About the Author:
Adam John Hunter has been as involved in Rock of Ages about as much as any person could possibly be. He served as the associate director in six productions of the rock musical, from its off-Broadway debut through its Broadway and London productions. Now for his seventh outing with the show, Hunter takes the reigns as lead director. The director, who has also worked on the Broadway productions of A Catered Affair, Company and Sweeney Todd, describes his long journey with Rock of Ages, the challenges of recreating original director Kristin Hanggi’s work and having to fill in for the female lead.
My time on Rock of Ages has allowed me to see how “a little show that could" can become a worldwide commodity. I have been lucky enough to have a front row seat at the roll out of this story. Being a stage manager and the associate director of the Broadway production has given me access to all facets of the show, technical and creative. Occupying a position in both departments has allowed me to smooth out communication all elements of the production.
I joined the company at the end of 2008 when it was running off-Broadway at New World Stages. The subsequent transfer to Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in 2009 was more than just a transfer. Everybody on the creative side knew they had an opportunity to make the show clearer and stronger. It was a tight schedule, but it happened. The storytelling was clarified and the show was given more flair.
Shortly after opening night, it became clear that Rock of Ages was about to take on the world. An Australian production was being put together, Toronto was in the works (and would be the second production after Broadway), a national tour would happen and London was rumored. All those productions would eventually come to fruition, along with another national tour and a Broadway transfer to the Helen Hayes Theatre. Currenly, I have been involved in staging seven productions of Rock of Ages.
It has become something of an inside joke that I can quote the entire show. But no one was laughing during rehearsals in London when our leading lady, Amy Pemberton, had to miss a partial run-through and I stepped in to play the love scene opposite Oliver Tompsett’s Drew. OK, actually everyone was laughing. And a mildly embarrassing Photoshop joke was soon circulating around all the various companies. Truthfully though, in every incarnation, the team has strived to make the show fresh and specific to each new region.
Being a stage manager in my head and a director in my heart, I have been extremely lucky over the last five years to exercise both facets of my personality. From Sweeney Todd to A Catered Affair to Rock of Ages, I have worked with a wide array of actors on a large scale of material. Doing Rock of Ages seven times, this most recent time on my own, has allowed me to try different things with different actors under the security of knowing that the material works. There’s also a security knowing I can always take things back to how I've seen it work in other productions. In using that process, we have been able to stumble across fresh ideas that further clarify the story, or in some cases, just give the audience another good laugh. I take the responsibility of remounting any show very seriously. I feel it is my job to give audiences all over the world the same experience that was delivered in the original Broadway production. Rock of Ages is Rock of Ages everywhere and I take pride in that. There is a trap of wanting to make things constantly interesting for me, but it is at times necessary to just say to myself, "I know this has worked and will work here." There is no need to reinvent the wheel or even add new tires to it. The key is to remember that every night, the audience members are seeing the show with fresh eyes. That point is proven over and over every time we get to that first paid performance and the crowd eats it up.
I offer much thanks to original director Kristin Hanggi, choreographer Kelly Devine and librettist Chris D'Arienzo for having me along for the ride. And to the people all over the world who have seen Rock of Ages, you know what I mean when I say, I hope we rocked your balls off. If you have balls. Or if you don't, I hope we rocked the gender-appropriate-equivalent part of your body that you were looking to have rocked.
Rock of Ages plays the The Long Center in Austin from September 25 through September 30.
Tour Director Adam John Hunter on Headbanging Across the Globe with Rock of Ages
About the Author: