No one could have expected a rock musical stuffed with ‘80s-era glam metal and pop anthems — some of them glorious in their cheesiness — to play more than 2,300 shows on Broadway and spawn replicas from Melbourne to Manila to, naturally, Las Vegas.
But a decade after it debuted off-Broadway and nearly three years after the final lighter was lofted at its Tony-nominated Broadway run, “Rock of Ages” is still thundering into theaters worldwide.
Who knew that a show named after a Def Leppard song (which, oddly, doesn’t appear in the musical) and boasting singalongs from Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, Joan Jett and Twisted Sister would have such everlasting appeal?
“Rock of Ages” returns for an abbreviated run at the Fox Theatre — Thursday and Friday — and this 10th anniversary cast includes Atlanta native Kenya Hamilton in the dual roles of “gentleman’s club” owner Justice Charlier and the mother of Sherrie Christian, the proverbial small-town girl who arrives in Hollywood aching for an acting career.
Hamilton, who attended the defunct Avondale High School and worked for years with the Aurora Theatre Company (“Christmas Canteen”), the Alliance Theatre (“A Christmas Carol”) and Atlanta Lyric Theatre (“Rent”), was well-prepared for her roles in “Rock of Ages.”
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About six years ago, she moved to New York for more significant audition access, but in 2017 she joined the Lake Dillon Theatre Company in Colorado. Roles there in “Sister Act” and “Ghost” preceded a fortuitous monthlong run in June as … Justice and Sherrie’s mom in the Colorado company’s production of “Rock of Ages.”
“I had already auditioned for the (“ROA”) tour and then heard I had gotten the role in Colorado, and about a week later, that I got the tour,” Hamilton said from her mother’s home in Marietta during a holiday break from the show. “The timing worked out perfectly and gave me a trial run.”
During our chat, Hamilton talked about the enduring appeal of “Rock of Ages” and how fans might be surprised at how well they know the music.
Q: This is the kind of show that seemed like a cute novelty, yet here it is a decade later. What do you think is its main appeal?
A: I think it’s the music. I can remember sitting in the rehearsals and everyone in this cast — even if you weren’t a product of the ‘80s — you’ve definitely heard these songs from movies or in a store while shopping. And maybe you don’t know every lyric, but you know these songs.
Q: You were barely old enough to know these songs when they came out.
A: But even before I did the show, I knew (the songs). Like, “Ohh, (that artist) did that (song), too?” We’ve done so much research on the bands and period. There’s a point where Justice is sitting on one of the road boxes and smoking a cigarette and I literally have an opportunity to sit and look out at the house and think about how grateful I am to be sitting there.
Q: You must have some fervent ‘80s fans in the crowd.
A: Oh, it’s great. Some people come in costume. In one point during “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” some people have their phones out. It’s literally like being at a rock concert.
Q: You’re doing a lot of one- and two-night stands, which is different than the usual schedule of six days in a city. How do you feel about being on the road so much? It’s kind of like being a rock star!
A: (Laughs) Maybe not, as sober as we are on our tour bus, but it literally feels like we’re on a (rock tour). Some days we might arrive in a city late afternoon, do a show that evening and leave right after. This is my first tour, so it’s hard. Everything I’ve done has been regional sit-downs for a week. You have to take care of your health.
Q: Are you busing or flying?
A: We fly to certain cities, but for the most part we’ve been on the tour bus. Only the cast is on the bus, about 17 or 18 of us and our wig supervisor, our merchandiser, our stage manager.
Q: All on the same bus?
A: Yes! We don’t have to sleep on the bus, though. I love to read, so I have my iPad to watch movies or just looking (at the scenery) with music in my ears. It’s just beautiful to see the whole country. I can’t believe I get to do this sometimes.
Q: Since your previous work was regional theater, I would guess it will be exciting to play the Fox.
A: I’ll take two days at the Fox! I actually played there many, many years ago in a production — “Godspell” in high school. I can remember going into that theater in awe. I saw a lot of shows there — “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Jekyll and Hyde.”
Q: If there still are “Rock of Ages” newbies out there, what would you tell them about the show?
A: It’s high-energy and everyone is so supertalented. Our band is amazing; they are so great and get to be on stage with us. I just appreciate the music so much.
“Rock of Ages”
8 p.m. Thursday-Friday. $30.25-$105.25. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499, www.foxtheatre.org.