Rock of Ages in Vancouver (Broadway Across Canada) at the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts (review)

My good friend Minna Van (co-founder of The Network Hub) once told me that “once the three fingers come out, sh!t is going to go down“. This is in reference to the sign most people make when rooting for a rock band (the index, thumb and pinky fingers signaling “rock on”). And I really enjoyed when the three fingers came out last night uniformly at Rock of Ages, presented by Broadway Across Canada at the Centre in Vancouver for The Performing Arts.


I was prepared to love Rock of Ages regardless of how the performance went before I walked into the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts. And I loved it as I left the Centre. What I wasn’t prepared for were a series of surprises in one of the most fun evenings I have had in recent times. I was not prepared to see an almost-full Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts NOT rocking out to “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (Twisted Sister) or “Don’t Stop Believing” (Journey). I also wasn’t prepared to see one of the two leads (the lovely Dominique Scott in the role of young, naive and charming Drew) to be *almost* blown away by the vocal power and range of his co-star, a Shannon Mullen (Sherrie) whose capacity to belt out tunes was only paralleled by her physical plasticity (her dancing was superb) and an uncanny ability to charm the audience. Don’t get me wrong, Dominique Scott is a really good singer and he gives his all in this performance, but Mullen, Matt Nolan (as the chiseled-body, super-powered-voice rockstar and former leader of Arsenal Stacee Jaxx) and Amma Ossei (in a two role performance, but that I loved the most as Justice) all showcase a stronger range and vocal potency than the rest of the cast. And that is precisely one of the elements what makes Rocks of Ages such a fun show to watch: the diversity of vocal prowess, acting range and dancing abilities.

Rock of Ages

Photo credit: Scott Shurman (via Broadway Across Canada)

I will fully admit that I absolutely loved Mullen, Nolan and Ossei in every number they sang/danced. And while I wasn’t particularly impressed with the first act (which felt at times weakened by the divergences in how strong a particular singer was), this cast comes back with a vengeance in the second act, ending with a standing ovation to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”.

Without asking for permission nor forgiveness, Rock of Ages paints a pretty funny yet honest (almost to a fault) view of what life would have looked like if you were a pair of young, naive kids who fall in love in urban and wild Los Angeles. And yes, for those of you who ask, this is NOT a show for minors (the sexual innuendo in some scenes gets a little bit beyond PG-13). I didn’t expect it to be, and I am a lover of all things 80′s music, so I was pretty comfortable with it.

Rock of Ages

Photo credit: Scott Shurman (via Broadway Across Canada)

In 1987 on the Sunset Strip, a small-town girl met a big-city dreamer – and in L.A.’s most legendary rock club, they fell in love to the greatest songs of the ‘80’s. It’s ROCK OF AGES, a hilarious, feel-good love story told through the hit songs of iconic rockers Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, and many more. This 5 time Tony nominated musical, with a star studded motion picture in the works, is rockin’ its way across the USA. Don’t miss this awesomely good time about dreaming big, playing loud and partying on!

I was extremely pleased to see a number of friends of mine from the media and the arts communities, dressed in acid-washed jeans and bandannas, singing along to the tunes. Although it would have been MUCH better if people didn’t get up in the middle of the performance and disturbed their fellow attendees (this happened to a much higher degree at this show than any other shows I have been to). If you really need to go to the bathroom, try to disrupt as little as possible, people! And while I didn’t see anybody else dance on their seats, I was very pleased to see that the Vancouver audience clapped along when the actors drew the audience along. As I mentioned above, the first act (that sets the stage and develops the storyline of how Drew and Sherrie meet as well as details on the sordid life that Stacee Jaxx leads) was slightly slow, but the second act was a strong comeback that featured a number of full-assembly songs. I actually preferred these as they featured most of the cast and showcased everyone’s talents instead.

