Get ready to turn the volume up and the inhibitions off this weekend, Des Moines; it’s time to rock.
The raucous, 1980s-era hard rocking and Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” will make a stop at the Des Moines Civic Center March 8–10 as part of its 10th anniversary tour. The jukebox musical brings together some of the best hits of that decade while telling the story of the era’s Aqua Net and spandex-loaded epicenter, the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and the struggle to save one of its iconic musical watering holes, The Bourbon Room. In the midst of the big licks and even bigger hair is a classic boy-meets-girl story with an accompanying soundtrack of music from Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Journey, Poison, Whitesnake, and a host of other mainstays from the era.
“Nothing But A Good Time” indeed.
Set in 1987, the show tells the story of aspiring musician Drew Boley (Anthony Nuccio) and rock star Stacee Jaxx (Sam Harvey), who join forces to rescue the legendary Sunset Strip music club from demolition. Cast member Chris Renalds plays one of the “bad guys,” German real estate developer Franz Klinemann, who comes to L.A. with his father and their stick-in-the-mud intentions of stripping the Strip of its unique character and turning it into something much more safe — and profitable.
Renalds, a 27-year-old New York City-based actor who grew up in Northern California’s Bay area doing theater with Children’s Musical Theater of San Jose, said that stepping back into an era that ended before he was born was a challenge.
“My parents weren’t huge fans of 80s music,” he said in a phone interview with ListenIowa. “They liked Journey, but they weren’t diehard fans. So I came in not knowing as much as I thought I did. Our production team made this Bible of terms from the ‘80s for us. Like, my character makes a reference to Falco and ‘Rock Me Amadeus,’and I just did not get it. (laughs) It’s been a deep dive into what the time was like.”
Once immersed, however, it didn’t take long for Renalds and his fellow cast mates to understand why the 1980s are beloved by so many. The songs, to this day, remain as memorable as the mullets and button-fly jeans.
“I think what’s great about Rock of Ages are the hits and licks of songs,” he said. “The show opens with a blend of ‘Nothing But A Good Time,’ ‘Just Like Livin’ In Paradise,’ and ‘Cum On Feel The Noize.’ Me, personally, I have no interest in listening to all four minutes of “Cum On Feel The Noize.” I just want to hear the lick. And that’s what so great about “Rock Of Ages;” it’s about the “lick.”
Renalds said when the show hits Des Moines, it will mark the halfway point of what has been a colossal learning experience for both him and the cast.
“We’ve been on the road since October 2018, and it’s my first time doing the show, and it’s also my first time doing a tour, so it’s been a real eye-opener,” he said. “But the people are embracing the nostalgia of the ‘80s. People like to dress up, they like to imbibe as much as possible. The audience is having just as much fun as us. When we see that out there, it just makes us go even harder.”
Being able to go hard means eschewing the offstage excesses that so many Sunset Strip-goers partook of in sometimes legendary portions back in the day. Today, it’s quite different. Quarts of Jack Daniels have been replaced by bottles of Evian water. The all-nighters of yesteryear are a thing of the past.
“I’ve learned that sometimes it’s just best to go to bed,” Renalds said with a laugh. “Sleep is so important. The complete opposite of the ‘80s. But to do the ‘80s justice, one has to take care of themselves. That is so backwards when you think about it.”
Onstage, however, “Rock of Ages” is a non-stop party.
“It’s all the nostalgia and fun of the ‘80s without the hair products,” Renalds said. “People should come ready with a beer in hand, and be ready to sing the music they grew up with with us. I have a blast every night. The music is headbanging fun.”
Friday, March 8 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 9 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 10 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at DMPA.org, the Civic Center Ticket Office, and by phone at 515-246-2300.