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This Week on Stage: Hugh Jackman, Glenn Close and 'Side Show' storm Broadway's busiest fall week

This was a theater week of major losses for the stage community (RIP Mike Nichols) and some a bit smaller (the soon to be RIP Rock of Ages on Broadway, which announced a Jan. 18 closing), and the last onslaught of opening nights before the holiday season takes shape. And folks are already casting an eye toward the spring with rumors that the long-delayed Broadway arrival of The Visit starring Chita Rivera might succeed Rock of Ages, which leaves behind a highly desired theater (the Helen Hayes is Broadway’s smallest with only 597 seats). Meanwhile, there’s plenty of fish out there right now for theatergoers; literally, in the case of the week’s leader Hugh Jackman (pictured above) taking pride in gutting an actual fish onstage mere feet in front of you in his new Broadway play The River, which EW has checked out in addition to, among other dignified openings, the star-laden revival of one of Edward Albee’s best works, the glitzy revisal of the beloved 90s musical Side Show, and a super-bloody three-hour-plus Christopher Marlowe revenger (click on the links below for full reviews).


Allegro  Director John Doyle takes a dissective, pruned-down approach to a Rodgers and Hammerstein flop from the 40s (employing his signature cast-as-orchestra style), but the tune here goes occasionally flat. “This update, with its original, copious Agnes DeMille dream ballets excised to reach a fairly tight 90 minutes, will satisfy completist palettes and there’s never any denying Doyle’s arresting choices”, says my review, “but the production doesn’t allow its well-chosen cast much leeway toward etching out anything terribly singular.” EW grade: B-

By the Water  A Staten Island family picks up the pieces-literally-after enduring the hardships of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but this new play fails to say anything new on the harrowing toll it took on NYC. My review states that “the level of Arthur Miller-like anguish that befalls the Murphy [family] is never dramatically satisfying. Instead, you get something much closer in tone to a Very Special Episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.” EW grade: C

A Delicate Balance  Edward Albee’s chilly 1966 Pulitzer winner gets a dream cast in Glenn Close, John Lithgow and Lindsay Duncan, among others. Did EW correspondent Marc Snetiker cozy up to Albee’s parlor family drama? He calls the revival “feisty if occasionally restless” and adds, “on this balanced stage—gorgeously designed by Santo Loquasto—the scales are surely tipped in Close, Lithgow, and Duncan’s direction.” EW grade: B

Our Lady of Kibeho  Rising scribe Katori Hall (The Mountaintop) takes on religious apparitions and three Rwandan girls who lay claim to such, and Thom Geier was made quite a believer by the layered tale. “The playwright has a strikingly earnest approach, and has never been shy about embracing the mystical…even nonbelievers may find it hard to reject the testimony of these real-life characters and their expressions of God’s grace.” EW grade: B+

Punk Rock  Playwright Simon Stephens–enjoying acclaim on Broadway with his adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time–takes on teenage angst and violence in this NYC premiere of his 2009 school-set play. Staff writer Esther Zuckerman was less than Rock-ed, however: “Director Trip Cullman has drawn energetic performances from a bright cast”, she writes, adding, “[the play] is too concerned with artifice to yield a work that truly provokes. Alas, the violent, inevitable conclusion feels both frustratingly obvious and never fully earned.” EW grade: C+

The River  Hugh Jackman makes his fourth pilgrimage to Broadway, this time with a moody chamber piece, about a trout-obsessed fisherman courting young lasses, in Jez Butterworth’s intimate drama. Wolverine delivers the goods, per my review, which proclaims Jackman “finally gets to take a firm bite out of stoicism, and he’s a terrific orator to boot”, with kind words about the production as well, warning that The River won’t suit all tastes: “Butterworth’s perhaps most enigmatic, interpretive work to date; knowing Jackman as well as we do creates an immediate ‘in’ that might have been more work for a lesser known actor.” EW grade: B+

Side Show  The much-adored 1997 cult musical about conjoined sisters/circus entertainers Daisy and Violet Hilton only eked out 91 performances in its initial Broadway run, but proved to live in the hearts of show queens everywhere since. But Melissa Rose Bernardo believed it could have used some more gestation time before revisiting: “If you didn’t see it the first time around, you’re likely to leave asking: what was all the fuss about? Certainly not this leaden, sporadically moving update—which bears little resemblance to the original production.” EW grade: C

Straight White Men  Downtown vet Young Jean Lee takes on a male brood at Christmastime in her typically playful style, and it turns out quite engaging…for a stretch. I write, “The three leads find poignant centers to their antics, but Austin Pendleton is less assured, particularly in the play’s more somber final third…one just wishes the (admittedly clever) creator would have just let the boys be boys.” EW grade: B

Tamburlaine, Parts I and II  How does one take a multi-hour Kit Marlowe play from 1587 and make it palatable to modern audiences? Blood, blood, and more blood, though EW reporter Joe McGovern’s review of this new production at Brooklyn’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center says there’s a lot more to recommend here than mere carnage. “The rewards of this gnarly, muscular production—edited and directed by Michael Boyd and headlined by the monumental John Douglas Thompson—come from the retrofitting of Marlowe’s jumbled text into a dark, cracked fantasy of carnage and revenge.” EW grade: B+

'Rock of Ages' to close on Broadway

The head-bangers are leaving Broadway. Producers of Rock of Ages announced that the production will play its final Broadway performance Jan. 18, 2015.  READ FULL STORY

Alice Cooper thrills 'Rock of Ages' crowd

Shock-rocker Alice Cooper has surprised the audience at Rock of Ages by joining the cast of the West End musical on stage. The 64-year-old delighted spectators in London on Tuesday night by performing his classic hit “School’s Out” to mark the anniversary of the track going to No. 1 in the U.K. charts 40 years ago this week.