I make no apology about having loved Rock of Ages. I love 80′s music, and I was perfectly comfortable with the level of sexual innuendo, which is critical to the storyline. And what I loved about Dominique Scott’s performance is that not only did he grow stronger in the second act, but he gives his all throughout. Matt Nolan mesmerized me all across, even though he portrays sleazy Stacee Jaxx. His voice was extremely strong and he would make a great rock star. Shannon Mullen rocks the stage and is equally comfortable portraying Sherrie as the naive young star wannabe as she is portraying a voluptuous lap dancer when she is thrown into the underworld of cabaret-style dancing. Rock of Ages isn’t about the storyline, it’s about the music and the Broadway Across Canada production rocks the house with 28 of the best rock tunes of the 80′s era including Don’t Stop Believin’, We Built This City, The Final Countdown, Wanted Dead or Alive, Here I Go Again, Harden My Heart, Can’t Fight this Feeling, Renegade and I Want To Know What Love Is. My favorites included of course, I Hate Myself For Loving You, We’re Not Gonna Take It and the closing number, Don’t Stop Believin’.

Rock of Ages

Photo credit: Scott Shurman (via Broadway Across Canada)

The Cast of Rock of Ages includes Dominique Scott as Drew, Shannon Mullen as Sherrie, Justin Colombo as Lonny, Matt Nolan as Stacee Jaxx/Father, Matt Ban as Dennis DuPree, Amma Osei as Justice/Mother, Stephen Michael Kane as Franz, Phillip Peterson as Hertz, and Katie Postotnik as Regina. The ensemble includes: Chris Sams, Joey Elrose, Wesley Faucher, Lisa Finegold, Tymisha “tush” Harris, Alyssa Herrera, Patrick Joyce, and Danny McHugh.

You can buy tickets for Rock of Ages (pretty affordable I would say, at a range of $35-$75) from Ticketmaster. Rock of Ages is on a short engagement from May 8th through 13th in Vancouver at the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts. Performances run Tuesday – Saturday evenings at 8pm, Sunday evening at 7:30pm with Saturday and Sunday 2pm matinees.

Food recommendations near by for dinner include Rasoee on Robson, Q4 al Centro on Richards Street, Hidden at the Westin Grand.

Disclosure: I attended Rock of Ages with media tickets. A review was not expected, and in the case of a positive review, it wasn’t expected either. As always, I maintain full editorial control over what I publish on my blog.

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  3. Fiddler in the Roof at the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts
  4. The Nutcracker (@GohBallet) at The Centre in Vancouver for The Performing Arts (review)
  5. Moulin Rouge (Royal Winnipeg Ballet) at the Vancouver Centre for the Performing Arts

Comments (4)

Norm BairdMay 11th, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Although you seemed to love the. vocal talents of Sherrie a bit more than I did, your review matches my thoughts on the show almost excactly.
In my opinion, while the voices of the two leads fell short of awesome, they wear both equally in the great range.
Thanks for an open minded review of an excellent portrayal of era of music that is loved by so many. Some reviewers ‘critics’ failed to see what you and I both saw as a well written and hilariously presented performance. Rock On!!

Ruben WilkinsMay 12th, 2012 at 12:55 am

Live 80′s music, too

Prefer Shannon Mullen

LiveVancouverMay 14th, 2012 at 8:19 am

When you wrote, “people got up in the middle of the performance”, I thought at first you meant to dance, which we did right towards the end of Don’t Stop Believing. We were in Row P and no one ahead of us was up on their feet even though the cast was encouraging it. Whether the people behind it liked it or not, they got to their feet but it created more atmosphere and we knew it was the final song. You can’t watch a show like this and not have the audience on their feet at the end of it. It’s just feels unnatural.

However, back to your original comment, during last night’s performance, there was a young guy in the front row channeling his inner (or outer) Stacee Jaxx and he got up and had to have his two women accompany him (one on either side) presumably to the washroom. And then he came back a few minutes later with entourage in tow to resume watching. It was utterly bizarre. And no, I don’t want to think he was attempt to re-enact the bathroom stall scene. Female bodyguards?

And I’m pretty sure this wasn’t staged, but there was a moment in the second act where a guy in the audience shouted out “BOOBIES!” (I think in response to “What do you want?”) and it threw Justin Columbo off badly (he immediately turned away from the audience laughing) and then desperately tried to recover staring at Dominique Scott for many moments wondering where to pick up before Dominique took control of the scene. Don’t know what we missed but heck that’s what live theatre is about and it was hilarious. The show must go on! Yes, the outburst would be considered disruptive in any other show, but in this one, it just seemed oddly appropriate.

Great review!

Rock on! \m/ …. and jazz hands…..

RyanMay 24th, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I saw Rock of Ages in Toronto and loved it!! Such a fun show to watch.

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