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A CurtainUp London Review
Rock of Ages
This is one of those musicals you do not go to see for the book and storyline but for the familiar rock numbers. It is unashamedly what it is: A tacky rock musical.
The show has some wonderful rock music and an outstanding singing and acting performance from Oliver Tompsett as the show’s wannabe rocker and boyfriend to Sherrie (Amy Pemberton), who is in turn a wannabe actress. They meet on Sunset Strip where Dennis’ (Justin Lee Collins) club is under threat from German property developers and comedy duo Hertz (Rohan Tickell) and his, very popular with the audience, son Franz (Sandy Moffat). Shayne Ward sparkles as Stacee Jaxx, the drop dead gorgeous lead singer, who has just split from his rock band Arsenal.
If you have any doubts about the volume to expect, the overture is Quiet Riot’s "Cum On Feel the Noise" and how we think! A four piece rock band plays at the rear of the stage.
We are cast back to the Reagan era of the 80s and mullets galore. Simon Lipkin plays Lonny the comic narrator whose sexual in yer face humour gets the crowd laughing. Thanks to him I now know what tea-bagging is and I might have preferred ignorance! He does tell us that the title song "Rock of Ages" is not in the show because Def Leppard didn’t allow the rights. Strains of the musical Jailhouse Rock! Same problem.
Some of the wigs are better quality than others and Justin Lee Collins’ hair is curled like a cavalier although why when his hair is normally long I don’t know. However our hero Drew (Oliver Tompsett) has no need of a wig and Shayne Ward’s wonderful golden curls could well have been classy extensions.
Jodie Jacobs plays Regina, grungy protestor and Franz’s love interest, and taking a leaf out of Hair we are given flyers to the "Save the Strip" protests. Stacee Jaxx’s entrance is to the Bon Jovi hit "Wanted Dead or Alive" and attracts Sherrie, leaving nice guy Drew heartbroken. All because he asked to be her friend instead of her boyfriend.
Act One finishes on Whitesnake’s "Here I Go Again On My Own". Act Two opens with a welding scene from Franz and Hertz and it’s straight into the rousing and melodic "The Final Countdown."
There are fabulous lighting effects with lasers. Rachel McFarlane as Justice belts out a strong soul number though quite why the owner of a strip joint deserves the name Justice I know not. There are lashings of sentiment as Sherrie confesses to Drew that her acting career is limited to lap dancing in a seedy club and Drew’s music career is in a weak boy band and delivering pizzas. Feminists will not like the scenes in the club. Dennis and Lonny fall in love and rose petals rain down on the audience for "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"
An interesting meta theatrical moment is when the fourth wall is breached and Lonny reads the programme to Drew telling him he’s in a musical called Rock of Ages and has played Figuero in Wicked. By the finale, "Don’t Stop Believing," I was mostly won over. After all Shayne Ward had literally fallen at my feet in the centre aisle. What more could a girl ask for? Justin Lee Collin’s character is killed off but he gets to camp it up as an angel with huge golden wings and sprays the auditorium with glitter confetti. Sadly Stacee Jaxx blew his rock career with a sex scandal.
For a review of the Broadway production go here.
As I left a man said to me "I feel thirty years younger" Now that’s worth the price of a ticket!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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