Reviewer: You Would Be A Fool To Miss BCC’s ‘Rock Of Ages’

Drew Eldridge

As the 80s nostalgia train continues to sweep the nation, Brookdale has finally become one of its stops. “Rock of Ages” has begun its run at the Brookdale PAC.

“Rock of Ages” is a musical of songs from your favorite 80s rockstars: Twisted Sister, Starship, Night Ranger, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Quiet Riot, and Poison. The show is written by Chris D’Arienzo and has garnered some of the most sought-after awards in theatrical entertainment.

“Rock of Ages” ran for more than 2,300 performances in its original Broadway run, making it one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. The show was nominated for five Tony awards, two Outer Critics Circle awards, and one Drama League award. Brookdale has rightfully chosen one of the most successful “nostalgia” musicals ever.

As for Brookdale’s musical performance, it’s nothing short of totally tubular. If you want your 80s nostalgia served with a side of comedic excellence, vocal prowess and astonishing design, this is the show for you.

Even before the show begins, the comedy is in full force. The pre-show message is riddled with 80s slang, quips and a few snarky nods to audience misbehavior.

AJ Melnick (Lonnie) opens and narrates the show. To say the audience was in the palm of his hand would be a great understatement. Melnick has managed to mix and evolve the show’s rather cheesy script with a biting 2000s sense of humor. As he welcomes the audience to the show, we become immediately under the spell of his undeniable charm. As he begins to sing, his talent reaches an entirely new height. Melnick is truly a star on the rise, one that Brookdale is lucky to call one of their own.

As the show progresses, the full display of the genius design of Bob Nutter (set design) and Danielle Garrit (lighting design) comes into view. The constant display of both neon eccentric lighting, mixed with a raised “concert-esque” platform creates the perfect environment for the musical. The abstract nature of the show’s score lends itself to a concert environment, the 80s “magic” is the finishing touch. Both lights and set were designed with mastery, and this production is a complete triumph of both.

The show is a constant stream of covers of 80s hits, inter-spliced with bits and pieces of a disjointed and half-hearted story. This could be the nail in the coffin for the unassuming performer; however, both Janie Hornstein (Sherrie) and Jeremy Rotolo (Drew) rise above the content to create something entirely new. Both create a three-dimensional love story, out of rather 2-D material.

Hornstein has a crystal clear mezzo voice; her voice glides over the demands of the pop-rock score. As an actress, it is obvious she is more than prepared for the book demands of the show. Several moments actually are more dramatic than originally written, simply due to the quality of her acting, which is the hallmark of any star on the rise. At one point, a woman seated behind me, after Hornstein’s terrific solo, commented “She is just like Olivia Newton-John!”– something I have to wholeheartedly agree with.

Rotolo is an exemplary 80s metalhead. Not only does he look like he came straight from a Rolling Stone fan club meeting, but he also acts like it too. Rotolo brings a shy awkwardness to a character usually played brash and cocky. As he stumbles over his words, we fall more and more for the character he has created. His voice is trained to near perfection, and any tenor would be jealous of his control over his instrument.

In a show usually focused on its leading cast, this production features an extremely talented ensemble cast. There is not a single actor not cast without intention or foresight. The ensemble of Brookdale’s “Rock of Ages” is the vital life-blood of this production. It’s supporting characters and ensemble vocalists/dancers are putting in overtime, and doing so with a smile.

Patrick Comey is hilarious as the “spaced out” club owner Dennis. He seems to exude a natural confidence that lights up the stage, something the audience adored. Aliza Liranzo (Justice) is a vocal powerhouse, in a powerful actor’s body. She is intimidating yet endearing, and a joy to watch. Her character antithesis.

John Griffin (Stacee Jaxx) is extraordinary as an idiot. He plays the “disgruntled rocker” character to perfection. He is an obvious character actor with a mastery of the craft. Kaylin Iannone (Regina) is an acting force. Her anger grows throughout the show, a gift not naturally given to most actors. As a “disgruntled protestor,” Iannone is loud and demanding, and commands the stage.

Perhaps the most interesting of the supporting characters were part of a small “disapproving father” subplot. Jacob Gerbman (Herz) is somehow terrifying and adorable at the same time. Paired with his son, Antonio Fagliarone (Franz), the pair create a comedic duo worthy of praise. Fagliarone is hilarious, and creates chemistry with all characters he interacts with on stage. He is an attentive actor, one that is constantly in the moment.

Attention must be paid to an exemplary group of musicians who make the show possible. This is not an easy show to play, the constant genre-switching and incessant guitar licks could outwit any musician. However, under the direction of David Atillo, this forever onstage rock band seems to rival a real rock band. I was almost more interested in hearing the instrumental than the covers themselves.

All of this is done under the direction of Eric Petillo, who deserves several rounds of applause. This is a more than successful production and exceeds its material by leaps and bounds. The hallmark of an excellent director is to turn the subpar into the awesome, and Petillo has cemented his place as an excellent director. Brava to all involved with this production.

Brookdale Community College’s production of “Rock of Ages” runs consecutive weekends through April 23. You would be a fool to miss it, and with an affordable ticket price, there is no excuse.