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A CurtainUp London London Review
Rock of Ages


Sometimes the dreams you come in with, aren't always the dreams you leave with, but they still rock. — Lonny
Rock of Ages
Shayne Ward as Stacee Jaxx and Amy Pemberton as Sherrie
(Photo: Tristram Kenton)
I was still finding glitter confetti the morning after seeing the new to London musical Rock of Ages. This American jukebox musical featuring the glam metal rock bands of the late 1980s comes to London and recast with an English cast.

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!

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Rock of Ages
Book by Chris D’Arienzo
Directed by Kristin Hanggi

Starring: Shayne Ward, Justin Lee Collins, Oliver Tomsett, Amy Pemberton, Simon Lipkin, Rohan Tickell, Rachel McFarlane, Jodie Jacobs, Sandy Moffat
With: Nathan Amzi, Natalie Andreou, Grant Anthony, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Cordelia Farnworth, Ian McIntosh, Twinnie-Lee Moore, Jamie Muscato, Andrew Spillett, Zizi Staalen, Amy Thornton, Dylan Turner
Band: Steve Holness, Nick Kendall, Chris Maitland, Oliver Poschmann, Nick Radcliffe
Choreography by Kelly Devine
Set Design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design: Gregory Gale
Projection Design: Zak Borovay
Musical Director: James McKeon
Dance and Vocal Arrangements: George Stiles
Musical Director: Elliott Ware
Musical Supervision, Arrangements and Orchestrations: Ethan Popp, David Gibbs
Sound: Peter Hylenski
Lighting: Jason Lyons
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes including one interval
Box Office: 020 7379 5399
Booking to 11th February 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 27th September 2011 performance at The Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2 8DP (Tube: Holborn)

Song List with original recording artist
Act One
  • Just Like Livin’ in Paradise / Van Halen
  • Nothing But A Good Time / Poison
  • Sister Christian / Night Ranger
  • We Built This City / Jefferson Starship
  • Too Much Time On My Hands / Styx
  • I Wanna Rock / Twisted Sister
  • We’re Not Going Take It / Twisted Sister
  • More Than Words / Extreme
  • To Be With You / Mr. Big
  • Heaven /Warrant
  • Waiting for a Girl Like You / Foreigner
  • Wanted Dead or Alive / Bon Jovi
  • I Want To Know What Love is / Foreigner
  • Cum On Feel the Noise / Quiet Riot
  • Harden My Heart / Quarterflash
  • Shadows of the Night / Pat Benatar
  • Here I Go Again / Whitesnake
Act Two
  • The Final Countdown / Europe
  • Any Way You Want It / Journey
  • High Enough / Damn Yankees
  • Beaver Hunt / Arsenal
  • Hate Myself for Loving You / Joan Jett
  • Heat of the Moment / Asia
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot / Pat Benatar
  • I Can't Fight This Feeling / REO Speedwagon
  • Every Rose Has Its Thorn / Poison
  • Keep On Lovin You / Styx
  • Oh, Sherrie / Steve Perry
  • The Search is Over / Survivor
  • Renegade / Styx
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