Wondering if Rock is for the ages in Vegas


You gotta wait six months to compare Vegas’ Rock of Ages to the film.

Dictionary definition of “pointless”: predicting fates of Broadway-to-Vegas musicals. (Honestly—it says so in Merriam-Webster.) Rather, we will compare, contrast, analyze, dissect and reach no conclusions whatsoever. (What, after all, are critics for?)

Today’s subject is Rock of Ages, the musical that adores and needles big-haired, glam-metal ’80s rockers. Singing/belting/screaming anthems of the decade such as “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” it will land at the Venetian in December, six months after the public hands down the verdict on the movie version released to mixed notices (see our review, page 94), featuring Tom Cruise doing enough mugging to earn a prison stretch.

Let’s assess:

Jukebox musicals-turned-Strip hits? Rock’s got the Four Seasons-powered Jersey Boys and the (now-closed) ABBA-drenched Mamma Mia! to look up to. And Queen-based We Will Rock You—a schlock-rock flop at Paris Las Vegas—to look down at. Pop’s gotten props from audiences. Having not flocked to one Rock, will they flock to another?

Full-on farce—The Rocky Horror Picture Show could be its spiritual twin—Rock of Ages comes to a city that hasn’t granted long life to comedy musicals. Count the corpses: Avenue Q, Spamalot, The Producers, Hairspray—all met premature Strip deaths. Conversely, musicals with drama in their bones—Chicago, The Lion King, Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular—lived to see their golden years on our neon boulevard.

Even the jukebox hits boasted both solid story arcs and emotional underpinnings Rock lacks. Tinged with darkness, Jersey Boys tells a compelling tale of the Seasons’ turbulent rise and very human conflicts. More lighthearted, Mamma Mia! still constructed a story—girl gets to know three men, one of whom she suspects is her father, while her mother relives her relationships with them—that takes their emotions seriously and asked us to invest in their fates. Goofy at heart, Rock is a variation on the oldest of story hooks: boy/aspiring rocker-meets-girl/aspiring rocker, using them as excuses for the music, rather than propellants of a plot.

Recommended marketing strategy: Undersell Rock of Ages as a tribute show—albeit the 800-pound gorilla of tribute shows—rather than oversell it as a Broadway musical transplant. Vegas worships tributes.

Addled ’80s rockers? Nickname it The Whacked Pack is Back.

NOSH ON NOTES: Moving to The Smith Center this year is the highly recommended Ribbon of Life show (1 p.m. June 24) benefiting Golden Rainbow and featuring an eclectic talent mix, from the Las Vegas City Ballet to X Burlesque. …

Catch ex-Talk Soup host/The Talk panelist Aisha Tyler when she brings her stand-up act to Paris Las Vegas’ Empire Comedy from July 5-7. Lady is funny. (Hot, too.) … Got star-making looks and a heavenly body (don’t we all?) plus, um, whatchamacallit? Oh yeah: talent? Note the Fusion Model Talent Search seeking future models, actors, singers and dancers June 23-24 at Planet Hollywood’s V Theater. Just cough up an $895 registration fee. Call 737-3800 or visit 123PickMe.com. (Isn’t that adorable?)

STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Demonstrating good citizenship, Madame Tussauds unveiled an “environmentally friendly” figure of Leonardo DiCaprio, constructed from “natural clay and beeswax material containing organic pigment.” Some song from some movie of his will go on and on. Alas, Biodegradable Leo will not.

Got entertainment tips? E-mail steve.bornfeld@weeklyseven.com.

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