Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is the Artistic Director and Choreographer of DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble.
Rock of Ages, part of the Lexus Broadway Series, began with a whole of lot of leather, glitter and strippers. Oh well, it is the 80s, and anything goes. Wait, it was just the ‘80s for a night. I’m still in a glitter daze.
Rock of Ages opened Tuesday at the AT&T Performing Arts Center to a standing ovation and chattering of people wanting to return. Now, I could sit here and rave about the show, but it’s already known that it rocks. It’s been staged in Los Angeles, Off-Broadway, Broadway, Toronto, London and Australia, toured the U.S. twice, and is being made into a film. It consists of some of the most rad classic rock songs of the ’80s and was nominated for five Tony Awards. Better yet, in 2009 the cast set a Guinness World Record for the Largest Air Guitar Ensemble. Now that’s rock ’n’ roll.
But what’s just cool about the show is that it feels good. You walk in and are handed an LED lighter, the house is filled with purple light and haze and Whitesnake is blaring from the speakers. It’s 1987, and “Here I Go Again” is the anthem of the year. Everyone wants their MTV.
The ‘80s marked a change in American society. We had a thriving economy. We spent our money, entertained ourselves and fully realized our consumer culture. We said goodbye to the folk-era of music and embraced the glamorous images of Madonna and Michael Jackson, while hip-hop emerged as a musical genre. Most of all, video came and killed the radio star. We tuned in and turned on the lifestyles of the rich and famous portrayed realistically and unrealistically on our TVs. MTV was No. 1; Dallas, Dynasty, Magnum P.I. (can you say mustache?) and Miami Vice controlled our fashion senses. The movies gave us the progenitors of the some of the greatest film series of all time: The Terminator (1984), Lethal Weapon (1987), Die Hard (1988) Ghostbusters (1984) plus the meat of the Star Wars series.
The ‘80s fondly represents a time of decadence; things were simpler then. And sometimes it’s nice to escape back to the days of Poison and Bret Michaels, to Bon Jovi, Duran Duran and Rick Astley, and the best group karaoke songs of Journey and Styx. Rock of Ages let’s us do that. It takes what could be ultimately un-cool and allows it to shine, showing us that the underdog really can win (and get the girl).
At the foundation of the musical is the story of Drew, an implant from Detroit who wants to rock, and Sherrie, a small town girl with big dreams. Yes, it’s a love story, but it represents more that just that. It shows their individual journeys to discovering what they want out of life.
But putting the love aside, Drew’s story is particularly interesting (at least for this writer). Drew is a shy, nervous boy trying to find his place in Los Angeles and in music. He doesn’t quite fit in and struggles with his identity. Should he stay true to his rocker dreams or go along with his producer’s boy band ideas?
The identity crisis that Drew goes through is something that everyone can relate to and has probably dealt with at some point in their life. It can be difficult to fight for your dreams. To be an individual—to be the only person you know like yourself. For a performer, this can be extremely difficult. You are always looking for someone you can relate to, look up to, someone like yourself already living the dream.
As a performer, this is something that I struggle with. I’m young, an artist and Greek. There’s not that many like me. So when I saw Constantine Maroulis (who plays Drew) on stage singing his heart out, I saw myself.
Maroulis, the grandson of Greek immigrants, was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music and went on to pursue a career in the performing arts. He came into the pop scene as a contestant on American Idol. Though he did not win, he went on to create his own independent label, Sixth Place Records, and released a solo album. It didn’t top the charts, but he did a small tour, got his name back out and onto the lips of industry professionals, and had his rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” included on a Queen tribute CD.
He kept working and auditioning and eventually landed a role on Broadway in the Tony-nominated musical The Wedding Singer. He also starred in the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. He went on to become a series regular on CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful and joined FOX morning show Good Day New York as the show’s resident American Idol expert.
Then, he landed Rock of Ages. His role as Drew garnered him a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, he was fan-selected as broadway.com’s “Broadway Star of the Year” and was nominated for a Drama League Award. He was awarded a Broadway Beacon Award in recognition for his support of theater and arts for young people (he is associated with the non-for-profit education organization Inside Broadway).
But he always finds a way to promote his Greek heritage and the culture. He has been recognized for his outstanding achievements in the Greek-American community in New York and continues to support Hellenism by talking about his culture in almost every interview or article. In fact, I saw him a few years ago at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s Greek Food Festival, where he performed a few songs and mixed and mingled with the crowd.
There aren’t that many Greek-American actors working today. Maroulis fills an important role for that culture (my culture), especially for children, teenagers and young adults. He represents what can come of hard work, and that a Greek can have a place in American entertainment.
Catch Rock of Ages at the AT&T Performing Arts Center now through May 29. It will probably never be cool again to rock a mullet and acid-wash, but the power ballads of the 1980s will live on forever. Get your lighters up.