As a show, Rock of Ages is definitely a grower trying to be a shower. Jam packed with 80s glam and stadium rock hits, it is a surprisingly enjoyable juke-box musical that the audience certainly enjoy. But it does beg the question, is it a good show?
The first half of Act One is quite frankly, terrible. Songs are shoehorned into plot lines with dialogue used to sign post the next song, such as ‘So what do you really want?’ ‘I wanna rock!’ Cue Twisted Sister’s ‘I Wanna Rock’. The female ensemble are given such tacky and explicit choreography, the audience not only knows what style of groinal topiary they favour, but what salon they went to in order to achieve it.
However, then enters our Rock Star Stacee Jaxx. With sex appeal that oozes from the very sequins on his jeans, Ben Richards manages to take the show where it should have started from the beginning of Act One and has clearly done his front man homework. From then on the show picks up the pace, squeezes in more humour and the cast get to really belt out a great back catalogue of stadium rock hits.
As the new kid on the scene and our romantic lead, Noel Sullivan is a surprising hit. Sporting a dishevelled mop of hair and a guitar slung round his neck, Sullivan adds some grit to his impressive voice and blows his previous foray into pop music out of the water. Paired Cordelia Farnworth, who plays the ‘small town girl, living in a lonely world’, the couple manage to turn some of glam rock’s best known tracks into bone fide musical numbers. As the narrator-esque clown Lonny, Stephen Rahman-Hughes has the audience laughing throughout the show, although the book itself only really gives him quality material to work with in Act Two.
The show itself at times feels a bit like the plot was created by a workshop sessions where no one had the guts to make cuts and so at times various plots feel shoe-horned in. None more so than the German developer and his camp son who wants to destroy the LA strip. As the supposedly-gay-but-actually-just-European son, Cameron Sharp gives until it hurts and just like every other cast member in this show, outshines the character he has been cast in.
But then the finale comes in and the audience jumps up onto their feet and join in with Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ with smiles all round. As a night out, Rock of Ages ticks all the boxes and it’s a great show to take sceptical partners along to, however whether this was down to the likes of Kiss, Bon Jovi and Poison or the production itself is debatable.
Reviewed by Roz Carter
Rock of Ages is playing at the New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 22 November 2014 when the UK tour ends.