radio, or on a barroom jukebox. Most traditional musicals build the songs into the stories as a unified whole. A jukebox musical lets the songs themselves suggest the storyline, the characters, and the tone.
It’s basically building a musical in reverse.
Nice Work if You Can Get It, built around classic 20s and 30s songs by George and Ira Gershwin, is pleasant, classy, solidly performed, and light-as-a-feather. Written by Joe DiPietro, seems to evaporate almost as soon as its over, along with the majority of its pleasing but strangely unmemorable tunes, the two or three exceptions including ‘Someone to Watch Over Me,’ ‘S’wonderful,’ and ‘Fascinating Rhythm.’
The plot, about a Prohibition era playboy, falling in love with a sweet bootlegger on the eve of his marriage to a famous dancer, is slight and silly, but crammed with old-fashioned, simplistic charm.
The performances are lively, if mostly just skimming the surface, and the dancing, from swing moves to ecstatic tap numbers, is frequently breathtaking.
Rock of Ages—constructed from hard-rocking, face-melting, pop-rock-and-metal tunes from the garish 1980s—is coarse, crude, exuberant, and sprinkled with sleazy Sunset Strip darkness and danger.
Created by Chris D’Arienzo Rock of Ages employs songs by Journey, Van Halen, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Starship and others in telling the story of Drew, a wannabe rocker stuck cleaning the bar at an L.A. music club, and Sherrie, the aspiring actress he falls hard for. That Drew will eventually break into a rendition of Steve Perry’s ‘Oh Sherrie’ is inevitable from the moment he first hears her name. While both working at the a legendary rock venue called The Bourbon Room, their budding romance is derailed by the arrival of Stacee Jaxx, the amoral lead singer of a band called Arsenal.
A subplot involves a plot by German developers to raze the Bourbon Room to make way for chain stores, galvanizing the club’s supporters into various forms of protest, including repeated group performances of Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re Not Going to Take It.’
As written, it’s a bit of a hot mess, with a fair share of gleefully offensive moments and one potentially moving scene marred by the actors’ use of distasteful stereotypes. But overall, Rock of Ages is infectiously pleasurable, with loads of high energy, a kind of gritty youthful innocence, and tunes written to stick in your brain for days.
‘Rock of Ages’ runs through August 11, and ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ runs through August 13. Visit www.summerrep.com