I have to admit, I had my doubts when I first heard that the Tony-nominated musical Rock Of Ages will be staged in Manila. In my head, I've permanently cast Constantine Maroulis, my AI Season 4 fave (Bo Bice a close second). He joined the musical as it opened Off-Broadway; when he later on got a Tony nomination for his role as Drew, I envied my friends who were lucky enough to fly to New York and watch him perform. Yes, Constantine visited Manila for a mall tour years ago and I saw him live, but Rock Of Ages with him would've been the best of both worlds for me: seeing a favorite American Idol, and having some of my beloved glam rock songs belted out live. Oh, and to relish another guilty pleasure of mine -- over the top, technicolored eighties everything!
But I've set aside the fangirling and the music lover in me won, knowing that I will have a glam good time at Rock Of Ages.
The Manila production is staged at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza
The musical weaves us a tale about Sherrie, small-town girl and Drew, a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit (sounds familiar?). Their chance encounter turns into friendship -- and perhaps a bit more. This story happens while they chase their big dreams in the rock and roll decade, the decadent eighties. There are also other things, such as a hard-to-deal (yet hard-to-resist) rock legend, a couple of Germans out to rid the city of rock and roll, and the challenge of earning enough for a living in Hollywood.
What's fun about this play is that it is a jukebox musical, incorporating already popular songs from hair metal bands like Poison, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, and more. Expect to be tapping your toes and bobbing your head as they perform We Built This City, Hit Me with Your Best Shot, Any Way You Want It, and more. By the time cast performed the anthemic Don't Stop Believin', we were up on our feet, dancing and singing along with them.
To say I'm familiar with the music is a bit of an understatement. I like these songs--I grew up listening to them, thanks to my older brother. Perhaps just like some of you, I've done those rockstar moves in the shower while lip syncing (try belting out "I wanna know what love isssss! I want you to show meee!" it's a lot of fun). With the cast's palpable gusto, every song performance is a delight to the ears, even to the 80s music novice. LSS inducing, even, as I hear younger audiences singing as they exited the theater after the show.
It was a delight to see Vina Morales as Sherrie, all wide-eyed and in amazement as she drinks in all of the Hollywood sparkle. Her powerful voice was a good match with Nyoy Volante, who plays Drew. Gone were my doubts once he started belting out song after song, with that juicy rock and roll growl to match his curly unruly hair and smoky eyeliner. He's transformed himself from Acoustic King to Eighties Rockstar, but manages to be childlike and adorably awkward at moments.
Aside from dancing and singing with the cast as they perform the songs live, there are other things you won't experience in the film version that you can with the live musical. The city planner Regina and the Klinemann father and son, for instance. It was a hoot to watch Calvin Millado and Bibo Reyes bustle about onstage with their caricature German accents. Regina, played by Aiza Seguerra, was bursting with so much energy as the boho-activist with a little secret up her sleeve (or stiletto, perhaps?). And all those cutesy aww-shucks scenes of Regina and Franz Klinemann sometimes made me even root for them more than the lead pair.
Then there's Arsenal's rockstar, Stacee Jaxx; and then there's Lonny, narrator and mullet-haired right-hand man of The Bourbon Room's owner, Dupree. It was hard to keep my eyes off of Mig Ayesa's chiseled abs--um, performances--with his heyyy baby swagger matched with a convincing aura of intoxication, a rock star in excess (pun intended). And what about Jet Pangan as Lonny? Enough has been said about his vocal prowess. I've seen him perform live, but as the frontman of The Dawn. So seeing him onstage for musical theater was a first for me, and he did not disappoint.
A little disclaimer: I've pretty much memorized the song line up of the play for over a month, and the original songs have been on my playlist for years. I also caught the film adaptation starring a deliciously Axl Rose-like Tom Cruise prior to watching the play. I must add, the film version tweaks the story and the characters here and there, so do try to catch both the movie and musical if you can. They offer different flavors of fun.
So go bust your boots, fluff that Aqua Net hair, and watch this musical. Take in the decadence and fun of the eighties and you're guaranteed nothing but a good time.
Directed by Chari Arespacochaga, 'Rock Of Ages' has performances every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, until July 8, 2012. Tickets are priced P2,000 (Orchestra Center), P1,750 (Orchestra Side), P1,500 (Loge Center), P900 (Loge Side/Upper Loge) and P700 (Balcony). For ticket inquiries, please call (63 2) 892-7078, (63 2) 840-1187 or Ticketworld at (63 2) 891-9999.