Audiences around the world are about to experience the wild ways of Broadway's Rock of Ages as the Tony-nominated musical's film adaptation hits the big screen on June 15. A slew of stars donned '80s finery in this ensemble comedy directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray). Rock of Ages centers on Los Angeles-based musician Drew (Diego Bonita), who sparks a romance with innocent Sherrie (Julianne Hough), his co-worker at the Sunset Strip's Bourbon Room. Meanwhile, their idol, rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), is headed to town to headline a show that just may rescue the iconic bar. Broadway.com caught a sneak preview screening of the movie and couldn't help noticing a few differences between the stage production and film. Below, we scope out changes, preview favorite bits, weigh in on the performers and more.
What’s New: Several new characters have been added to the movie: Tony winner Catherine Zeta-Jones channels Tipper Gore as an anti-rock music crusader and the wife of the mayor of Los Angeles (Bryan Cranston). Paul Giamatti sports a grimy ponytail in the expanded role as Stacee Jaxx’s greedy manager, who becomes interested in Drew’s budding career. Malin Ackermann shows up as a Rolling Stone reporter ready to expose the truth about Stacee, but finds it hard to resist his magnetic sexual energy. Jaxx also has an alcohol-swigging pet/best friend baboon named Hey Man, who really should be incorporated to the Broadway production from here on out!
What’s Out: Many of Rock of Ages' original characters have been cut or transformed for the film. Cranston and Zeta-Jones function similarly to the German businessman Hertz, who in the stage version hopes to turn the Sunset Strip into a shopping mall. Bartender Lonny (Russell Brand) briefly takes on the activist duties of the stage show's hippie protestor Regina and Hertz’s flamboyant son, Franz. Also on the cutting room floor: songs like “Oh, Sherrie” and "To Be With You." The romantic triangle of Drew, Sherrie and Stacee takes a different turn in the film than on Broadway.
What’s Left: Fear not, Rock of Ages fans, there are plenty of '80s tracks blaring from the Bourbon Room stage, including “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” When Sherrie's luck takes a turn for the worse, she still takes a job at a strip club, and sparks still fly between Bourbon Room owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and his devoted bartender, Lonny. Deep down, the movie is still very much a story about aspiring musicians trying to achieve their dreams in the excessive days of '80s rock.
Clever Cameos: A slew of recognizable faces pop up in the film. Constantine Maroulis, a Tony nominee for playing Drew onstage, briefly appears as a sleazy music executive, while '80s musicians-turned-Broadway performers Sebastian Bach (Jekyll & Hyde) and Debbie Gibson (Cabaret) can be spotted as extras in a protest scene. Dancing with the Stars’ Derek Hough pulls up a chair in the strip club scene alongside his real life sister, Julianne. Rock of Ages guitarist Joel Hoekstra and show producer Barry Habib also make appearances.
So, How Is Tom Cruise? Good! The Oscar nominee may not have the powerhouse pipes of some of his stage predecessors, but there’s no question he’s committed to Jaxx’s edginess as he drowns himself in whiskey, plays tonsil hockey with admiring female fans and dons some ridiculous underwear, complete with lavishly decorated crotch coverings. The 49 year-old movie star is still in fantastic shape as he goes shirtless (sporting plenty of tattoos) for just about the entire film.
…And the Rest of the Cast? Diego Boneta, 21, brings a charming, doe-eyed eagerness to aspiring musician Drew. As strip club owner Justice, Mary J. Blige doesn’t sport the dreadlocks of Michelle Mais, but she channels the actress’ look and delivers the best vocals of the group. Alec Baldwin mumbles through his few musical moments, but offers up plenty of laughs as bar owner Dennis. Zeta-Jones is in full scenery chewing mode, but hey, that’s kind of the point of the character, and Rock of Ages has never been one for subtlety. As Sherrie, Julianne Hough is sweet, but is there a reason this two-time Dancing with the Stars champ never shows off her best moves?
Film Highlight: When Drew gets a crack at a big recording contract, his label suddenly wants to shift his image away from hardcore rocker to edgy boy band member. While there’s a brief bit about Drew’s heinous new boy band wardrobe in the stage version, the movie expands the idea and features a hilariously cheesy music video and fashions that would make any 12 year-old girl (living in 1987, at least) melt. Honorable mention: The many-changing wigs and costumes of Mary J. Blige and the gravity-defying stripper pole choreography from Mia Michaels (So You Think You Can Dance) in "Any Way You Want It."
Verdict: The film could use a bit more of the musical's tongue-in-cheek humor, but overall it’s still a fun time. Check it out, then visit the original Rock of Ages, currently running at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre.