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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014

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"Rock Of Ages" is an '80s musical / concert experience.
"Rock Of Ages" is an '80s musical / concert experience.

Tease your bangs and pin your jeans: "Rock Of Ages" is on the way

Whether or not they remember the ‘80s doesn’t seem to matter to most of the people who attend the musical "Rock Of Ages."

Some are simply too young to remember the original run of the hairband era whereas other people might not remember the indulgent decade for other reasons.

In any case, cast member Matt Ban says the show always ends with people on their feet, rocking out to the music.

The show, which the Tom Cruise film of the same name is based on, takes place on the Sunset Strip in 1987. Basically, it’s a love story told through the predominantly glam metal music of the ‘80s, including Journey, STYX, Foreigner, Whitesnake and REO Speedwagon.

"Rock of Ages," nominated for five Tony Awards, will run Nov. 13-18 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. It ran on Broadway in 2009.

I recently hand a phone conversation with Ban, who plays the character of Dennis Dupree, about his life and the show.

OnMilwaukee.com: So what is your character like and how did you prepare for the role?

Matt Ban: Dennis is an enigma in the ‘80s rock world. He’s more of a ‘70s leftover who owns the bar, The Bourbon Room, where the action takes place. He’s trying to hold onto the bar (even though times are changing). Dennis is a little bit of a hippie who smoked some funny cigarettes. He’s a little lost in the haze. So I prepared by listening to more ‘70s music like Alan Parsons Project and Led Zeppelin.

OMC: Were you alive in the ‘80s?

MB: (Laughing) I was born in 1987 (the year the show takes place) so I experienced the ‘80s in diapers. But I knew all of the music from the show already because the songs are so popular.

OMC: What kind of music did you grow up listening to? Where did you grow up?

MB: I grew up in New Jersey. I listened to a lot of ‘90s alt-rock, grunge. Nirvana is the soundtrack of my adolescence.

OMC: Did you want to be a professional actor when you were a kid?

MB: Acting was always a fun hobby for me. I played a lot of sports. My dream as a kid was to be Derek Jeter’s replacement on the Yankees. I was a good athlete, but not great. And then I got the lead in my high school’s musical as a freshman and it was really fun.

OMC: Did you study acting in college?

MB: Yes, I went to Wagner College in New York.

OMC: Is "Rock Of Ages" more of a concert or a musical?

MB: It’s both. Honestly, it’s a little more than both. What’s great about this show is that some jukebox musicals take themselves too seriously, but "Rock Of Ages" doesn’t and yet it has a lot of heart. It’s a really nice love story. Friendships blossom.

I love this show. I would do it over and over until the day I die.

OMC: What do you love about performing the show?

MB: It brings people so much joy. People are on their feet at the of every show. And I’ve never done rock before. It’s really cool to feel like a rock star every night.

OMC: What do you think of the movie version of "Rock Of Ages?"

MB: The movie was a really wonderful thing to happen for the live show. It drummed up more interest.

OMC: So what’s next for you? Any big plans or goals for the future?

MB: I’m pretty "in the moment" right now. I just got engaged. I get to go home and marry the love of my life. I’m really happy where my career has gone and I’m not gonna make too many plans. I’m just gonna roll with it.

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