John Lamb, Published February 09 2014
'Nothin' But a Good Time': Hard rock musical one for the 'Ages'
Sklar stars in the touring production of the hard rock musical “Rock of Ages,” which hits the stage Tuesday night at the Fargodome.
The show opened in 2006 in Los Angeles, fitting since it follows a motley crew whose lives and loves intersect in 1987 at a Hollywood club called The Bourbon Room. The setting’s name is a nod to the Sunset Strip landmark Whisky a Go-Go, where hair acts like Mötley Cruë and Guns n Roses rose to fame in the 1980s.
The musical – which was also made into a 2012 film starring Tom Cruise – uses hard rock anthems and power ballads from the time to underline stories of the club employees trying to make it both professionally and with each other.
“I love this music. My father grew up on this music, so he passed it on to me when I was born,” says the 25-year-old Sklar. “I can’t listen to the music of my day. There are no more instruments. There’s no more live guitar.”
The singer plays Lonny, a club employee who acts as narrator. It’s a character with whom the actor identifies, though with a heavy-metal band of his own, Exit Existence, he can relate to some of the aspiring musician characters in the play. Just not the egotistical lothario, Stacee Jaxx.
As someone raised on rock and an actor since age 7, Sklar was curious when he heard there was a musical based on ’80s rock.
“To have both of my worlds collide like that, musical theater and rock ‘n’ roll, I was very intrigued,” he says.
Sklar saw the play on Broadway and “immediately fell in love with it.”
He had a couple of other musical roles along the way in “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Pontius Pilate) and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Eddie), but “Rock of Ages” was the show he was born to be in.
Raised on rock, he thanks his parents in the program notes for letting him pursue his dreams. He also thanks “Ronnie James for teaching me what it is to rock.”
The reference, of course, is to the late singer Ronnie James Dio, the iconic singer who mixed mysticism and heavy metal in classics like “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver.”
“He’s my biggest idol. The sad thing is that I only recently found him,” Sklar says, acknowledging that he didn’t hear Dio until college.
“When I started listening to Ronnie, it all started to make sense. The man never hits a sour note. It’s spot on.”
The fact that there’s no Dio in “Rock of Ages” is a bit of an off-note for Sklar.
“I wish any Dio song was in it,” he says, rattling off Dio anthems like “Last in Line,” “We Rock,” “Stand up and Shout.”
“ ‘Rock and Roll Children,’ for me, if the show went a little heavier and didn’t focus so much on the glam rock and the hair bands, would’ve been a great way to open the show,” he says.
The show missed a beat by including a non-Dio nugget, too, he says.
“I wish that The Outfield’s ‘Your Love’ was in the show because that’s one of my favorite songs,” Sklar says.
Still, there are only so many hits from a time period you can pack into a soundtrack. “Ages” rocks out to Poison, White Snake, Twisted Sister, Foreigner, Styx, Pat Benatar and others.
Sklar takes lead on Quiet Riot’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” and Poison’s “Nothin’ But a Good Time.”
The latter is a bit of a dark footnote for the show. Poison performed the tune with the Broadway cast at the 2009 Tony Awards, and after the song finished, the curtain literally came down on singer Bret Michaels, busting his nose and lip and a blow to the head he claims led to a hemorrhage months later. He sued the award show, and a settlement was reached.
Sklar also performs a duet on the REO Speedwagon ballad, “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” though he won’t say with which character.
Then again, those who saw the 2012 screen adaption will know.
Sklar enjoyed the movie, but says, “It doesn’t hold a candle to the show,” because the stage performance is live and has so much more energy.
“There’s a comfort people feel when they hear the music they grew up with, that they love. They can relate to what’s happening onstage because they’ve lived through it,” he says. “These audiences are on their feet because they’re having a good time, that’s what I love to see. When we do ‘Here I go Again,’ the whole audience is standing and clapping and dancing and singing. That proves to me that I’m doing what I want to be doing in life.”
If you go
What: “Rock of Ages”
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Gate City Bank Theatre at the Fargodome
Tickets: Tickets are $26.50, $41.50 and $51.50
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533