Review: Bigger 'Rock of Ages' still charms

By Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Nov 04 2014 11:04 PM | Updated as of Nov 05 2014 07:04 AM

MiG Ayesa returns as Stacee Jaxx in another run of "Rock of Ages." Photo from the Facebook page of ATEG

MANILA – For a third and “final” time, Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group is bringing back its hit production of the popular Broadway musical “Rock of Ages,” which the theater company staged in 2012 and 2013.

This time, the ‘80s-themed jukebox musical, which was turned into a movie starring Tom Cruise, has been moved to the much bigger Meralco Theater from the more intimate Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza in Makati City.

But this is no arena version of the hit musical, although the cast certainly has a much larger stage to work with. Director Chari Arespacochaga stayed with the original set design for RCBC of building facades of LA’s famed Sunset Strip, including the numerous bras of various sizes and colors filling up the proscenium.

She also kept the cast lean and mean, including the chorus, whose members had to take on multiple roles in the musical.

But the shift to a bigger venue did not dilute the riotous onstage fun, which hooked audiences in its first two runs. However, the lights could have been more spectacular and the sound design more intense to rock out the larger venue, particularly during the more concert-like production numbers.

Two years after its June 2012 Manila debut, the original Atlantis actors kept their energy intact. MiG Ayesa as the rock god Stacee Jaxx radiated onstage like the true global star that he is, effortlessly playing with his character and mixing well with the other cast members.

Nyoy Volante in the lead role of the aspiring rocker Drew has even improved vocally, showing off confident intensity in his high registers and screams, while Jinky Llamanzares, who sings the popular "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" in the musical, was effortless.

KLa Rivera joins the cast as the female lead Sherrie, an aspiring actress who ends up as a stripper, which was originally played by pop singer Vina Morales. Rivera nails the character’s small-town innocence and even shows off a wide vocal range but Morales brought a certain star power that was just difficult to match. When Morales stripped down to her two-piece stripper bikini, there was an audible collective gasp from the smitten RCBC crowd.

The new run was also sorely missing the stage shenanigans of Aiza Seguerra, whose role of hippie activist chick Regina is now played by Thea Tadiar Everley. Seguerra was the scene stealer in the first two runs, particularly when she came out onstage in a bikini bottom and fishnet stockings.

But the real charm of “Rock of Ages” has always been its greatest-hits repertoire of the best rock anthems of the 1980s such as "We Built This City," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

When the cast gathers for the finale, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” it’s difficult not to get caught up in this campy and nostalgic trip, such that the Meralco audience still gave this well-oiled ensemble a standing ovation last Saturday night.

Read our original review of the 2012 run of “Rock of Ages” here.

“Rock of Ages” runs every day until November 9 at the Meralco Theater with two shows on November 8 and 9.