Rock of Ages at The Churchill Theatre
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.
Rock of Ages is not 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. You have characters appearing on miniature diggers, the narrator interacting with the audience and the actors moving their staging around to make sure that they are in the spotlight. 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.
Taking the role of Lonny, the narrator was Tim Oxbrow who threw himself into the silly ethos of the show with aplomb getting the audience onside quickly. However having the narrator make that many self referencing jokes only works well if the rest of the cast are prepared to ham it up as much. This is where duo Hertz and Franz Klineman came in, the German father and son pair who want to tear down the sunset strip. They were played by Vas Constanti and David Breeds who may not have had as much stage time as some of the other characters but were possibly the most memorable.
Our leading lady, Sherrie is played by Gabriella Williams and from her first appearance on stage it is easy to see why Drew falls for her. Williams is very loveable as Sherrie, she is funny but isn’t afraid to ramp up the sexual side of the character when needed. On top of this her dancing combined with outstanding rock vocals makes Williams the perfect package for this part. Opposite her is Sam Turrell as the aforementioned Drew. Turrell’s voice sounded like he was born to sing this style of music.
The number of ensemble is 6 in this show however as so many of them were playing different roles at various times it did mean that the stage could look a bit empty at times, especially in the bigger dance numbers. Rock of Ages packs a punch in so many ways that it is a shame that this element lets it down slightly.
The rock music is one of the key elements to this show and the 5 piece band add to this atmosphere. You frequently saw them on stage throughout the show, often as the backing band for Arsenal. Whilst there were murmurings of the music being loud, this is exactly what Rock of Ages is supposed to be! Despite the (welcome) volume the show itself was well balanced and I was clearly able to hear all of the vocals and dialogue over the band.
The other elements of the show such as the lighting design by Ben Cracknell, the set and costume design by Morgan Large and the video wall, designed by Duncan McLean helped add to the feel that we were at a huge rock concert. The staging was used to good effect with levels and scaffolding for the cast to appear on, the act that the stage seemed to be surrounded in speakers added to the feeling that this was a rock gig and the video wall helped set up many visual gags.
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 on at The Churchill Theatre until 11th February 2023. You can find out more about the tour and book tickets on their website.