Stage vs. Screen: Which 'Rock of Ages' is better?
Of course “Rock of Ages” also is just the latest example of the balance of trade in show business. Countless movies have been used as the source material for stage musicals (this year’s Tony Award-winning “Once” is among the finest of them). Similarly, any number of stage musicals (“Chicago,” “Evita,” “Nine,” “Grease” and the list goes on and on), have been made into movies.
At the moment, Chicago audiences have the rare opportunity to compare and contrast the stage version of “Rock of Ages” (running through Aug. 5 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place) with the widely released film version of the jukebox musical. Despite being a fervent supporter of live theater (though never a fan of “Rock of Ages”), I confess I found the big-screen version the better of the two, even if opening weekend box-office figures (it placed third, well behind “Madagascar 3” and “Prometheus”) were disappointing at $14,437,269.
Director Adam Shankman’s zesty mix of theatrical and cinematic staging, plus a number of goofy star turns, gives the whole thing a delicious, pumped-up edge with far more “personality” than the stage versions I’ve seen. More important, it is the movie’s far better storytelling (yes, it might be rock-bottom basic, but it is better) makes all the difference.
Three writers are credited with the screenplay, including the original stage musical book writer, Chris D’Arienzo, plus Justin Theroux (with Allan Loeb). Either D’Arienzo was urged to throw away the Musicals Writing for Dummies manual he had a character brandish in the show, or his collaborators gave him a crash course in improved plot and character development.
Before going any further, a spoiler alert must be issued. In suggesting some of the differences between stage and screen versions, several of the finer points of the story must be revealed.
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