Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Musical That Rocks

There seems to be a new trend in Broadway musicals: take a themed set of songs, create a storyline around those songs, and poof! a new musical! We've seen it already with Abba (Mama Mia!), the Four Tops (Jersey Boys), Billy Joel (Movin' Out), Peter Allen (Boy from Oz) and now there is a musical that combines some of the best rock songs of the 80's: Rock of Ages.

From the press description:

New Line Records just hammered the in-store release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording of five-time Tony Award nominated "ROCK OF AGES." For those of you not in the know, Rock of Ages is the new Broadway musical starring American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis. Set in 1987 in a legendary Sunset Strip rock club, a small-town girl meets a big-city dreamer and they fall in love to the greatest metal songs of the 80's. The musical is an arena-rock love story told through the mind-blowing, face-melting hits of Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx, Reo Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Poison, Asia, Whitesnake and more.

I received the CD for review, and based on that description alone, I couldn't wait to listen to it. I love 80's rock music, and still miss some of those classic rock ballads that we don't seem to hear anymore.

So what did I think? Overall, I liked it. The vocalists were strong, especially Constantine Maroulis, who I always thought was destined for musical theatre when I saw him on Idol. From what I could tell about the storyline, the songs fit well into the plot, with some songs actually being mash-ups of two or three different songs to produce the needed effect. Combining I Hate Myself For Loving You and Heat Of The Moment produced a brilliant, moving tune. Most of the songs stayed true to their rock roots, too.

On the downside, I wish I could see the performance in person. Soundtracks to Broadway musicals always lose a lot of the details, leaving you wondering what's going on in the plot in that particular moment. I found myself occasionally wondering what I was missing between songs. And while most songs were reproduced well, some were over-musicalized (yep, I created a word there) for the show. The Final Countdown was a little too showtune-y (as if it wasn't enough before?) and Hit Me With Your Best Shot was nothing better than a tragedy.

The one thing I loved the most about this album is it reminded me of so many 80's rock songs that I had completely forgotten about. Yet once I heard them, the lyrics and the tune came back to me almost instantly.

If you like 80's rock, and you like musicals, I think you'll enjoy Rock of Ages. If either one of those isn't your thing, best avoid this CD. Thankfully, I can't live without my 80's rock or showtunes, and while I'll admit I never saw a marriage of these two styles happening, I'm happy enough with the results to keep this show in my iTunes. Because there's no limit to how many times you can listen to Don't Stop Believin'.

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