Jacob Smith by any other name would be — Dennis.
The last time we saw the Monticello native onstage, he was a Dennis. Next week, we’ll see him be a Dennis again.
But neither of these Dennises are menaces. Smith was knightly Sir Dennis Galahad when the national tour of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” played at his alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa, in January 2012. This time, he’s Dennis Dupree nightly in the national tour of “Rock of Ages,” coming to the Paramount Theatre on May 23.
“This Dennis is very, very different from the other Dennis,” Smith, 30, now based in New York, says by phone from a recent tour stop in Shreveport, La. “Dennis Dupree is basically a relic from late ’60s and early ’70s. He’s seen it all, he’s done it all, he’s been around the block a few times. He’s the owner of the bar where ‘Rock of Ages’ takes place, and really, really likes to indulge in the extracurricular activities, if you know what I mean.”
“He’s a big pot smoker; I show that a little bit in the show,” Smith says. “But for the most part, though, he’s a really cool guy. He’s very down to earth, he’s very chill — he’s not somebody you necessarily want to cross or upset, but for the most part, he’s really easy-going — a real stereotypical ’70s hippie kind of guy, like ‘Hey man, how ya doin’, what’s goin’ on.”
What’s going on is a rock ‘n’ roll trip through the music of Smith’s childhood — the overindulgent ’80s where big hair and sparkly clothes ruled both sexes, and musicians proved their mettle from glam to metal.
Built on hits from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Pat Benatar, Poison and their ilk, the 2009 Tony-nominated musical takes audiences back to 1987 on the Sunset Strip, where a naive girl with stars in her eyes steps off the bus and quickly finds out she’s not in Kansas anymore. Instead of landing a big role in Hollywood, she lands a job waiting tables at Dupree’s seedy club and hooks up with the busboy, a wannabe rocker. Their dreams and their loves harden their hearts until they just can’t fight their feelings in the heat of the moment.
“It’s a good time, it’s not deep theater,” Smith says. “You’re not going to see ‘Hamlet,’ you’re not going to see ‘Camelot.’ You’re going to see some of the most awesome rock songs from the ’80s with a great script, a lot of humor. It’s a great show for especially guys who aren’t necessarily into musical theater or haven’t really seen a lot of theater, because of the humor. The girls are gorgeous and the songs are just awesome.”
- Broadway at the Paramount presents “Rock of Ages”
- 7:30 p.m. May 23
- Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids
- Tickets: (Nearly sold out) $45 to $60, Paramount Box Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com
- Show website: Rockofagesontour.com
But he warns that parents should think twice before bringing kids younger than 12 or 13 to this event filled with ‘80s excesses.
“There’s drug use in the show, there’s some very scantily clad ladies, there’s some foul language and a lot of sexual references that are really not appropriate for young kids. Everybody else going to have a blast,” he says.
He’s been a little worried about having his family see the show — including parents Joel and Sally Smith of Troy Mills. His mom saw it in Chicago and survived, so now he’s looking forward to seeing other familiar faces in the Cedar Rapids crowd, including his dad, and having them see “a really, really fun show.”
“It’s going to be a bit of an eye opener for them, because I’ve never really done a role like this,” he says.
“When my mom came to see it for first time, I had to warn her, ‘Mom, I say some bad words on”stage and I smoke pot onstage. I don’t really smoke pot, but it looks like I smoke pot. And the girls are strippers. I’m really sorry, but this is my job.’ She was totally cool with it. She was fine, but I wasn’t prepared for that — to have my mother see me do something like that.”
♪ “Rock of Ages” Trivia:
♫ On July 1, 2009, after a matinee performance of “Rock of Ages,” the Broadway cast set a new Guinness World Record for what?
— It broke the Guinness World Record for the Largest Air Guitar Ensemble. A total of 810 participants, including audience members and fans make this record happen. It shattered the previous record of 440 people playing air guitar simultaneously.
♫ During the 2009 Tony Awards, what rock star was injured while performing with the Broadway cast of “Rock of Ages?”
— Bret Michaels of the band Poison was knocked down by a set piece that broke his nose.
♫ What Broadway star originated the lead role of Sherrie in the original Los Angeles production of “Rock of Ages?” Hint: She also played the lead in the Broadway production of “Legally Blonde.”
— Answer: Laura Bell Bundy.
♫ Chris D’Arienzo, the author of the book for “Rock of Ages” is also an actor. He appeared in a couple episodes of this popular 1990s sit-com. Name the TV show. Hint: The show is named after the first name of this gay comic and actress.
— Answer: “Ellen”
♫ “Rock of Ages”was made into a New Line Cinema film directed by Adam Shankman. What other film musical based on a hit Broadway show did he direct?
— Answer: “Hairspray” starring John Travolta.
♫ “Rock of Ages” was first produced in Los Angeles at what type of venue?
— Answer: At a Los Angeles night club called the Vanguard Hollywood in 2006.
♫ Name two songs in “Rock of Ages” that were first introduced by Pat Benatar.
— Answer: ”Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Shadows of the Night”