Friday, April 4 — The Wharton Center will have its sound system cranked up to 11 this weekend when “Rock of Ages” rolls into East Lansing for a one-night performance. The Tony Award-nominated jukebox musical incorporates ’80s hair metal classics “Nothing But a Good Time,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “The Final Countdown.”
Andrew Sklar plays Lonny, the show’s hyperkinetic narrator who owns a dingy rock club on Sunset Strip in 1987 California. He took some time from the road to answer a few questions about living the real rock star life, the current state of rock music and what song from the show makes people lose it.
What’s your connection with rock music?
My parents got me started listening to it when I was very young, 4 or 5 years old. It started with Billy Joel. When I got to college I found the heavier stuff.
I relate to the music aspect of the show. I’m a musician myself and when I have time and we’re in a place longer than a day I try to write music. It’s a nice hiatus from all the high energy. It’s nice to go on an acoustic guitar and lose yourself a little bit.
What was your career path up to acting in “Rock of Ages”?
I went to college for acting and when I got out of college I decided to stop for a few years and focus on my band. So I moved to upstate New York (where) I lived with my best friend, who’s the guitarist in my band.
I couldn’t support myself so I moved back home. And at home one of my best friends told me about the “Rock of Ages” open call. I love hard rock and metal and I’m still an actor so I auditioned. I killed it during the call back audition and three months later they offered me a role.
When you’re living paycheck to paycheck you realize what you’re doing probably isn’t what you should be doing. (That’s how) you move on up (in life).
How do you relate to your character?
I share a lot of similarities with Lonny. I have a very high energy level. I love to lighten up the mood and to tell stories. I never stop. I’m not acting, I live Lonny. I’m not method acting — that’s just who I am.
How do you differ?
There’s not a lot of differences, but I love to have my life to my own sometimes. I love to sit alone in my room with my computer and wind down from the day. Or kick back and drink a beer. Everybody needs some decompression time. When you’re on tour sometimes you don’t get that cherished sleep.
How does new rock compare to ‘80s rock?
It’s hard to find a new artist that you can pin rock ‘n’ roll on. It’s a certain style and a certain finesse that a musician must have. The era defines it. Now it’s all digital. You don’t find a lot of hair bands anymore or animal print. You don’t find that anymore because it’s been done before. I’d love to see it still happen, but I don’t think a lot of people still share my view. In the ‘80s, you had more freedom to do what you wanted with what you wanted.
With music nowadays I feel it’s very disconnected from the art because it’s not created with emotion. A lot of artists are singing over a track that’s created for them rather than them feeling the heart and feeling the soul of the music.
What kind of person will like this show?
No matter who you are, even if you haven’t heard any music in the show, there’s still a great plot line to the show. It’s “Mamma Mia!” for dudes. No matter who you are, when you come into the show it’s a great time and full on energy from the beginning to the end. A lot of classic songs are played that are worldwide. As soon as “Don’t Stop Believin’” comes on everyone in the audience loses their mind. It’s a great time.
“Rock of Ages”
6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 6
Wharton Center Cobb Great Hall
750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing
(517) 432-2000, whartoncenter.com