Unfortunately for fans of the musical, Cooper’s appearance is a one off.

Rock of Ages, which was recently adapted for the big screen, is about an aspiring rock star and features cover versions by the cast of classic hits from bands such as Bon Jovi, Journey and Poison.

Read more:
Alice Cooper talks about his ‘Dark Shadows’ cameo

'Rock of Ages' poll: Best moment of the movie?

Rock of Ages may not be a hit with critics, or at the box office, but for those of us who sat through the movie — of which Tom Cruise’s performance as sex-dripping rock god Stacee Jaxx is widely recognized as the highlight — what was the best moment? Poll below!  READ FULL STORY

'Rock of Ages': Is Tom Cruise's performance the movie's only redeeming quality?

There’s no way around this fact: Rock of Ages is not a great movie. EW’s movie critic Owen Gleiberman gave the film a C and wrote this in his review: “Most of the numbers in Rock of Ages are flatly shot and choreographed, and they look as if they’d been edited together with a meat cleaver. With rare exceptions, they don’t channel the excitement of the music — they stultify it.” He went on to say that Rock of Ages — which was transferred from its jukebox Broadway origin to the big screen — is “a metal musical with a soft-rock soul, clunkily shot on sets that look like sets.” Harsh.

But Gleiberman also zeroes in on the one part of the movie that feels right: Tom Cruise’s performance as rock God Stacee Jaxx. “In the end, however, there is a reason to see Rock of Ages, and that’s Tom Cruise’s funny, louche performance as Stacee Jaxx, the film’s jaded and dissolute Axl Rose metal-god figure,” Gleiberman writes. “Cruise, holding his pistol-tattooed, zero-body-fat flesh at a drunken 45-degree angle, has the look and the poses down flat, but he also gives Stacee a haunted underside. … Cruise, who can truly sing, does a rendition of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ that rocks it and finds the deep soul of it. At that moment, you can glimpse the movie that Rock of Ages should have been.”

And Gleiberman is right. I was stoked to go see Rock of Ages yesterday afternoon, especially after loving both performances of the Broadway version that I caught. (Maybe it was the free-flowing booze in the theater that made me like the stage version so much?) The cast and the songs had me pumped, too. Even going in with a good attitude couldn’t save the movie that, truly, I thought might join the highfalutin bastion of flicks in my world — Coyote Ugly, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, Jawbreaker, and so on — that I consider deliciously outrageous (each in their own way) and are worth repeated, nearly weekly viewing.

But Gleiberman is also right that Tom Cruise was one of the only redeeming things about the movie. I think the word I would use to describe his performance is dedication. He just seemed into it, if that makes sense — really into the idea of who Stacee Jaxx was and going into that space full force. Cruise was clearly also dedicated to his fitness because, well, he had nice abs that were never covered up while he was on screen.

Who out there saw Rock of Ages? Do you agree that Tom Cruise’s performance was the movie’s only redeeming quality?

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Read more:
‘Rock of Ages’ review
‘Rock of Ages’: Step and Repeat!
‘Rock of Ages’: Alec Baldwin’s hair-raising transformation
‘Rock of Ages’ trailer: Tom Cruise sings! Plus: Director Adam Shankman on the film’s ‘biggest lie’
‘Rock of Ages’ new trailer: So cheesy it’s awesome?
Tom Cruise in ‘Rock of Ages’ — FIRST PHOTO

PopWatch Planner: Dog days of summer TV? No way! 'True Blood', 'Suits' return, plus Usher's new album and more

It’s already June — and high time to figure out your summer jam — so it’s a good thing Usher’s new record is out this week, ready to be blasted at barbeques and in the carpool lane to the beach with the windows down. Plus, while summer TV used to mean reruns and the MTV Beach House, the appearance of great summer programming is just one of the many reasons we’re happy to be living in America today. This week a bunch of favorite shows kick off their new seasons, while another comes to an end. Sunday is a DVR-filled competition, with the premiere of True Blood, the Mad Men season finale, and the Tony Awards – how to choose?! The week fills out with new music, a rockin’ movie premiere, and some fun ideas for dad’s special day. Have a great week!

The Tony Awards, CBS, 8 p.m.
True Blood, HBO, 9 p.m.
Mad Men, AMC, 10 p.m.

There’s too much happening Sunday night to choose just one thing to watch. I’ll be liveblogging the Tony Awards, Broadway’s biggest night, along with Thom Geier, starting at 7:45 p.m. ET, so come back to EW.com later today and check it out. While you’re planning your Sunday TV, make sure the DVR is set for True Blood’s return on HBO and the Mad Men season finale on AMC.  READ FULL STORY

'Playboy' interview: How Tom Cruise tuned up for 'Rock of Ages'

Tom Cruise has done it all: Danced in his underwear, flew a jet plane, suffered a PR meltdown, and scaled the tallest building in the world. But there’s one mission he’s yet to complete: Singing seriously on film. (Bar-room bet serenades don’t count.)

That all changes with June’s Rock of Ages where he’ll play Stacee Jaxx, a rock star that belts out classic ’80s hair metal such as “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (Listen here). The actor talked with Playboy about the role, a new start, and singing for Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott. Some of the juiciest excerpts are below:


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