The plot of “Rock of Ages” may be light, but the show makes up for that with an abundance of beloved ‘80s tunes. The musical, debuting shortly in Atlanta with gay-friendly “American Idol” contestant Constantine Maroulis, also has a notable gay moment in its second act.
In a legendary rock club in Los Angeles, circa 1987, small-town girl Sherrie falls for Drew (Maroulis), a young busboy with dreams of being a rocker. As local developers convince the mayor to make the area a wholesome environment and get rid of sex, drugs and rock and roll, the club owner coaxes a legendary band to play their final gig there. Along the way, there is plenty of music from the likes of Def Leppard, Styx, Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon and more to move its story along.
Maroulis thinks “Rock of Ages” is similar in tone to American musicals of the ‘30s.
“It has its cliches but a lot of people love it,” he says.
He admits some have labelled it as strictly an ‘80s period piece, but others have been surprised at the artistic merit and energy in the show. What started as an off-Broadway run in 2008 lead to Broadway the following year where it was nominated for a Best Musical Tony. Maroulis was also nominated for Lead Actor in a Musical, which surprised some.
In the production, two of the male characters express their surprise feelings towards each other with a particularly memorable ‘80s number. It is played for laughs but the character’s emotions are real.
Hence, Maroulis doesn’t like it to be dismissed solely as the gay moment of the show.
“It is funny, but honest — these two men love each other,” he says.
As part of the creative team behind “Rock of Ages” almost from the beginning of it’s New York run, Maroulis is very passionate about the show and has embraced the first national tour. A second tour — a non-Equity one — will begin in August and will be without him and many long-time others. While Maroulis is melancholy about the end of the tour for him, he is ready to move on to future projects.
Maroulis grew up in the theater and has always had gay friends and colleagues.
“It’s never been something I’ve ever had to think about,” he says. “It’s great [these days] to meet gay fans who like my work.”
His “Rock of Ages” gig is not the first time he’s performed in Atlanta. He played Roger in the 2003 national touring version of “Rent.” That was literally before his life changed when he auditioned for “American Idol” and made the final 12 of season four, eventually finishing that season in sixth place.
Although Maroulis will not play the role of Drew in the film version of “Rock of Ages” producers have talked to him about another role. The movie will be directed by openly gay Adam Shankman.
Top photo: ‘American Idol’ finalist Constantine Maroulis revisits the ‘80s in ‘Rock of Ages,’ which also features a notable gay moment. (courtesy ‘Rock of Ages’)