Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Broadway vs. Hollywood: Rock of Ages


Introduction
Like with my "Into the Woods" entry, "Broadway" is used loosely...
On our recent Norwegian Cruise, we had an on-ship production of "Rock of Ages."
Both version have their pluses and minuses,  but I'll start by reviewing the movie because it was my initial point of reference.

Rock of Ages (2012)

Cast:
Sherri- Julianne Hough
Drew/Wolfgang Von Colt/Joshy Z- Diego Boneta
Stacee Jaxx- Tom Cruise
Patricia Whitmore- Catherine Zeta-Jones
Mayor Whitmore- Bryan Cranston
Dennis Dupree- Alec Baldwin
Lonny- Russell Brand
Paul Gill- Paul Giamatti
Justice- Mary J. Blige
Constance- Malin Akerman
Honorable Mention
T.J. as the Rolling Stone receptionist

Anyone who had even skimmed my blog or knows me personally knows I'm a huge fan of the 80's. Particularly of their music and John Hughes movies.
"Rock of Ages" does a fair job of bringing that particular era to life... I still feel that it suffers from an image problem :P if it were up to me, 80's music would focus on the trifecta of Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson, British bands [Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode and Thompson Twins to name a few] and countless one-hit wonders focusing heavily on synthesizers and electronics.
I certainly wouldn't have focused on the "hair metal" motif. My biggest nit-pick on this front is that a lot of the songs are ones I'd heard millions of times and was sick off after the first 10 times. Again, that's just a matter of personal preference.

Story

Julianne Hough plays Sherri, an Okie going to the Sunset Strip in search of fame and fortune. Of course she’s got that farm girl naivety down pat (except for the fact she has NO trace of an accent)… and if not for the people she meets, she wouldn’t have lasted a day out there…
That’s no joke. After a mash-up at least 4 different songs, some random punk steals her records… you might not think that was the best thing to steal, but he definitely could get more money for selling them than just taking her purse.
After this theft, her future love interest, Drew arrives to ask if she’s okay…

this entire time, I’m thinking “you idiot! go catch that guy!”… that had me cringing, the writing on that was sooo bad… they make up for it later,  but still… c’mon!

Drew works at The Bourbon Room, which is a bar that has a stage where all the big acts come from and come back to play… so I guess it kinda is like First Avenue, but with head-banger rock instead of R&B
It’s run by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, both are excellent in their roles (and I’m not the biggest fan of Baldwin either)… who humor Drew and give Sherri a job waitressing.
The bar is up in arms because the rock band Arsenal is coming to play their last show before its frontman, Stacee Jaxx goes solo… The Bourbon Room launched his career, so the two of them go way back… and they need this because their finances are on the brink.

The first part of the movie is devoted to the blossoming relationship between Drew and Sherri, with plenty of musical numbers to boot…
I had trouble taking things seriously because it was just happening way too fast… talk about unrealistic

On the other side of things, you also have Catherine Zeta-Zones. Her character is the wife of the mayor, and as a “God-fearing” citizen, she and her cronies picket the streets across the Bourbon Room, proclaiming that rock n’ roll is filch…
those kinds of people just annoy the HELL out of me.
She’s no big threat, though, and her key motivation makes it all worth it in the end.

The movie really got started for me when Tom Cruise hit the scene as Stacee Jaxx… when he was first casted, none of us took the idea of him in this role seriously… he proved us wrong like you wouldn’t believe…
probably will go down as one of my favorite roles of his EVER
because Stacee Jaxx is just soooo out there, but what he says makes a strange amount of sense.

It’s also hard to beat the fact he has a pet baboon (his introduction is hilarious in itself) that knows how to cop an attitude… but you know what they say about dogs taking after their masters
You also get to know his manager, played by Paul Giamatti in his typical role…. slimier than a snake oil salesman… if there’s any sort of villain in this movie, other than the misunderstandings, it’s him…
While waiting to go on stage, Stacee Jaxx has an interview with a girl from Rolling Stone magazine… who’s very uptight, but not entirely immune to the charm to Stacey Jaxx…
the two of them have a song together… a Foreigner classic… will never able to think of that song the same way again… let’s just say they used it somewhat disrespectfully

but they had a moment they won’t soon forget ;)
and Tom Cruise is a pretty decent singer too… in the “I’m surprised he could sing” sort of way, not so much “he’s so flipping amazing, he should totally quit his day job"

Before Drew goes on to debut with his band, he sees Sherri and Stacey Jaxx leave a room together and believes he saw more than what was there…
After doing a great number with his band (I’d never heard “I wanna rock” b4), he and Sherri have a fight and break up. Her perspective isn’t quite as well-written. After some random girl (with no other lines in the movie) tells her “that spotlight doesn’t just make them shine, it makes us disappear," she believes the fame has already gone to Drew’s head
It kinda reminded me of that random girl in “Moulin Rouge” that asked the villian “why does the girl end up with the penniless writer, oh, I mean sitar player”… but it wasn’t her ONLY purpose in that movie.
So Drew and Sherri quit the Bourbon Room and go their separate ways.
Sherri is saved from the streets by Mary J. Blige, who owns a strip club, and gives her a waiting position, but later tells her that the real money is on the pole.

