It seems like a stretch of the imagination, seeing guys from Journey and Night Ranger on the musical theater stage. But there they were for an instant, helping cast members of “Rock of Ages” revel in the glory of the 1980s during Wednesday’s opening-night curtain call at the Curran Theatre.
The show’s appealing star, Constantine Maroulis of “American Idol” fame, shouted out to the audience to acknowledge the “real” rockers, whose music still sounds good — even in the unlikely form of a hit Broadway jukebox musical on a tour stop in San Francisco.
And the real band at the back of the stage, particularly lead guitarist Chris Cicchino, did a great job capturing the spirit of the material, from power ballads (“Sister Christian,” “I Want to Know What Love Is”) to Twisted Sister classics (“I Wanna Rock,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”)
Still, the Tony-nominated “Rock of Ages,” despite its excellent big hair, Spandex pants and enthusiastic players, doesn’t reach nirvana.
That could be due to the super-thin, mishmash of a story (book by Chris D’Arienzo) about a girl from Kansas who meets a guy from Michigan in a beloved club on L.A’s Sunset Strip that’s about to be demolished by evil German developers.
As strains, not the full song, of Starship’s “We Built This City” kick in, the scene in which the businessmen make a shady deal with the mayor starts deliciously, but sadly, like much of the show, doesn’t build to a satisfying climax.
Both Sherrie (Elicia MacKenzie) and Drew (Maroulis) dream of being stars, and they seem to be on their way, particularly Drew, who gets a coveted spot opening for hair band Arsenal at the soon-to-be defunct Bourbon Room.
Owner Dennis (Nick Cordero) talks Arsenal frontman Stacee Jaxx (Peter Deiwick) into having his group, which recently announced its breakup, play its last gig ever at the venue.
Yet inexplicable conflict transpires as fans try to save the club, Sherrie strays from a prospective acting career into stripping, and Drew winds up first in a boy band, and later, a pizza deliveryman.
The weak story could be forgiven if the gags and setup for the songs were clever throughout, as they are in “Waiting for a Girl Like You” in which Drew and Sherrie drive (the half-car is hilarious) to the Hollywood hills and enjoy a picnic with wine coolers, or in “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” where Dennis and Lonny (Patrick Lewallen), the show’s affable but forced narrator, hook up.
It’s true that “Rock of Ages” has fun moments, era-appropriate costumes (by Gregory Gale) and lively performances by a cast that’s clearly having a good time. Yet placed against classic material of a similar theme — “This Is Spinal Tap” — this rose definitely has its thorn.
Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; plus 7 and 11:59 p.m. April 8; closes April 9
Tickets: $30 to $200
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com