REVIEW: ‘Rock of Ages’, Alexandra Theatre

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 ‘Rock of Ages‘, Alexandra Theatre

 “Sometimes the dreams you come in with,

may not be the dreams you leave with.

But hey, they still rock!”.

  1980s LA.

  A time of big dreams, and even bigger hair.

  ‘Rock of Ages’ welcomes you to the Sunset Strip, the ‘street of dreams’, where, “back in the day, if you had a dream, and a decent amount of hair, there was no place else to be”.

  We are taken back to a time when the skirts were short, the tops were low, the mullets were popular, the guy-liner was thick, and the jeans were ripped.

  Small town girl Sherrie meets city boy Drew. Throw in a love rival, jeopardy, conflict, broken dreams, and some serious rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, you’ve got yourself a smash-hit jukebox musical.

  Written by Chris D’Arienzo, directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, and with arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp, ‘Rock of Ages’ features over 25 classic rock anthems, including ‘We Built This City’, The Final Countdown’, ‘Here I Go Again’, ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’, ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’, ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’, and ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.

  A heady trip of 80s nostalgia, this is a show that will make you wanna rock!

The cast of Rock of Ages. Photo credit: Richard Davenport

  The show’s cast are superb – energetic, with great vocal ability. Danielle Hope’s Sherrie gets a job as a waitress at the Bourbon Room, but dreams of making it big as an actress. After being friend-zoned by Drew, and having slept with Sam Ferriday’s sleazy rock-god Stacee Jaxx, the epitome of the debauched rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, Sherrie loses her job, and is taken in by Zoe Birkett’s sassy Justice Charlier, owner of the Venus, a Gentleman’s Club,where she becomes a stripper. Luke Walsh’s wannabe rockstar Drew works at the Bourbon Room, where he is spotted and picked up by a talent scout when performing an opening slot for Stacee Jaxx’s band, Arsenal. However, moulded into becoming just like any other generic boy-band member, he, like Sherrie, temporarily loses sight of his dreams. Hope and Walsh are brilliant as Sherrie and Drew, their vocals flawless, their performances tinged with a very innocent chemistry.

  Lucas Rush oozes charismatic charm as the show’s narrator, and assistant to the Bourbon Club – his comic timing is perfect, his audience interaction a source of much humour, and his dominant stage presence commanding. His performance alone is worth the price of a ticket. Opposite Kevin Kennedy’s (Coronation Street’s Curly Watts) Bourbon Club owner, Dennis Dupree, the two make a great, and surprisingly touching, duo.

Lucas Rush (Lonny) in Rock of Ages. Photo credit: Richard Davenport

  Vas Constanti and Andrew Carthy delight as the goosestepping German father and son team Hertz and Franz Klinemann, Constanti’s vocals particularly mature. The two characters plan to demolish the Bourbon Club in the name of commerce, hoping to redevelop the Sunset Strip, introducing ‘clean living’ into the area. However, bulldozing the Strip means wrecking the dreams of those who live and work there, including our two main protagonists, Sherrie and Drew. However, we later find out that the two have dreams of their own – Franz dreams of opening a confectionery in Germany, whilst his father Hertz dreams to design formal wear… for pets. Can Rhiannon Chesterman’s hilarious hippie Regina convince them to forgo their plans to redevelop, and instead pursue their dreams?

  According to narrator Lonny, “We explore deep and thoughtful theatre with complex characters and a challenging plot…

Oh, who am I kidding?!”

  Mocking its own thin plot and stereotypical characters, Rock of Ages shows a self-awareness that allows it to parody the jukebox musical, enabling its characters to play to stereotypes and clichés, whilst highlighting the fact that they are actors in a musical. Towards the end of the production, when a happy ending is still to be desired, Lonny tells Drew that he is currently starring in a musical, and so he is guaranteed his happy, yet somewhat predictable, ending. Bold, loud and proud, this production is unashamedly clichéd – and all the better for it.

The cast of Rock of Ages. Photo credit: Richard Davenport

  Morgan Large’s set and Ben Cracknell’s lighting ensures the production resembles a rock concert venue, and with music played live throughout by an onstage band, the resulting atmosphere is electrifying, as one would expect to find at such a concert.

  However, an intimacy with the audience is established immediately, as narrator Lonny singles out a member of the crowd – in this case Sharon, front and centre – who is playfully picked on throughout, hilariously breaking that fourth wall.

  Entertainment at its finest, this show is the leading reason people go to the theatre – to be entertained, and one can’t fight the feeling of being entertained here, if not rocked to their very core.

  This show is cheesier than a mature cheddar and camper than a row of tents – and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

  A show that promises  “a night of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery at the biggest party in town”, Rock of Ages certainly doesn’t disappoint.

  “A beacon of rock ‘n’ roll excess”.

The cast of Rock of Ages. Photo credit: Richard Davenport

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