The hit Broadway show, Rock of Ages, has been running for over two years, and is poised to run for several more as it moves into its new home at the legendary Helen Hayes Theatre on 44th Street in Manhattan. The story, which is a comedy about an aspiring singer who moves to L.A. in the ‘80s, his aspiring actress love interest and the fight against the evil real estate developer who wants to tear down the Sunset Strip to build condominiums, makes it appealing to even those that aren’t drawn in by the soundtrack of music from the era, which features songs by Journey, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Styx, Poison and others.
The original cast included Constantine Maroulis from American Idol, who left to join the touring company. Last fall, the cast was joined for a 10-week run by Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider, who played Dennis, the club owner of the Bourbon Room, where most of the show takes place.
“I’d love to say there was some moment, a moment where one of the producers or director had a stroke of genius,” laughs Dee. “But it started with me going to see the off-Broadway production. I turned to my wife and said, ‘I can do that role; I would like to do that role.’ I spoke with my manager and he got in touch with those people. But they have this hierarchy, like 375 producers, and it took two or three years to finally come together.”
The regular cast member, Adam Dannheisser, played the part to perfection, so Dee had to really nail it to live up to expectations. Other than some high school and college productions, Dee had no acting experience, so he had to draw from his days playing clubs and dealing with club owners to relate to part he was going to play.
Dee’s performances lived up to his notoriety, as his charisma took over when he hit the stage. “I think that I have a natural ability to do this, or I developed it over the years, and I have created timing and those things. It’s much harder than I imagined—a Broadway show. The performing, the scripting is much more than dialogue. The choreography, everything is scripted, every move is blocked out. There are so many more layers to it. It was much harder than I expected. I steeled myself for the challenge. The difference between performing with a band and performing on Broadway is that rock and roll was all at an audience, and directly feeding off an audience, and in the show you’re literally facing sideways and you don’t react to them, you have to fight the feeling of feeding off them, and it really hit me when I got off that stage. The whole energy direction is very different.”
One of the ironic things of Dee performing in the show was the fact that he didn’t sing on the two Twisted Sister songs that are included. “Yeah, you know ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It‘ and ‘I Wanna Rock’ are the biggest songs of a Twisted Sister show, so to not perform those songs was definitely surreal,” he relates. “I had to adjust for a long time. I was joking that now when I’m playing with Twisted, and they go into ‘Not Gonna Take It,’ I’ll just stand there.”
While Dee is open to a return engagement, the show is now reopening with its regular cast, which includes stellar Broadway actors and musicians from bands like Night Ranger, Blondie, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and The Orion Experience. While the occasional guest star gracing the stage adds to the excitement, the show definitely stands on its own and is a must-see for fans of either classic ‘80s music or Broadway musicals in general. It really paved the way for other rock-based shows that have followed in its wake.
“I definitely want to do it again,” Dee says. “I don’t know that I could commit to doing a show for the long term. The producers want to possibly bring me back, and have me go out on the road. They are talking about Australia, Las Vegas and they’re going to do it in London. There were things that were tough for me, like the schedule. It reminds me of touring, in that it totally eats up your life. But I enjoy the camaraderie, the pageantry, the whole machine; the signing in, the getting ready to go on. It’s got magic—a very different magic than rock and roll. I loved it. I wasn’t tired of it. I wasn’t tired of it at all. I really enjoyed it; it was one of the great things in my life. I would absolutely do it again under the right circumstances.”
Dee has a number of other projects in the works, as well as Twisted Sister’s touring schedule. “I’m just about to finish a book deal to do my memoirs, volume one, since I’m not done yet,” he laughs. “But I have a lot of stories to tell. And I’m just about to sign a deal, a record called Dee Does Broadway. Interestingly, the idea started before I did Broadway. The idea came from Alice Cooper and me. We were trading phone calls, leaving messages and we started singing show tunes to each other. A lot of rockers have done Broadway; Sebastian [Bach], Alice, AC/DC has written a musical. I said we should do a rock version of show tunes. Alice and me did a duet of ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight.’ It starts with full Broadway instrumentation, then just kicks in full on. Alice was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this.’ Then I started doing Broadway, and I became more enamored with the whole idea. What I want to do is bridge the two. I‘m hoping to get some Broadway singers to do it with me, and get some rock singers to do it, and bridge the two.”
Rock of Ages is running eight times a week at the Helen Hayes Theater, with a wide range of ticket prices and show times. Check out rockofagesmusical.com for more information.