The rising nostalgia for the 1980s, the timeless songs of that era, and the classic "hair bands" whose sonic power filled the airwaves and the clubs on L.A.'s Sunset Strip have led to the creation of Rock of Ages; a rock musical that depicts Hollywood in 1986 as Guys & Dolls captured Times Square a half-century prior. Set for an initial four-week run at The Vanguard in Hollywood beginning January 26, Rock of Ages is a Prospect Pictures World Premiere production directed by Kristin Hanggi (bare, Pussycat Dolls: Live at the Roxy) written by Chris D'Arienzo (Barry Munday). The producers are Matthew Weaver, Carl Levin and Marcos Siega (Pretty Persuasion); general manager is Michael Gill (Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, Phantom of the Opera); executive producers are Hillary Weaver and Janet Billig Rich; and the associate producer is Daniel A. Miles.
In the 1980s, Los Angeles was a Mecca for bands whose power ballads became a staple of sold-out arena rock tours across the country. Within five blocks on the legendary Sunset Strip, there were a multitude of clubs among them the Whisky-A-Go-Go, The Roxy, Rainbow Bar & Grill and Gazzarri's where acts like Mötley Crüe, Journey, Guns 'n Roses and Night Ranger got their West Coast start. Rock of Ages weaves a fictitious story set against this musical backdrop, dominated by big dreams, big chords and big 'dos.
Rock of Ages features such recreated classic songs as "Don't Stop Believin'" (Journey), "Sister Christian" (Night Ranger), "Renegade" (Styx), "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (Pat Benatar), "Can't Fight This Feeling" (REO Speedwagon), "I Wanna Rock" (Twisted Sister), "I Hate Myself for Loving You" (Joan Jett), "Here I Go Again" (Whitesnake), "Heat of the Moment" (Asia), "Harden My Heart" (Quarterflash), "Nothin' But A Good Time" (Poison), "High Enough" (Damn Yankees), and "Oh Sherrie" (Steve Perry).
"In revisiting the standards of the era, it quickly became clear that songs like 'Anyway You Want It' and 'Sister Christian,' with their soaring melodies and rich orchestrations, were ripe for dramatic interpretation," explains Matthew Weaver, producer of such feature films as this year's Sundance favorite Pretty Persuasion and the acclaimed documentary Searching For Debra Winger, as well as executive producer of the VH1 reality series "Rock The House." "The music of the '80s is inherently theatrical and lends itself to a stage show such as Rock of Ages."
"We set out to develop a show that captured the essence of the Hollywood rock scene as it was in 1986. But we also wanted to make sure it was not simply a revue of '80s hits, rather a cohesive, character-driven story," says Carl Levin, a former talent manager who co-founded Prospect Pictures. "Toward this end we brought on board a brilliant librettist whose background was not in theater, but in film."
Executive producer Janet Billig Rich, a 15-year music industry veteran who managed such artists as Nirvana, Hole and The Breeders, also shepherding various stage shows and TV projects through her management and Production Company, affirms that Rock of Ages is created in the mold of successful Broadway musicals including Movin' Out, Mamma Mia!, and Hairspray. "It's a classic story about dreams: those that are fulfilled, those that are unfulfilled and those that evolve over time. It's a story about a girl who comes to the big city to pursue fame and fortune, discovering that the key lies in the persistence of the human heart; the lead characters learn a shared lesson - don't stop believing."