Never mind your taste in classic rock. To me the phrase conjures the '60s British Invasion. But then you can't always get what you want. So when the chance to see Broadway's "Rock of Ages" presented itself, I took the opportunity with a smug sense of a slumming connoisseur.
The glam-metal rock of the 1980s, when MTV was actually about music, doesn't make my personal playlist. But the patina of time -- yes, this rock has aged better than wine coolers -- transforms the trash pop of Journey, Bon Jovi and Styx, et al, into countercultural signposts of the Reagan years.
Long Island is ripe for the first regional reincarnation of this post-hip celebration of what "Rock of Ages" creator Chris D'Arienzo calls "a sexier time" of big hair and big dreams. The Gateway delivers the goods with home-turf charm as if '80s rock were invented here. The musical features songs by artists with local roots: "We're Not Gonna Take It" (Twisted Sister), "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (Pat Benatar).
The reed-thin plot for this jukebox-rock musical, directed by Keith Andrews and featuring Blondie guitarist Tommy Kessler, is the confluence of rocky-road romance and urban-renewal demolition of the Sunset Strip and a rock dive known as The Bourbon Room.
Emily Behny as Sherrie, the Kansas girl in search of Hollywood Oz (think Dorothy with bleach-blond tresses and a micro-miniskirt) meets Drew (Anthony Festa), rock-star wannabe from Detroit. Their love is as inevitable as Steve Perry's "Oh Sherrie." They soar together in song, but when proprietor Dennis (a convincingly wasted Justin Colombo) books Stacee Jaxx for a save-the-Bourbon-Room fundraiser, Sherrie is seduced by his celebrity. True love goes astray in strip-joint and boy-band detours.
Amma Osei as the exotic-dance-club mama tests our eardrums on "Harden My Heart" while Rob Marnell as Stacee purposefully underwhelms (spoiler alert: He's a villainous foil) on "Dead or Alive." As adversaries in the strip-mallization of The Strip, Kelly Felthous, Steve Brady and Michael Lorz bring on the farce. But no one outstrips Genson Blimline of Miller Place, narrator and wink-wink dramaturge, for rock-opera aplomb. He makes sure no one takes anything seriously.
As the Journey finale implores, "Don't Stop Believin'." If you can't rock to Gateway's "Ages," check your pulse.
If you go:
WHAT: "Rock of Ages"
WHEN | WHERE: Wednesday and Friday nights at 8, 2 and 8 p.m. Thursday, 3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, The Gateway, 215 South Country Rd., Bellport
TICKETS: $54-$89; 631-286-1133, gatewayplayhouse.com