Dec. 7 2011 12:00 AM

’Rock of Ages’ revisits the heyday of hair-rock


If you can name three big hits from Foreigner’s “4” album, or if you can recite from memory all the “dramatic” dialogue from Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” video, the Wharton Center has the show for you.
“Rock of Ages,” written by Hastings native Chris D’Arienzo, salutes the golden age of what was once known as “hair rock.” Throughout the 1980s, bands with names like Whitesnake, White%u2028 Lion and Great White churned out thundering, radio-friendly anthems and strutted their stuff on MTV, where they often displayed magnificently teased and moussed coiffures. It was that brief shining moment when backbeat and back-combing were inseparable.
Like a “Mamma Mia” for the head-banger set,“Rock” weaves a story that strings together more than two dozen chart-toppers from Night Ranger (“Sister Christian”), Styx (“Too Much Time on My Hands”), REO Speedwagon (“Keep On Loving You,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling”)and Poison (“Every Rose Has Its Thorn”).
“Despite the title, don’t expect any Def Leppard,” Beacon (Ohio) Journal critic Kerry Clawson noted. “In the musical’s opening video, Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale explains that producers couldn’t get the rights to the band’s music.”
Sherrie (Shannon Mullen), a Kansas cutie with dreams of Hollywood stardom, lands on the Sunset Strip and makes her way to the Bourbon Room, where she meets bar-back and aspiring singer-songwriter Drew (Dominique Scott) and egotistical rocker Stacee Jaxx (Matt Nolan), who is more interested in Sherrie’s body than her body of work. Will the nave new girl in town fall for the old “baby, I’ll make you a star” ploy? Will Drew work up the courage to belt out “Oh Sherrie” at a pivotal moment?
Did David Lee Roth walk away from Van Halen?
The show arrived on Broadway in 2009 and hits movie theaters next year, with Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough and Russell Brand in the cast.
“As far as musical theater goes, ’Rock of Ages’ is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures,” wrote Chicago Daily herald critic Lisa Friedman Miller of the show’s recent stop in the Windy City.
“To appreciate it, set aside any notions of what musical theater should be and tap into your inner adolescent. You know, the kid who rocked to REO Speedwagon, slow-danced to Styx and%u2028 never, ever stopped believin’. It helps if you are, like me, old enough that ’Rock of Ages’ feels very much like the soundtrack to your youth.
“Nostalgia has never been louder.”

’Rock of Ages’%u2028
Wharton Center
%u20287:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, Wednesday, Dec. 14 and Thursday, Dec. 15; 8 p.m. Dec. 16;  2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 17; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18%u2028
%u2028(800) WHARTON