Rock of Ages at New Wimbledon Theatre
I was so excited to see Rock of Ages. I’ve actually performed in an amateur production myself but I had never seen the show live so I was keen to see what it was like when I was the other side of the footlights.
The plot of Rock of Ages is wafer thin but this doesn’t matter one iota. The show focuses on ‘small town girl’ Sherrie and ‘city boy’ Drew who wants to make it as a rock star. Their less than traditional romance which involves Sherrie sleeping with rock star Stacee Jaxx and becoming a stripper is set to the music of Journey, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Whitesnake and more.
This isn’t a show that is meant to be taken seriously and everything from the script to the costumes and the cameo characters to direction do everything they can to drive this home. The humour is silly but it is laugh a minute as soon as you stop taking yourself seriously and embrace the spectacle and the craziness that unfolds in front of your eyes.
The show is narrated by Lonny, played by Lucas Rush. Rush sets the tone for the show perfectly with his ability to be incredibly over the top, crass and loveable all at the same time. Whenever Rush is onstage the audience eat out of the palm of his hands and he looks like he is having a blast doing it. A show with this much silliness in and a narrator making self-referencing jokes only works well if the rest of the cast can also go full out with their characters. Hertz and Franz, German developers wanting to tear down the strip were played by Vas Constanti and Andrew Carthy respectively. Hamming up all the stereotypes possible with these 2 characters they didn’t let the comedy slip for a moment. Carthy’s on stage change into a rainbow unitard also got one of the biggest cheers of the night.
It wasn’t just comedy that this cast delivered on however. Zoe Birkett played strip club (sorry Gentleman’s Club) owner Justice and her vocals combined with her sass blew the roof off New Wimbledon Theatre. Equally Jodie Steele as Sherrie and Luke Walsh as Drew were the perfect young couple in love. Steele managed to balance nativity with sex appeal and went from ballad to fierce rock goddess within her numbers showing her impressive versatility.
I did however feel slightly let down by Kevin Clifton as Stacee Jacxx, the rock god. Unfortunately whilst he had strong vocals he often came across as a bit too nice for the part and I wanted someone with a more commanding presence to convince me of the character.
The band were on stage throughout the show with slick guitar riffs, and at one point even formed part of Stacee’s band and joined in on the action. The music is such an important part of the show and primarily it is these numbers that you come to hear rather than watch the story unfold. Each number however rose to the daunting challenge of living up the original. I also have to commend the sound designer, Ben Harrison as it had enough oompf to get across the rock vibe yet I could clearly hear the main vocal line and all of the harmonies throughout, no easy feat.
Finally the choreography by Nick Winston (who also directed it) was energetic, sexy and fun. The ensemble were mesmerising whenever they were on stage and delivered every single number with so much vigour I felt exhausted just watching them. Having such a strong ensemble really helped keep the energy, pace and crazy vibe of this show up where it needed to be.
Unashamedly fun and silly, backed up a cast who understood this brief (and then some), mixed in with great rock songs delivered brilliantly…… Is Rock of Ages going to win any award for plot or story telling? No. Is it one of the best nights out I’ve had in a long time? Undoubtedly yes!
Rock of Ages is running at New Wimbledon Theatre until 2nd March. To find out more about the show and book tickets visit their website.