'Rock of Ages': Real rocker leading the way for Jan. 20 show

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerJanuary 11, 2013 

Universo Pereira's role in the hit Broadway musical Rock of Ages, which comes to the Tri-Cities on Jan. 20, would have made his late grandmother proud.

"She grew up in New York and loved going to Broadway shows," Pereira said in a recent telephone interview. "I don't think she would have ever expected me to be in a Broadway show, but here I am. I think if she were alive today, she'd be proud of me."

Pereira tackles the lead role of rock star Stacee Jaxx, which is the same character Tom Cruise played in the film version of Rock of Ages.

Pereira, who can sing a whole lot better than Cruise, is making his theater debut with this national touring show.

"I actually am a rock musician, but this is my first attempt at musical theater," he said.

His band, the Red Carpet Rats, is based out of Nashville. He auditioned for Rock of Ages on a whim last year and landed the role of Jaxx. He started the tour in September.

"They were looking for a hot-mess-of-a-train-wreck kind of guy, and I guess I filled the bill," Pereira joked. "But I'm lovin' this experience. I'm getting paid to play a rock star, and it just doesn't get any better than that."

He said the stage show varies slightly from the film version, but maintains the same love story theme as well as the fabulous music from the 1980s.

That love story centers around Drew and Sherrie. He's a wannabe rocker who works as a busboy at The Bourbon Room in Hollywood. Sherrie is a small-town girl from the Midwest looking for fame as an actor. She ends up a waitress at the Bourbon Room, where she meets Drew, and they fall in love.

"This really is a feel-good love story that's funny and packed with all this fabulous music," Pereira said.

The show features the iconic music of Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Twisted Sister, Starship, Poison, Joan Jett and Bon Jovi.

And though Pereira, 34, was a toddler when most of this music rocked the Billboard charts in the 1980s, he still grew up listening to it.

"These songs have become arena anthems," he said. "Doesn't matter how old you are, we've all grown up with this music."

Rock of Ages will have a one-night show starting at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 in the Windermere Theatre at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. Tickets range from $32 to $67 plus service charges and are available at www.ticketmaster.com or the coliseum box office. Tickets purchased at the box office avoid service charges.

The Tony Award-nominated show opened in Los Angeles in 2005, moved to off-Broadway in 2008 and then Broadway in 2009. Besides the touring show, Rock of Ages also opened a residency show at The Venetian in Las Vegas last year.

Pereira might be livin' the dream of being a rock star during his year-long tour with the show, but he said the real stars of Rock of Ages are the songs.

"There's no way you can go wrong seeing this show," he said. "It's two and half hours of escapism, funny, heartfelt with all this incredible music. It's half a rock show and half a musical. Audiences of all ages will love it. The show is recommended for age 14 and older, but I've seen 6-year-olds rockin' in the front row on this tour."

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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