot. Watching his father, Hertz, unhinge throughout the second act was also fun.
While the cast as a whole is great, Vallier is the real stand-out. Vallier jumps through emotions on stage quickly, giving her character more depth than necessary. She jumps from naïve to independent to seductive, all while maintaining the youthful innocence of a kid trying to make it in LA. Vallier carries these emotions from her dialogue into her songs, belting out powerful ballads and rocking dance numbers.
She’s funny, too.
The show is quite raunchy, though, with swears and other adult content treated very casually. Even the band leader gets in an f-bomb. I noticed two older ladies leaving at intermission.
“It sure is energetic,” one said.
But that’s what rock ‘n’ roll is about. It’s about youthful expression and, in hindsight, just how dumb we all were as kids. The main plot revolves around the two leads-in-love being too shy to admit their feelings to each other. We were all that young, once, and “Rock of Ages” does a damn good job bringing us back.
“Rock of Ages” is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse through April 3rd. The Tony Award-nominated musical features songs from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe, and more.
Tickets are available for purchase through the Omaha Community Playhouse Box Office and through their website. Single tickets are $42 for adults and $25 for students Thursdays through Sundays and $32 for adults and $20 for students Wednesdays. Reduced prices are available for groups of 12 or more.