With its running homophobic and transphobic gags, not to mention its treatment of women, ‘Rock of Ages’ belongs in the musical sin bin, says David Mullane.
Some would say that Rock of Ages is a guilty pleasure, but to my mind the only people who should feel guilty are its producers. You can set a show 30 years in the past without setting societal progression back 30 years too.
To begin with, Rock of Ages is not a good musical. It’s lazy, unambitious production, with humour one-tenth as sophisticated as Two and a Half Men, and choreography that charitably be described as variations on the ‘air guitar’ move.
As jukebox musicals go, its song selection is pleasing and the cast can convincingly belt out the most powerful of power ballads, but the sound mix is so muddled that, at times, you cannot hear the vocals over the guitars and, at other times, you’re deafened by falsetto screams.
However, the most disagreeable feature of this show is its offensive representations of women, gay men and transgender people.
The female lead’s dreams of making it big in Hollywood fall apart, so she becomes a stripper. There are a number of scenes set in a strip club where the female company of dancers are dressed as realistic strippers and perform various strip moves and ‘sex choreography’ (the ‘wipe and lick-out’ move was particularly distasteful). Suffice it to say, Rock of Ages does not pass the Bechdel Test.
The two longest running jokes in the show are homophobic: an effeminate German character is mistaken as gay and two best friends frequently flirt with the seemingly hilarious idea that they might be sexually attracted to each other. When homosexuality is the butt of every joke and when you’re sitting in the massive Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and the audience is laughing along, it might give you cause to worry about the outcome of the upcoming marriage equality referendum.
There are also two jokes about a ‘tranny stripper’, which went down just as well as all the gay jokes. When you add up all these offenses, this reviewer cannot understand how any woman, parent, gay person, transgendered person or any of these groupings’ family and friends would want to see a musical which not only gives musical theatre a bad name but denigrates swathes of its audience demographics.
Rock of Ages runs at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until September 20, booking here.
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