TRCH - Mindgames

Theatre Review: Rock of Ages

3 April 19 words: Beverley Makin

Big dreams and Big hair as Rock saves the day

As a fan of big hair and Bon Jovi, and a mother of a one year old who doesn’t get out much, I was more than a little excited about an evening in 'the Bourbon Room' and it didn’t disappoint!

Rock of Ages hits the ground running, so if you’re not familiar with the tale a narrator is provided in the lovable form of Lonny (Lucas Rush), once aspiring rock guitarist and now second in command in the Bourbon Room, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles. Lonny is the heart and soul of both the Bourbon Room Club and Rock of Ages and, if you sit in the front row, he may even become your friend!

Lucas Rush as Lonny in Rock of Ages

Picture 1987 LA. Denim, eyeliner, big dreams and big hair at the height of soft rock from the likes of Europe and Twisted Sister. We arrive on Sunset Strip with small town girl and aspiring actress Sherrie Christian (Jodie Steele). After being mugged she is rescued by our hero and aspiring rocker Drew Boley - aka Wolfgang von Colt (Luke Walsh) who takes her to the club he works in – the famous Bourbon Room. Securing a job waitressing Sherrie settles in to her new life of serving tables by night and auditioning by day.

It’s love at first sight of course but both are to shy to admit it and a series of unfortunate events sees them going their separate ways, dragging their dreams behind them as reality hits and experience jades them. Meanwhile we get to meet a crazy parade of people associated with the club. Old rocker and club owner Dennis Dupree (Kevin Kennedy) is trying to revive his flagging business by booking sleezy rock god Stacee Jaxx (Kevin Clifton) to perform his last gig before going solo. Dupree has information about Jaxx and an incident with a Llama, so Jaxx agrees. Meanwhile Hertz and Franz Klinemann, a cash laden German developer and his son (Vas Constanti and Andrew Carthy) convince the mayor it’s a good idea to tear down the faded and sleezy Strip and replace it with a shiny mall. This horrifies the mayors planning officer and former full-time protester Regina (Rhiannon Chesterman) who embarks on a one-woman campaign to save the Strip, picking up reluctant protesters on the way. Hertz and Franz stole much of the show at this point. With hilarious German accents, goose steppery, spiked helmets and the questions everyone was asking about Franz – is he gay or just European?

Kevin Kennedy as Dennis Dupree

This all takes place on one impressively large set, primarily the Bourbon Room Club, with quirky additions when the denim clad action moves to a different location. Then there is of course the music. Soft rock classics are woven in left right and centre, from a verse here and there to big numbers in their entirety including: We Built This City, Dead or Alive, Hit Me with Your Best Shot and Every Rose Has It’s Thorn to name just a few. Tunage lovingly matched up with spectacular choreography from Nick Winston, a truly rocking lighting design from Ben Cracknell and the ever-present stage band. It would also be remiss not to mention the powerful voice of Zoe Birkett playing strip club owner Justice, whose phenomenal performance was full of heart and power.

Zoe Birkett as Justice

This musical never takes itself seriously, throwing in every rock parody you can think of. But, as in all good musicals, by the time the final curtain comes down lost love is found, secret dreams are realised, and rock saves the day. Rock of Ages finished with a bang and more people than I’ve ever seen stand up and dance during a finale – the very apt Don’t Stop Believin.

If you are a Glee fan or have fond memories of 80s rock, like it loud and have a good sense of humour you’ll love Rock of Ages. However, it’s probably not one for young children, with plenty of adult themes, scenes and language.

Rock of Ages rocks the Theatre Royal until Saturday 6 April 2019.

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