The Performant: Any way you want it

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PHOTO BY WINSLOW TOWNSEND

Bad hair days gone wild at Rock of Ages
 
That distance makes the heart grow fonder does go a long way in explaining the recent resurgence of hair metal. Somehow despite all better judgment, a spangled veil of wistful nostalgia has fluttered over that particular genre of music you probably loathed when you had to listen to it blaring non-stop from every corporate rock station in the nation [or while guys in eyeliner and leopard tights were beating you up in high school for being a flannel-wearing, Smiths-loving faggot -ED.].

But nowadays stone-washed denim is the new sepia-tone, and don’t think the canny producers of the touring, glam-rock “jukebox musical” Rock of Ages don’t know it. Any show where scantily-clad beauties hand out custom-made lighters at the door (ok, little flashlights) to hold up at the appropriate moments, that is to say every five minutes, is staged quite emphatically to push your most embarrassingly sentimental buttons. But it’s such an eagerly goofy emphasis that you can’t really resent the blatant manipulation. You’ll probably even wind up singing along.

 Full of ear-worms and eye-candy, Rock of Ages has a classic "busbo/ aspiring rock star" meets "cocktail-waitress-stripper-actress waiting for a break" storyline straight out of an MTV music video on heavy rotation. I almost expected Beavis and Butthead to show up during the finale and give it their classic “this rocks/this sucks” treatment before heading over to Burger World to set things on fire. What rocked: the hard-working live band conducted by keyboard player Brandon Ethridge and not so subtly dominated by lead guitarist Chris Cicchino, the gleefully tacky Sunset Strip aesthetic that permeated every designer’s work from crimped wigs to paraphernalia-covered stage wings, the endless stream of frighteningly familiar songs you can barely even find in karaoke joints anymore—“Sister Christian,” “We’re not Gonna Take it,” “Cum on Feel the Noize,” “Every Rose has its Thorn”.

What sucked is what sucked back in the 1980s, namely where’re all the ladies at? Out of 30 songs, only Joan Jett and Pat Benetar (plus a smidge of Lita Ford) represented the women-in-rock, and most of the female cast members didn’t even get so much as a character name or a few good laugh lines, but instead got to settle for lap-dancing like they meant it. Couldn’t they have snuck just one Wendy O. Williams riff in there? And though Constantine Maroulis as Drew played one of the most sweetly affable lead roles in any musical since Seymour of “Little Shop of Horrors,” and has a great set of rock pipes to boot, I was reminded of the quote about Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did “backwards and in high heels” when Elicia MacKenzie as Sherrie took the stage and belts out a show-stopping “High Enough,” by Damn Yankees. A good girl gone bad never sounded better.
 
Still, you can’t necessarily blame the boys that there just weren’t very many girl bands playing unapologetic cock rock back in the day, and not every nostalgia trip has to pack along a roadmap to political correctness. Like the proverbial fountain of youth, Rock of Ages has the magical ability to turn its audience into a pack of fourteen year-olds on an ephedrine-and-Aqua Net binge, which sounds pretty heinous, but somehow manages to be totally awesome instead.
 
Through April 9
Curran Theatre
445 Geary, SF
$30-$99
(888) 746-1799
www.shnsf.com

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