Culture Editor Olivia Boyce reviews the bombastic, brilliantly fun Rock of Ages tour at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Rarely do you leave the theatre with the same elated, ear-ringing sensation you get from a rock concert, but exiting the Alexandra Theatre after a performance of the new tour of Rock of Ages is just like that. Bombastic from start to finish, with an excellent cast and some truly iconic tunes, Rock of Ages proves to be an enjoyable, if somewhat bonkers, evening.
Two dreamers, one a country girl looking to make it big in Hollywood, another a young man wishing for rock star fame, find each other amongst the tumultuous setting of the Sunset Strip. Enter Stacee Jaxx, frontman of a band looking to go solo, Hertz, a German businessman looking to redevelop the entire area, and Justice, owner of a gentleman’s club, and you get a long, complicated and romantic journey for the two wannabe stars. Predictable the plot may be, but that’s certainly no bad thing when combined with feel-good rock classic hits and a self-referential narrator.
The tale is narrated by Lonny (Lucas Rush), the wisecracking sound guy whose hand steers the audience through the story. He breaks the fourth wall almost continuously, picking time and time again on an audience member (poor Jackie), as well as bringing other members of the cast into this, calling on them to end the first act with the customary musical-theatre jazzhands, and telling one character that he is in Rock of Ages, though not the (rather less fun) film. It’s a delightful choice that works just as well and as memorably as the Narrator in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Rush plays him perfectly.
This touring production is joyously complex in its ambitious design. The set is reminiscent of the stage of a concert venue, with exposed steels and walls of speakers, and a screen above the stage brings a sense of place, showing the various settings as we see scene after scene. However, this screen also brings some of the unexpected delights of the evening, with clever little nods to popular culture including ET and the tornado in The Wizard of Oz, particularly humorous given leading lady Danielle Hope’s past as Dorothy in Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz.
Hope is well-cast as Sherrie, bringing fabulous and versatile vocals as well as the sensual yet unsure quality needed to make her compelling. She is matched brilliantly with Luke Walsh, who plays Drew, Sherrie’s love interest. He has a real rock quality to his voice, with a great range and a terrific growl, and amazes when he holds a high note for a solid 30 seconds.
Rhiannon Chesterman and Andrew Carthy are comedic brilliance as Regina and Franz, the seemingly mismatched but hilarious duo, and Sam Ferriday is suitably foppish as Stacee Jaxx, the somewhat sleazy star who lives the full rock and roll lifestyle. Vas Constanti is somewhat ridiculous as Hertz, but delightfully so, having many of the shows more physical humour moments, whilst Kevin Kennedy brings old-school rock to the role of bar owner Dennis. Zoe Birkett is in particularly brilliant voice, smashing some stellar riffs as club owner Justice.
Many a moment in the show has the audience clapping or humming to unforgettable classics. There’s ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, and the evening culminates in perhaps the biggest hit of all, ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ The cast are in brilliant voice, bringing rock-style vocals with theatrical technique, and are made even better when accompanied by the excellent musicians who truly bring the show to life.
Rock of Ages is a fun evening from start to finish, sure to leave audiences singing long after the curtain falls. More information can be found at http://www.rockofagesmusical.co.uk/tour/