'Rock of Ages' the musical VS the movie
MANILA, Philippines - Last June 14, my wife and I caught the first day of the local showing of the movie version of the hit Broadway musical, "Rock of Ages." I do not know if it was quite the coincidence that the local stage production of "Rock of Ages" by Atlantis also opened that week. We caught the show right on its opening night at the RCBC Auditorium last June 15.
Except for a few plot points, the story of the play was, of course, basically the same as what we saw in the film: Young musician Drew meets young singer Sherrie at the Bourbon Room, located in the Sunset Strip of Los Angeles. This rock establishment, run by Dennis Dupree and his friend (and the play's narrator) Lonnie, was in unfortunate financial straits.
To generate much-needed funds, Dupree invites rock star Stacee Jaxx — who started his career at the Bourbon Room — to hold a big concert there. But egocentric Jaxx's visit wreaks havoc on the love story of our young couple.
Can Dupree save the Bourbon Room? Can Drew get Sherrie back?
Stage VS film
We could not help but compare this stage musical with the movie we had just watched.
The love story of Drew and Sherrie is clearly the central focus of the stage version. The movie version, on the other hand, is all about Tom Cruise as rock icon, Stacee Jaxx, as every other character would all fly beneath his big shadow.
The movie, while it has scenes of sexual, drunken and drugged debauchery, is surprisingly still a more sanitized version of the rowdier stage version, which really crisp, spicy language. The movie is kind enough to protect Sherrie's innocence and naivete, so unlike the stage Sherrie who is considerably less prudent.
While the stage version is very busy and felt rather disjointed compared to the film, it still has a charm of its own, especially since it is performed live. (In an exclusive interview with RAPPLER, Mig Ayesa compares the musical to a rock concert.)
The role of Constance (the Rolling Stones magazine reporter), while only a bit role in the stage version, was very much expanded in the movie (with Malin Ackerman), and she was even given the song "I Want to Know What Love Is" with Stacee Jaxx. In the stage version, that seduction song was sung by Jaxx with Sherrie in the men's bathroom.
The roles of the Mayor Whitmore and his wife Patricia (Bryan Cranston and Catherine Zeta-Jones) were not in the stage version. The stage characters who wanted to demolish the Bourbon Room were a German father and son, Hertz and Franz Kleinmann, who wanted to build their own Foot Locker store in that space. I guess bad Germans do not really make good movie material nowadays.
The character of bohemian activist Regina was totally not in the film as well.
There were several songs which did not make it to the film at all like "Cum On Feel the Noize," "The Final Countdown," "High Enough," "I Hate Myself for Loving You," "Oh Sherrie" and the very cheesy "The Search is Over."
Some songs were sung by different characters in different parts of the story. Regina sings both "We Built This City" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" as protest songs in the first part of the stage version, but these were sung by Lonnie (Russell Brand) and Mrs. Whitmore (Zeta-Jones) respectively against each other in the latter part of the movie version. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" was sung by Franz against his father in Act II of the stage version, but was sung by Mrs. Whitmore and her posse in the church in the movie version.
The Atlantis musical
So now, how did the Filipino stage production do?
I say they did pretty well as far as the stage and the set pieces were concerned, given the budget limitations. They had neon signs and TV screens to indicate where the scene was set. Instead of having the girls dancing on poles in the Venus Club, they were dancing on ropes decorated with multi-colored brassieres.
The wigs the characters wore went two ways. For comedic characters like Dennis and Lonnie, their wigs were fine and even hilarious. But for the main characters like Drew, Sherrie and Stacee, their wigs were quite distracting to their overall performance.
For the Filipino cast, the singing talent is undoubtedly there as always.
I never knew that Nyoy Volante (as Drew) can scream out those big rock anthems! Unfortunately, he does not really fit the Drew character physically, and his wig does not help.
Vina Morales was really sexy as Sherrie, in her skimpy outfits that show off her killer abs! I admit that I was initially skeptical about this casting since Vina seemed too old to play Sherrie. However, her bravura performances of "Harden My Heart" and "I Hate Myself for Loving You" were really amazing. Though I did not really feel substantial romantic chemistry between Nyoy and Vina, their soaring duet of "High Enough" was a real showstopper!
The movie version made the character of Stacee Jaxx larger than life, so I had the biggest expectations about this character. However, in the stage version, Stacee Jaxx was no more than a mere supporting character. So when MiG Ayesa was playing Stacee Jaxx mostly as a comic fool on stage, the whole performance felt sort of underwhelming. His singing was pretty good, but his "Cum on Feel the Noize" did not have the same impact as Tom Cruise's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." There was also something strange about his hair and make-up that did not feel too right.
I guess I was really expecting too much from MiG, hence some disappointment.
Aiza Seguerra was cute and sassy as Regina, and was very, very funny as she delivered her lines. Her singing voice, while very good, can sometimes be drowned out by the band. And she was also unexpectedly fearless in playing one of the girls of the Venus Club! You've got to see it to believe it.
Jinky Llamanzares was expectedly good as Justice, the madame of the Venus Club. Her strong brassy voice can really stand out from the chorus.
Calvin Millado was just okay as the German dad Hertz, and Bibo Reyes (who looked nothing like Calvin) was no-holds barred in his scene-stealing "not gay, but German" performance as Franz.
Jaimie Wilson was the perfect Dennis Dupree. He really looked like an aging hippie.
Jett Pangan's wig and uncharacteristic effeminate mannerisms really made him look like John "Sweet" Lapuz! Haha! Remember, this guy was just recently seen as Jekyll and Hyde! It was a hilarious brave turn for him to play Lonnie. As expected, their "Can't Fight This Feeling" was a big hit with the audience!
This '80s kid just had his fill with two versions of "Rock of Ages," both stage and screen. While the treatment of characters varies, it is really all about the amazing music.
Other generations can call those rock anthems noisy or those power ballads cheesy, but I liked listening to them growing up, and I liked re-living them in "Rock of Ages." I won't be ashamed to admit that I enjoyed singing along both in the movie house and in the RCBC theater.
Come on now, I am sure you'll be singing right along too! - Rappler.com
(All play dates of "Rock of Ages" by Atlantis Productions are sold out, so they've added additional performances on July 1 and July 8 at 3 PM. The musical will have no repeat run this year, so call their office now and get your tickets!)
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