Hip Shot: Rock Bottom [A Rock Opus]
Wednesday, July 16 at 6:15 p.m.
Friday, July 18 at 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 26 at 8:00 p.m.
They say: Rock Bottom [A Rock Opus], based on Michael Shilling's novel, tells the tale of the final days of a rock band as it crashes and burns. From the producers of DIAMOND DEAD, 2008 Best Musical Pick of the Fringe.
Jonelle’s take: Amsterdam. 2007. The once promising band Blood Orphans is performing what is sure to be their last gig for some angry Dutch people. In Rock Bottom [A Rock Opus] everything falls apart, but writers Andrew Lloyd Baughman and Michael Shilling build a clear world of disappointment, seedy sex, and rock. Though it’s easy for a rock musical about the trappings of fame to lean on rock star caricatures, Baughman and Shilling craft characters that are simultaneously big and believable.
They make a terrible band, but the lineup of Blood Orphans put in some great performances: Tom Jackson as Bobby, the obnoxious, but well-meaning bassist with a skin condition; Marshall Stone as Adam, a truly gifted musician and total space cadet; and Rob Bradley as Shane, the born-again Christian singer who’s been born again as a Buddhist. Contrary to every rock narrative, probably ever, the drummer is the one who really blows everyone off the stage in this show. Greg Bowen’s privileged rich kid gone punk, Darlo, is complex, charming, despicable, and relatable.
Apart from Devin Gaither’s feisty Joey, Rock Bottom’s women do not make as impressive a showing. They are done no favors by their more thinly drawn roles as groupies, whores, or motherly Madonnas. Luckily, that is the only pitfall of a classic rock and roll narrative that the play falls into.
Baughman’s music will be a welcome nostalgia rush for most audience members, evoking late 80s hair metal, the operatic vocals of Repo! The Genetic Opera, and the mid-2000s revival of 90s alt-rock. Bradley has an exceptional belt voice that reminds of Whitesnake’s David Coverdale and Bowen’s powerful vibrato immediately recalls Ian Astbury of The Cult.
By show’s end, the audience will be asked to get up and join the actors as an in-play audience for Blood Orphan’s last show. If you should find yourself in the Warehouse for the next performance of Rock Bottom, release your inhibitions and dance. You could crash and burn any day now, so it may be your last chance to rock.
See it if: Velvet Revolver and VH1’s Behind the Music fill you with wistful nostalgia.
Skip it if: You still can’t get the taste of Aqua Net out of your mouth.
Disclosure: The author of this post in the playwright of the Capital Fringe show TAME.