REVIEW: Rock of Ages: the Manila Staging feat. Mig Ayesa

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Review by Vives Anunciacion

Rock of Ages
Directed by Chari Arespacochaga
Based on the Broadway musical by Chris D’Arienzo
On stage until July 8
CP Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza

If the movie got you reusing your hairspray, bandanas and leather pants, the stage musical will literally put you on your feet.  Atlantis Productions’ Rock of Ages is the perfect companion to complete your ‘80s nostalgia – if only you can see it. The entire stage run is already sold out.

Mig Ayesa reprises his Stacee Jaxx in the Manila staging of Rock of Ages

Like the movie, the story by itself is a thin narrative about a boy and a girl, a crumbling rock & roll altar and the pursuit of happiness (in the many senses of the term.) But of course, the stars of the jukebox musical are the sing-along-friendly rock anthems that defined a generation at the end of the 1980s.

Narrated by Lonny (Jet Pangan with a mullet – the sight of which is worth the price of admission), the musical is about the romance between aspiring composer-musician Drew (Nyoy Volante) and small-town girl Sherrie (Vina Morales) who meet in the decaying rock bar Bourbon Room owned by Dennis Dupree (Jamie Wilson.)

The Bourbon Room is about to be demolished, along with other establishments of “decadence” in LA’s Sunset Strip, no thanks to a German developer Hertz (Calvin Millado) and his son Franz (Bibo Reyes) who have convinced the Mayor to “clean up” the city. The city planner Regina (Aiza Seguerra) leads the protest against the demolitions.

Meanwhile, revival of the Bourbon is dependent on the final performance of Arsenal as a band, led by the self-absorbed legend Stacee Jaxx (Mig Ayesa, who played the same role in Broadway.)

The musical relives the sex-drugs-and-rock & roll culture of the time, a little more than the movie did. The stage is just the right size for a show that breaks the fourth wall all the time, making it more engaging with the audience. While the musical ends on a positive note unlike the candy-flavored ending of the movie, the musical ultimately delivers a rousing finale, literally having the audience at their feet.

But why see the musical if you’ve seen the movie? Two words: live performances. The energy discharged by the performers – from the lead to the dancers to the band  – is impossible to shake off hours after the show. It’s a veritable concert, especially since many in the local cast are recording artists themselves.

There are many noteworthy stops: a scene-stealing and vivacious Bibo Reyes with Aiza Seguerra in “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” power vocals from Nyoy Volante with “I Wanna Rock,” Mig Ayesa is his own marvelous Jaxx in “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Renegade” and an amusing pairing in Jamie Wilson and Jet Pangan in “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

But the true revelation is Vina Morales who looks superb on her debut theater performance, and fills the auditorium with incredible vocals and sheer magnetism. Morales should do more theater judging from her strong “Harden My Heart” to the steamy-sexy lap dance “Heat of the Moment” (not in the movie) and the thunderous duet with Volante in “High Enough” worthy of an ovation.

Rock of Ages is just a fun, fun show that had me grinning from start to end and even much after the lighters have long clicked off.

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