Ten years ago, Rock of Ages debuted Off-Broadway at New World Stages after five years of development. Since then, it's become a worldwide sensation with a Tony-nominated, five-year Broadway run, a sit-down engagement in Las Vegas, plus runs in the U.K., Australia, Central America, the Philippines, and South Africa, just to name a few.
Now, the jukebox musical with songs from big hair bands like Journey, Twisted Sister, and Poison returns to its New York City home, beginning previews June 19. Also returning are the original creative team: book writer Chris D'Arienzo, director Kristin Hanggi, and choreographer Kelly Devine. Original Broadway cast members Mitchell Jarvis, Katie Webber and Matt Ban also return.
To celebrate the return of Rock of Ages to NYC a decade later, here are nine reasons the current cast and creative team are excited to be back.
Director Kristin Hanggi says the show is more than just theatre: "It's a time for all of us to come together and feel good together. We're going to sing, we're going to laugh, we're going to feel like we're at a rock concert, and it's transforming."
During rehearsals, PJ Griffith got lost in the moment sometimes. "During "Dead or Alive,' I run up to the bar and then I jump onto the banister," the 2019 Stacee Jaxx explains. "And [choreographer] Kelly Devine said, 'Dude, please ride the banister, don't make love to the banister.' And I forgot that, and I made love to the banister again today." Oops!
Kelly Devine didn’t need to do much research when developing the moves for Rock of Ages—she grew up in LA during the '80s. "I know this world so well, because I know this music, I know the town," the Tony Award–nominated choreographer for Come From Away says. "I looked at a couple of old-school videos for some of the big hair bands that would have that iconic beautiful woman that was the eye of everybody's storm, and she'd be dancing on a car. Just to get that vibe, but, really, I started fresh from me."
There's a new musical number for this 10th anniversary run, according to Devine, but details are scarce for now. "I'm very excited about it," she said. "If you know the show, it'll be a little bit of a surprise."
The chemistry was built in for CJ Eldred and Kirsten Scott, thanks to their love of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. "I was like, 'You're a dork, too!?,'" said Scott referring to when they discovered their shared fandoms. "Honestly, I feel like it was there from the start," added Eldred.
According to the duo, their characters Drew would be on American Idol (as a rockstar wannabe, natch) and Sherri on The Bachelorette. "She would literally think that she would find love and she's like, 'OK, if I can find a husband and move to L.A., I can be an actor. It'll be great!'" said Scott.
Mitchell Jarvis says breaking the fourth wall keeps even repeat attendees engaged. "Any time you come, something new might happen, something might go off the rails and that's OK."
One time, when Jarvis' fouth wall–breaking character Lonny popped out for a little moment, a guy in the front row shouted, 'Get back in your hole!' After a few more heckles from the rowdy audience member, Jarvis said he broke character and said, 'Are you in the play? Why are you talking to me?'"
The wild stories are legion thanks to the concert-like vibe and party atmosphere. Original Broadway cast member Katie Webb recalls coming out at the top of Act 2 one night with a machine called The Sparkinator, which malfunctioned. "All of a sudden, sparks explode out of it on to a man sitting in the front row." Thankfully he was fine. "I think they bought him a jello shot or something and everybody was happy!" Webb says with a laugh.
Michael Mahany had no issues with machinery, just audience members. "A guy was having too much of a party and came charging onto the stage during one of the numbers where the girls are featured dancing, and threw real live cash at them on to the stage," said the Las Vegas alum. "He got up to the last step before he stepped onto the stage and was caught immediately by one of our extremely large security guards and then carried like a suitcase down the aisle and into the lobby."
Everyone in the show loves the '80s fashion. When asked what fad they would bring back, the cast and crew all had different responses.
Tiffany Engen, who plays Regina, loves bangles, beads, chain necklaces, and earrings with feathers or hoops. Of Gregory Gale’s costumes, Engen said, "I think it's all the accessories...it’s a full tip-to-tail look. I love it."
Hanggi couldn’t decide what fad she’d bring back, but she did have a killer brunch outfit idea. "Wear an MC Hammer pant with a little tank, you're looking so cute! Put some heels on those, go to brunch. It's very fashion forward," the Rock of Ages director said.
Jarvis prefers anything with a Marty McFly feel, like the vest he wears in the show. Kirsten Scott wants to bring back shoulder pads. CJ Eldred would get an earring. Webb said she lives for a single fingerless glove like Madonna or Michael Jackson. Also popular choices? Acid wash and ripped jeans—which were named by several ensemble members.