Not just in regards of the third day of my time in California, but also for the whole trip following the Pittsburgh Penguins to their West Coast matches in February 2020, visiting the Bourbon Room in the heart of Hollywood was something I was that much looking forward to. The Bourbon Room is not only an ordinary bar, but also a theater, which is majorly designed to play my favorite musical, Rock of Ages, in their premises. Here is my review.
The Bourbon Room – Location & Transport
The Bourbon Room is located at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Avenue. The bar as well as the theater are thereby both located on the second floor of the building, so that you will typically use stairs from the (separate) entrance to reach the bar and venue. Funnily, the Walk of Fame star of Sir Alex Baldwin is more or less right in front of the venue door – the actor played one of the major roles in the movie adaption of the Rock of Ages musical and tried to stand aloof from that after the movie has been published.
In general, traffic and transportation is a difficult thing in Los Angeles. The place is not too far away from a Metro Station, Hollywood / Vine. I am also very sure that if you do L.A. on the very touristic way with some sort of hop-on-hop-off bus, you will stop somewhere near – the big attractions like the Chinese Theater are a ten to fifteen minute walk away from The Bourbon Room. I spent the whole day around Hollywood Boulevard and paid 20 USD from early morning until late night, for parking. Similar to using taxis, Uber or similar services, you will, however, almost for sure run into traffic congestion in that area.
The Bourbon Room – The Bar
When you enter the Bourbon Room, you first enter the bar area, which is just open for a drink and does not require any ticketing. A very lovely designed and cozy place, it has a nice atmosphere – though, according to the words of the musical, it just does not smell like urine, just like rock (you may decide on your own if that is missed atmosphere or a hygienic must 😉 ).
The layout is quite nice as well. In one corner of the Bourbon, there is even a small stage. After the performance of Rock of Ages Hollywood I saw, some of the cast members gave a concert after the play. In general, the Bourbon Room hosts quite some concerts, either on that small stage or using the larger stage in the theater.
Next to the theater entrance, there is also the service and merchandise desk. You can even have a tattoo printed for the show. I did not take a good picture of the message board, but it also features advertisements by The Concrete Balls and – after the show – asks you to support Regina as a major of West Hollywood, very cool!
The Bourbon Room – The Theater
The theater room should roughly open about one hour before the performance. During my visit, the doors opened around 19:20 at a 20:00 performance. This was a bit unfortunate as I planned to have food before the show (which did work out, but was some sort of a hurry).
The atmosphere in the room is amazing. Most of the people sit on chairs, there are also some booths at the side, which really gives a bar atmosphere (as much as possible at least). As said, the tables are serviced. My seat was in the very front row, which was not that ideal as quite some part of the musical is also performed on the “B Stage” in the middle of the room – so you had to turn around for that. I still had a blast of an evening, though.
Rock of Ages Hollywood – The Show
I won’t tell you too much about the general story of Rock of Ages, you can find more detail in my post about the last UK tour. Any Rock of Ages interpretation is slightly different – I absolutely liked the Hollywood one. Some adoptions are a bit strange – for example, they had to change the order of some songs. Some songs were slightly short, e.g. The Final Countdown. Nevertheless, the overall play time was even slightly longer than the Broadway version. A funny feature is the pee / intermission timer you see on the pictures below.
Having different areas of the stage with different places represented was definitely a superb plus. The actors also went through the audience and more or less used any free space of the room here and there. This really gave the desired atmosphere that you are part of the Bourbon Room. Of course, compared to the UK version, the overall atmosphere was much more prim. It still seemed to feel quite hot in the Venus Club (Gentlemen’s Club) for the audience.
The Bourbon Room / RoA Hollywood – Food / Drink
There is a cocktail menu (including non-alcoholic options) and a nice Dinner menu at the Bourbon Room. The prices are very fair – the pre-show cocktail I had was 6 USD, the burger some 18 USD. Soft drinks were free refill at 5 USD. However, the refill is of course limited as you are not served during the show in the theater area, but only before the show and in the intermission. To keep track of the orders and guarantee payment, they will keep your credit card in the theater area until the end of the intermission.
I loved my cocktail, the burger was very nice as well. I loved the service – the staff was very friendly.
The Bourbon Room / RoA Hollywood – My View
Of course, it has been very special to me to visit the Bourbon Room. What an iconic place: I think the management of the Bourbon put a lot of love and energy in it. The bar area is really nice and cozy, I like the small stage area as well. The theater concept and the adaption of the musical has just been very good, thanks a lot. You have to turn around very often in front row – which on the other hand also means that you likely have quite good view from all places. The Bourbon Room and its theater even more turns Rock of Ages into a party – hope there will be another one with me one day – I absolutely loved it.
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