Meanwhile, Drew becomes the slimey manager’s latest conquest. Apparently rock is no longer on the cutting edge, so he ends up becoming part of a boy band called the “Z guy-eez”
Because of the great playlist, this quickly became one of my dad's guilty pleasures. And this was the point in the movie where he kinda stopped having fun… ugh, nobody "got" boybands in the 80’s… it bugs me how everyone (including the cast members) passed it off as a joke. Boy Bands would go on to rule the world in the following decade... and at present, one still currently does (although after Zayn left, we'll see how One Direction will fare).


All of the characters arcs are finished pretty well. Of course Drew and Sherri eventually make up.
The truth about Catherine Zeta-Jones is revealed and it’s Russell Brand who figures it out cuz he spends most of the movie asking where he’d seen her before.
The slimey manager gets his ass handed to him by Stacee Jaxx and his baboon when he finds out, through the Rolling Stone article, what he did to the Bourbon Room- raking in all the proceeds

Stacee also places a call trying to track down the girl that interviewed him. This exchange between him and TJ Miller (Stainer from “she’s out of my league”) is probably my favorite scene in the whole movie… freaking hilarious


And considering this is an 80’s era movie, what better song to play it out with than some Journey…
Drew first tells Sherri that he wrote it after they met… the whole time, I’m laughing at the TV something like “you liar! you didn’t write that song! Steve Perry did”


Rock of Ages (on stage)

Story [with differences]

The general ideas remain the same between both versions.

We have our love story (although it's not as clearly defined in Drew's eyes) that falls apart and comes together after much tribulation.
The Bourbon Room is still on the brink of foreclosure, but this time, it comes dangerously close to demolition. (Whereas in the movie, it never closes down and the opposition to its existence poses next to no threat).

The biggest difference between the two lies in Stacee Jaxx's involvement. He and Sherry do sleep together [in the movie, Drew saw them come out a room together looking suspicious and jumped to conclusions]. Afterwards, he claims that she's a negative influence on the Bourbon Room and she gets fired [in the movie she quits after Drew breaks up with her]. And he complicates things forever by showing up at her strip club, her boss forcing her to give him a dance and Drew catching them together.
To put it bluntly, though, Stacee Jaxx is just plain unlikeable in this version.

We also have a few additional characters. In place of the mayor and his wife, we have a  German real estate developer and his son, Franz, threatening to tear the place down [and almost succeed... all the mayor's wife did was picket and claim with her followers that rock music is filth]. The Bourbon Room is also gifted with an additional defender in this version: a Berkeley student named Regina.

Likes and Differences

I guess in deciding between both versions, you can have to decide what you'd rather vie for. Do you prefer Stacee Jaxx being a dirt bag or being insanely deep?
Or would you prefer Sherry and Drew to have more character development and believability?

Because I feel like that was the big difference between the two.
Stacee Jaxx is explored so much in the movie and takes up so much screen time that we don't get as much time to focus on the love story. As a result, the love story falls victim to countless clich├ęs.

To name a few:
1) he's the first guy she meets when she comes to LA
2) he gets her a job at the Bourbon Room where he also works
3) they fall in love almost immediately and get a montage dedicated to their puppy love
4) [the biggest one] the most random details lead to them breaking up

Julianne Hough was really good in "Footloose," but I really didn't like her in this movie. Her dialogue delivery was weak on so many points and the script doesn't exactly allow her to make a strong impression. [Sherry had much better writing in the stage show].

"Hit me with your best shot" [when it comes to Pat Benatar, give me "Heartbreaker" and "Love is a Battlefield" any day] also benefitted from the on-stage treatment. Granted, both versions of this number are very goofy and it's all about personal preference.
In the movie, the mayor's wife and her followers do the stupidest choreography through a series of church pews.
In the play, Franz is singing this song to his father when he decides to go against him... for me, it was hilarious in the best possible way because the villain needs to be taken down a peg. It also helped foster what seemed to be the most obvious allusion-- but apparently, according to Franz, he's not gay, he's German. [Also loved the dorky moment where he forced a "Rock me Amadeus" reference].

His father's comeuppance is also pretty sweet. He gets drunk after his son abandons him and he starts singing an REO Speedwagon song "Keep on lovin' you" and the band refused to back him on it. [Whenever they were acknowledged by the cast members, the crowd cheered]

Another huge difference is the character, Lenny. He's played by Russell Brand in the movie, but in the stage show, he had more to do than just trying to figure out why the major's wife looked so far familiar... he also wears the narrator hat and breaks the fourth wall. Especially hilarious when he reads the script to Drew, explaining the whole "friend zone" thing.

"Oh Sherri" also gets a bigger part on stage. We just hear the opening bars played in one scene. You would think with one of the main characters having that name that they'd do more than that. But Drew has an epic moment where he's running in place to get to Sherri, singing this song, and he's joined by a bunch of random cast members (and our cruise director, Julie). Then he gets to Sherri, out of breath, he exhales "Hold on..." before she can get a word in.

Final Comments

Too bad the writing of Drew and Sherri wasn't as good in the movie... otherwise, the movie would have won hands down.
I still feel like the movie is the best version (mainly because I love Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx and hate that the character was kind of an antagonist in the original stage show), but the show has its positives as well.

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