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Arena rock comes to town with funny, spandex-clad musical 'Rock of Ages'

Wes Eichenwald
The "Rock of Ages," cast, including Dominque Scott (front, left in the blue jacket) playing the lead male role of Drew Boley, a striving singer and guitarist on L.A.'s Sunset Strip, performs in the musical set in 1987.

In this decade, the 1980s have become what the ‘50s and ‘60s were in the actual ‘80s: a nostalgic reference point for much of the theater-going public, who enjoy reliving their youth with a wink and a nudge. Thus the success of "Rock of Ages," a touring jukebox musical for lovers of ‘80s arena rock (think Journey, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Whitesnake, Pat Benatar) landing Tuesday through Sept. 30 at the Long Center. A few months ago the movie version laid an impressively rotten egg at the box office, even with Tom Cruise doing his best rock god as idol Stacee Jaxx. But the live show a tale of love, ambition and spandex, with plenty of guitars and raunch keeps reliably packing in aging Gen X'ers and camp followers in productions from Broadway to South Korea.

Dominique Scott, 24, plays the lead male role of Drew Boley, a striving singer and guitarist on LA's Sunset Strip. Scott's seen the movie, and allows that he enjoyed it. "It's very different from our show," he says from a tour stop in Atlantic City. "It's really difficult to compare the two. The music is very modernized in the movie, whereas in our show it's a lot truer to the time period. Having said that, I really love Tom Cruise; I thought he did a wonderful job. It's a shame the movie didn't do too well."

Scott, who grew up in Miami, has performed since childhood, doing everything from playing classical and jazz piano to swinging on a trapeze in a children's circus.

When he's not performing in "Rock of Ages"—he started with the tour in October 2011, and is contracted through September 2013 — he fronts his own '80s-esque rock band, Domin8trx, which released a CD early this year.

"To come into a role that is essentially me, a 23-year-old who moves out to a big city to become a rock star — it's not a huge stretch," he says.

Scott hadn't even been born in 1987, when the musical is set, but seems quite at home in that world. "My dad was a rock star, I think that's where it all stems from," he explains. "He was the lead guitarist of a band called Hollow Spirit. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Aerosmith and Van Halen."

Like his character, Scott doesn't lack for self-confidence, evident from the story he tells about how he got the part. "My friend sent me a text message one day, I went to the open call and I auditioned. There were like 300 other guys there. I sang my song and they (said) ‘OK, thank you.' I was upset about it — you don't even want to hear me read? I was cut from the audition, so I went home and I didn't want to take no for an answer. I made a video of me singing all the Drew stuff and I sent that in to the casting director, and he called me back and I ended up booking the role."

Although he admits the ‘80s nostalgia is a powerful draw, Scott credits the show for having more than that in its bag of tricks. "It's doused in very funny comedy, just great, hysterical moments," he says. "Grounded in all of that is a really heartfelt story, but in addition there's the whole rock element. There's something so fun about someone just whipping their hair around, strumming on a guitar and singing loudly, just like a little kid jumping up on their bed and rockin' out to something. I think people respond to that, that element of just letting go and having fun. It's a whole rock concert where people get to scream and have fun and throw their panties on stage."

When asked if he's ever tried out for "American Idol," Scott just laughs. "You know, people my whole life have told me to go do that, and for some reason I never had the urge. In hindsight, if there were any other auditions that I would be able to get out to, I think this time I would."

In any case, he gets to be a rock idol in his present job. "It's true, I do get to perform in front of 2,000 or 3,000 people eight times a week. I get to rock out, I get to scream at them, they scream back. Sometimes after shows I even sign autographs for my album."

‘Rock of Ages'