Rock of Ages is my favorite musical. At the time of writing, I saw it 30 times, in four countries and three languages, including Swedish, which I just understand rudimentarily. The more I was looking forward to the 28th September 2019, where the musical came very close to my home town Cologne: the Freilichtbühne Zons, an open air arena in the lovely medieval scenery of Dormagen-Zons hosted the Chris D’Arienzo musical. To make it even more special, a musical school, the Musikschule Mark Koll was performing the show. The reviews of their previous year’s performance was excellent, so I was really curious how close you can get to the amazing UK Tour and Broadway show with young amateurs right after I saw the Women Floorball match between Bonn and the MFBC.
Freilichtbühne Zons – The Venue & Organizer
Zons is a picturesque medieval village close to the River Rhine. Nowadays, it politically belongs to the city of Dormagen, which is some 20 km North of Cologne. The open air space Freilichtbühne Zons is located on the Southwestern edge of Zons and hosts nearly 1,000 spectators. It is a traditional venue for theater plays and concerts in the summer season. There are limited parking spaces around.
The music school driving the event is the Musikschule Mark Koll, located in Kaarst, some 25 km North of Zons. Kaarst is for example home of the DJK Holzbüttgen. They performed the play at the 2018 City Fest in Kaarst already. Due to the good feedback, there was that revival one year later. The ticket prices were 22 Euro. You can find additional information on the music school on their website. The audience was very limited – a key factor was quite heavy rain over most of the day. By coincidence, the music school is sponsor of the DJK Holzbüttgen Floorball, which I visited the day thereafter.
Rock of Ages – The Story & Mark Koll Interpretation
Rock of Ages is a love story with some parallel stories playing in the 1980s. The two main characters are Drew and Sherrie. The play is located in Los Angeles, the Bourbon Room is the key (fictive) location at the Sunset Strip. The club driven by two of the main characters, Dennis and Lonnie, is threatened by German investor Hertz Kleinmann. My posting about the UK Tour and their last year’s appearance in Berlin gives a lot more detail.
Due to various factors – mainly the limited stage and the given structure of the available cast – there were some adoptions to the script. For example, Hertz Kleinmann was a female in the Mark Koll interpretation. There was an additional teased song before Don’t stop believin’, therefore Oh Sherrie just has been teased. The average age of the cast was likely around 18 years. Especially the explicit scenes have been very “neutralized”. It was hard to recognize what the script really intents in the Hollywood Hills scene. There was also no pole dancing. Due to the small stage, the Venus Club, the majors office and some other scenes were moved to a higher stage in the rear of the band. The plays there were difficult to see due to limited light.
Apart from that, the Kaarst actors tried to be very close to the original. The translations of the English words were absolutely fine in practically all of the play. Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties, especially with muting and activating the microphones. Quite often, the microphones were opened too late. There were significantly longer stops of the plays before songs than on the professional stage. Thus, the performance took, including the intermission, some 2:50 hours, which is even a bit longer than the 2018/19 UK Tour did.
Rock of Ages in Zons – My View
I am maybe the most ungrateful reviewer these young people can get for their stage performance. I know the UK Tour script by heart, saw the play so many times, some of the UK actors are somewhat friends to me. Of course, you cannot (and should not compare) a teenager with the Zoe Birkett and her powerful voice – or the dancing skills of fully trained UK or Broadway musical actors (which are, anyway, much better than professional German ones) with amateurs. Despite the terrible weather, which I really felt sorry for the people, who put so much effort in this amazing musical, I had a lot of fun – and I feel that this is the best rating I can give Mark Koll and his young people. I loved the performance, it had power, the actors were enthusiastic and despite the circumstances, they transported most parts of the plot nicely to the people. There were professional performances I enjoyed less, definitely.
Some technical issues
Some songs were actually really really good and as close to the professional stages as they can get. In some situations, technical issues prevented an even more enjoyable night. First of all, there were the sound people, who struggled a lot with selecting the right microphones. The upper stage with the Venus Club was very hard to see (this is why you have very limited pictures from there) – I guess that is just due to the way the stage is there – you could not do anything against it. Similarly, the light was partially not ideal – the roof above the stage was not long enough to give a good angle from above (and there were no spots from the PA area as well) and the very front of the stage got some rain.
But despite all of these details, I have massive respect to Mark Koll and their people bringing that long and comparably complex play on stage, working out so many details and basing them on a very good German script. To me, two actors were outstanding, the roles of Sherrie and Stacee Jaxx. The music school announced that there will likely be another (indoor) performance this year – it is definitely worth watching it – you will have a very enjoyable night!
Rock of Ages in Zons – Picture Gallery
You may see over 500 pictures in major size quality of the musical in the designated picture gallery:
Postings about Concerts
Some postings about concerts I visited:
Germany – More Postings
Here are more postings related to Germany: