A new rock musical proclaims: “Don’t Stop Believing” in the power of 1980s nostalgia.
By Meaghan Lamb
OPENS APRIL 20 Teeze out your hair, dust off your Flying V guitar and raise your lighter high as the Tony Award–nominated Rock of Ages thunders into the Royal Alexandra Theatre for its Canadian premiere.
Taking full advantage of the trend of using popular music to tell a story (think Queen and Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You and ABBA’s Mamma Mia!), Rock of Ages matches retro ‘80s mega-hits with a boy-meets-girl saga of love and ambition. For the Toronto version of this Broadway blockbuster, a lusty-lunged Canadian cast dons distressed denim and headbands to belt out bombastic anthems including Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”Quebec native Yvan Pedneault—rock chops sharply honed thanks to his lead role in the Toronto production of We Will Rock You—plays Drew, an edgy musician with vocal cords set to wail, while British Columbia–bred ingenue Elicia MacKenzie co-stars as Sherrie, a small-town girl with a big-screen dream. The actress knows a thing or two about wish fulfillment—she got her own big break when Canadian television viewers picked her to star as fräulein Maria in the recent acclaimed staging of The Sound of Music.
Narrated by a quick-witted “Bourbon Room” employee, this guilty pleasure begins with Sherrie and Drew’s first encounter at the most notorious nightclub on Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip. The duo seems destined for rock ‘n’ roll romance—after all, who could resist when serenaded with chart-toppers from the likes of Journey, Foreigner and Poison? Alas, hard times come quick and dirty: Sherrie abandons her goals and becomes a stripper; Drew discovers that record labels don’t really care about a musician’s ideals. But with the aid of additional melodies by Asia, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar and Whitesnake, the star-crossed head-bangers manage to shake up the system and come out on top.
If recent history is any indication, the 101-year-old Royal Alex will prove the perfect venue for this hit-heavy production. King Street’s “Grand Dame” has lately staged similarly nostalgic smashes such as Dirty Dancing, and the contrast between the theatre’s Beaux Arts–style decor and Rock of Ages’ rough and raw storyline is sure to both delight and amuse audiences.
With rumours of Hairspray director Adam Shankman planning a feature film version of Rock of Ages, it looks like this hard-rockin’ musical is here to stay. Sure enough, the 1980s continue to gain ground in their fight to be remembered—no matter how hard some of us may try to forget them.
Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King St. W.), Tuesday to Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday 2 and 7 p.m., $28 to $99; call 416-872-1212 or click here to purchase tickets.