I’m not that big on musicals, I can admit that right away. The ones I have seen in my life can be counted on one hand – almost on one finger, as a matter of fact. I did see “Mamma Mia”, because I love ABBA and I have seen “Rent” – on DVD, that’s about it. Now, to go and see Rock Of Ages was really a no-brainer as the whole spectacle takes place in a decade I’m very familiar with and it contains music very close to my heart. I remember very well as a twenty something year old kid, watching Headbanger’s Ball, reading music mags like Metal Hammer and loving the melodic hard rock bands that were popping up on Sunset Strip in Hollywood like weeds on your lawn and wishing that I could be a part of all that debauchery. Of course, Stockholm tried its best to be a little of all that. Rock Clubs like Kool Kat, Elm Street and Underground had the music and all the boys and girls dressed to the nines, giving their best shot to look and act the part of miniature Hollywood – well, on Fridays and Saturdays, that is. You had to work on weekdays, you know. I did see the movie version of this musical as well, sporting Tom Cruise as the decadent Axl Rose meets Jani Lane rock star Stacee Jaxx, but even though it was musically well done, the movie wasn’t all that great. Lots of it had to do with the fact that it just doesn’t work with Tom Cruise as a Glam Metal rock star, it’s just not him. Mark Wahlberg was much, much better in Rock Star. That was much of the movie’s big problem – there weren’t any real rockers there. Alec Baldwin, Malin Ackerman, Mary J Blige and Catherine Zeta Jones don’t exactly ooze of rock ‘n’ roll. Only Russell Brand gave the movie some credibility. But I guess this is what happens when you give Hollywood big shots a rock musical. Please don’t let them get their hands on Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt when that time comes.
The Swedish version of the musical has been drawing full houses for a year or so now and even though there are a bunch of well-known Swedish actors (well-known in Sweden, that is…) hired for some of the parts, they all feel more credible than Tom Cruise and his entourage. Yes, I know that most of them aren’t rockers, but they all play their parts very believable. Also, they have managed to hire at least a couple of rockers in some of the parts. Joakim Cans, the lead singer from Hammerfall plays the part of Dennis Dupree (Baldwin’s part in the movie) and Thomas Vikström (Therion, ex – Candlemass, ex – Talk Of The Town) has a small part as a singer but also as a stand in for the part of Stacee Jaxx. The ROA band also looks like rockers and from time to time, George Egg of Dynazty plays the drums, then of course, there’s Kee Marcello (Europe, Easy Action, Red Fun) who has a pretty big part in the production. He is the only member of the ROA band that gets a spotlight and has some spoken parts as well. His old band mate Joey Tempest gets a kick in the butt or two. So this production has some differences to the movie as Marcello’s part isn’t in the movie at all. Also, some of the songs aren’t the same either. Where Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” had a pretty big part in the movie, there wasn’t any Leppard at all in this production. They couldn’t get the rights to their songs. Instead Europe’s “The Final Countdown” had a pretty big part here and also Damn Yankees’ “High Enough” was part of this staging and not in the movie. Other than that it was the same songs as in the movie – “Here I Go Again” (Whitesnake), “Heaven” (Warrant), “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” (Twisted Sister), “Nothin’ But A Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (Poison), “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (Pat Benatar), “Wanted Dead Or Alive” (Bon Jovi) and of course Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” as the grand finale. I must state that the Poison songs have never sounded this good before, especially “Rose” has taken a different arrangement and therefore given a new life. Kinda shows that those songs are really good, it’s just Poison who aren’t good enough performers. Fact is, almost all of the songs has some new arrangements here and there.
Another thing that differs from the movie here is the humour – yes, we actually had a good laugh quite often, much to the fact that Swedish actor Johan Rehborg is such a twisted dude – too bad this performance was his last, everyone who didn’t see this show with him is definitely missing out. What needs to be pointed out, of course, is how brilliant the singers are – Bruno Mistigiannos, who plays the leading part of Drew has an astonishing set of pipes – he’s a star in waiting so get ready for a jaw dropper, folks and the same can be said of Peter Johansson who plays the part of Jaxx – awesome. Mari Haugen Smistad plays the part of Sherrie, also a fantastic singer. After the not so impressive movie, this really was a pleasant surprise. I’m not sure in how many countries this musical is being played – apparently the show closed down in England because it was “too American” – but if it plays in your city or somewhere close, I would highly recommend it. Would I go see this again? You bet.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)