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Rock Of Ages: A Love Note To 1980s Music And Fashion

The Musical 'Rock of Ages' plays the BCPA Wednesday night
Jeremy Daniel
The musical "Rock of Ages" plays the BCPA Wednesday night.

The Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” is a send-up to the outrageous hair and costumes especially favored by 1980s hair-metal acts.

The Tony Award-winning show makes a stop at the BCPA in Bloomington on Wednesday night.

Cast member Kristina Walz plays the character Regina. She said the plot centers around a fictional Sunset Strip club (The Bourbon Room) patterned after the famous Whiskey-a-Go-Go where bands such as Motley Crue and Guns & Roses made names for themselves, and rock star Stacee Jaxx, who is loosely based on Jon Bon Jovi.

Walz said Regina is the city planner who witnesses a couple German developers bribing the mayor to knock down the Sunset Strip and build a strip mall. She eventually gets fired for opposing the deal and ends up leading a huge protest against the developers.

“And that ties into the Bourbon Room, who gets a notice that the building will get demolished. That’s when Stacee Jaxx gets involved and hilarity ensues,” said Walz.

The show itself has received mixed reviews. Critics expecting a snazzy plot line left disappointed, fans of 80s hair-metal reveled in the wall-to-wall music where the actors sing with real musicians onstage.  

“Oh yeah, it’s a rock concert,” said Walz. “The script and story are fun. You’re in the story and want the characters to succeed, but you really go to listen to the music. I mean it’s iconic, and you’ll know all the words.”

To be fair, that music includes music from Journey, Pat Benatar, Styx and other non-metal acts mix with Bon Jovi, Poison, Whitesnake, and Europe.

Sounds like the show loves to have fun with the big hair, spandex and other 1980s styles especially 50-somethings can roar along with knowingly.

“And the scenery of L.A. and all the characters you could see walking around the Sunset Strip at that time. But our version of the show is pretty authentic. The broadway early-2000s version was over-the-top with the hair, makeup and costumes. Our version is pretty 80s authentic,” said Walz.

She said many high school are doing Rock of Ages as their musical, so they figure prominently in the audience for the touring company. But as you might guess, 50-something’s will have a different experience.

“They just want to come up to you after the show and say ‘that was me!’ or ‘That song played at my prom,’ or ‘I went to a Journey concert and saw them live and your version sounded just like it.’ Because there is a live band on-stage, if you would listen to the album ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ comes from, it sounds just like it at ‘Rock of Ages,’” said Walz.

Walz is young enough not to have experienced the 1980s, but she had a stereotype of 1980s music before the show, but as a performer night after night in “Rock of Ages,” her tune has changed.

“I think 80s music, even 80s pop music … the words and music meant something. Even if you listen to the music of Queen, oh my gosh. There’s a full orchestra’s worth of really soul rendering music. But now music today is very different,” said Walz.

Rock of Ages plays the BCPA in downtown Bloomington Wednesday night. Curtain rises at 7:30 p.m.

The full interview with Kristina Walz

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.