Touring – reviewed at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London
Let’s start by saying that this is not a musical masterpiece by any means, but it is a super self-aware, high intensity, fun and crazily well performed show, that’ll definitely have your toes tapping to some of the most well-loved rock classics.
The story, which is highly basic, follows small town girl, Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the sunset strip whilst trying to achieve their Hollywood dreams. When German developers sweep into town, they threaten to ruin the rock n roll fairytales of everyone and the gang have to fight (and sing) for the the strip.
Rock of Ages absolutely doesn’t take itself seriously, and instead revels in the cliches and nostalgia of the 80s with power ballads, rockers, shoulder pads and skimpy costumes. The minimal storyline is made for with epic performances and a whole lot of fun. You can expect cheesy backdrops and props, tongue in cheek choreography, a rocking score and sexy rock chicks peppering the stage.
The flimsy script is brought to life by animated and intense performances from the cast. As Sherrie, Jodie Steele belts out power ballads with vocal skill and ease, whilst her love interest Drew, is played incredibly well by Luke Walsh who has an outstanding voice. Zoe Birkett delivers completely stellar vocals in her small role as Justice and Kevin Kennedy brings vibrance and humour to Dennis who could easily command the stage as a bigger role. Kevin Clifton brings a surprisingly well-rounded performance as the embodiment of sex and drugs and rock n roll, Stacee Jaxx.
Also keeping up the humour and energy is Rhiannon Chesterman as Regina who’s voice is criminally underused but she does a great job with the script she’s given. As German duo, Vas Constanti and Andrew Carthy are caricatures to the extreme but completely know how to work to the audience.
The ensemble of skimpily clad men and women add moments of interest away from the main action and make the simplistic stage feel full and vibrant. It’s Lucas Rush as Lonny who really steals the show with his charismatic performance and natural audience banter. He breaks the fourth wall with ease and seems to constantly be thinking of ways to entertain, and these pay off!
Nick Winston’s direction and choreography is pretty strong throughout, although at time it feels like too much is happening at once, and what little story there is, becomes even more shadowed by other movement or action spread across the stage. At the same time, that does kind of sum up the show which is essentially a wacky showcase of some hit songs that have you not sure where to look or what to think.
Rock of Ages is thick with cliches, crudeness and semi-nudity but it’s certainly fun. If you want a moving, dramatic narrative and a PG show, this is absolutely not for you. But, if you want great performances and a pretty electric atmosphere and some raucous, rocking fun, then pop along and have a fun night!
Rock of Ages runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until March 2nd before continuing it’s UK Tour.
photo credit: Richard Davenport