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5 Reasons ‘Rock of Ages’ At Rio Las Vegas Really Does Rock

Last updated: March 16, 2016 at 9:21 am. Posted by in Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Shows, Rio Las Vegas, Things to Do in Las Vegas. Comments Off on 5 Reasons ‘Rock of Ages’ At Rio Las Vegas Really Does Rock.

Hair metal fans, raise your devil’s horns, because we can verify: “Rock of Ages” has landed successfully on its studded boot heels at its new home inside Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. The recently re-dubbed Rock of Ages Theater is the perfect venue for this jukebox musical about a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world, who meets a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit, both livin’ just to find emotion. We think it’s still one of the best shows in Las Vegas, but if you still need convincing, here are five reasons the Vegas production of “Rock of Ages” truly does rock:

1. You Know Every Song

Drew In The Las Vegas Show Rock Of Ages At Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

Rumor has it that heaven isn’t too far away. In fact, we’re closer to it every day.

Even if you didn’t come of age during the heyday of hair metal, you probably know most of the songs featured in “Rock of Ages” from their appearances in film, TV, commercials and other media for the last several decades. We dare you not to sing, clap or dance along to the cast’s takes on such iconic ’80s hits as Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

2. Lonny is a force of nature

Dennis And Lonny In The Las Vegas Show Rock Of Ages At Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

Bromance powers activate!

Most of the characters in “Rock of Ages” are lovable, and even when they’re not (ahem, Stacee Jaxx), they’re still entertaining as all get out. But Lonny Barnett, the Bourbon Room manager and show narrator, is perhaps the apex of all that is good and rockin’ about this Broadway hit. Although originated in Hollywood by The Dan Band founder Dan Finnerty (and played by Russell Brand in the 2012 film adaptation), we think no one quite embodies the role like Mark Shunock in the Las Vegas show. The Canadian actor (and former professional hockey player) has a sense of comedic timing that is rivaled only by his deceivingly strong singing voice. Even in a mullet wig, it’s hard to tell where the actor ends and Lonny begins, as his improvisations throughout any given performance are so much a part of the character—and the source of so much laughter.

3. There’s a real, live rock band on stage

Rock Of Ages Las Vegas Show At Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

Spoiler alert: The band doesn’t like Stacee Jaxx very much.

Yeah, lots of Las Vegas shows have live bands, including some of our favorites. But the band in “Rock of Ages” isn’t hidden in the wings or removed from the action. The quintet plays both a role in the show (as Stacee Jaxx’s band, Arsenal) and serves as the on-stage backing band during the entire performance. And it’s not just any band. The Las Vegas production of “Rock of Ages” includes lead guitarist Chris Cicchino (a “Rock of Ages” Broadway veteran who’s played with everyone from Rob Halford to Hootie and the Blowfish), rhythm guitarist Andy Gerold (a former bassist for Marilyn Manson who also was in the North American touring companies of “Rock of Ages”), drummer Alan Childs (another “Rock of Ages” touring vet who’s also banged the skins for David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Julian Lennon), bassist Dan Grennes (an American Music Award winner and rock musical regular), and keyboardist/musical director David Richardson, who also plays in Vegas showroom staple Santa Fe and The Fat City Horns.

4. There is no Fourth Wall

Dennis Dupree In Rock Of Ages Las Vegas Show At Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

Remember that one time Joey Fatone played Dennis? We can’t un-see him now.

It’s not unheard of for Vegas shows to have “interactive” elements that engage the audience, such as performers coming off the stage into the aisles or volunteers being pulled onto the stage. However, for a Broadway musical, “Rock of Ages” is unique in that at least some of its characters (particularly Lonny) not only address the audience directly, but are fully aware that they’re in a stage musical. And because the show’s songs are performed live—not to a prerecorded soundtrack or synced to complex set pieces—there is plenty of room for improvisation, and even for reaction to the crowd. Singing along too loud? The actors will let you know. Not singing loud enough? They’ll let you know. And the intimate nature of the Rock of Ages Theater at the Rio makes the experience all that much more immersive.

5. The show has a real, emotional core

Sherrie And Drew In Rock Of Ages Las Vegas Show At Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

Drew’s denim vest flair game is strong.

In between the bathroom humor, naughty puns and ridiculous hair, “Rock of Ages” does a surprisingly effective job of making audiences care about its characters and their plight. Aside from the headline love story of Drew and Sherrie, there’s the plight of the Bourbon Room to avoid being demolished by German developer Hertz, the yearning for approval by his son Franz, and even the bromance between Lonny and his long-time Bourbon Room partner/boss, Dennis Dupree. Despite the tongue-in-cheek delivery and the tendency to break out into ‘80s rock songs, these characters make you as emotionally invested in their stories as you are musically invested in their awesome tunes.

Photos by Denise Truscello.

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About The Author

Pj Perez is a longtime Las Vegas resident and UNLV graduate who has been writing about his adopted hometown for a variety of travel guides, websites and magazines since the 1990s, which isn't possible, because he's not that old. When not jockeying behind a keyboard, he can be found with a bass guitar in one hand and a gin cocktail in the other.

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