2-6 September 2014
Reviewed by Emma Wasson
The musical is set at ‘The Bourbon’, a musical joint down on Sunset Boulevard in LA, during the late 1980’s, and is full of fantastic tunes from that era, which have all been cleverly picked and used to tell the story and set the scenes. Rock of Ages tells the story of Drew, who works as a cleaner and general dogsbody at the club and of his ambition to make it big as a rock star. Fate throws Drew and Sherrie, a Kansas girl who has come to LA to seek her fame and fortune as an actress together, and follows them as their lives take them in different directions to their intended dreams. At the same time, the Sunset Boulevard is under a new threat from foreign investment who wishes to demolish all the old buildings to make way for the new. The story follows the struggle and plight to save the club. However there is a happy ending as the gang manage to save ‘The Bourbon’ and love finally blossoms between Drew and Sherrie.
Rock of Ages is an amazing musical from start to finish, performed by a group of talented actors and musicians, who do a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life. The whole performance was full of pizzazz and showcases the rock ballads of the 80s at their best. The performance was extremely well directed and choreographed throughout coupled with excellent costumes and a brilliant stage design and vivid lighting displays. However with many swear words, double entendres and innuendos throughout, not to mention the sexy and provocative dancing which takes place in most scenes by the very scantily clad dancers, it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Lonny, played by Stephen Rahman-Hughes, who works at ‘The Bourbon’ acts as narrator as well, a role he carries out with style and flair. Right from the start of the production he is at ease with the audience and is chatting to them confidently as if he had known them his whole life, and often had the audience in stitches with his tongue in cheek humour.
Many scenes during the show took place side by side on stage, with the aid of clever stage design and lighting the 2 scenes were able to run side by side very easily. A brilliant example was during Act I as the mayor is tempted by the cash the foreign investors are offering him to bulldoze Sunset Boulevard. “We Built This City” by Starship is played and fits the scene absolutely perfectly and they flip between this scene to ‘The Bourbon’ on the right who are discussing their financial future, as the mayors’ office actors freeze frame on stage. It was very cleverly executed, with added humour and came across very well to the audience.
Drew, played by Noel Sullivan makes the part his own and it was a joy to sit and listen to his powerful voice belt out the rock and roll classics, all the audience loved. He was extremely confident on stage, and had an excellent rapport with his fellow colleagues. Sherrie, played by Cordelia Farnworth also has an amazing voice and is a talented actress in her own right.
There are too many funny bits to mention, however the ones that stood out the most was where Franz, played by Cameron Sharp whips off his suit to reveal an extremely sparkly skin-tight blue leotard, the audience did not see that coming. During Act II Lonny and Dennis declare their hidden feelings to “I can’t fight this feeling anymore” whilst using some very silly but very effective hand gestures and moves on the stage, it is a very funny scene indeed. The humour continues throughout right up to the end, where Dennis Dupree, played by Daniel Fletcher learns of his death, appears as an angel with gold wings out of one of the private boxes and showers the audience with gold glitter; it went down a storm with the audience.
All of the dancers were amazing, so strong and flexible and executed all the dances to perfection, and they coped extremely well with some very quick costume changes. As mentioned above, due to the nature of the story, the barmaids/dancers wore very skimpy and short outfits but these had all been designed with the 80s in mind and fitted the era perfectly. However all the costumes were brilliant, with the male actors sporting some full on rock and roll outfits, complete with studded pouches. Stacee Jaxx, played by the understudy Stephen Rolley wore some brilliant outfits, even sporting some animal print Speedos.
The performance commenced and finished with one of the guitarists coming out of the band area located on stage and demonstrated his musical ability. Throughout the performance they were situated on the main stage in full view of the audience but acting as part of the band at ‘The Bourbon’. It worked well and all the musicians played fantastically. It was a joy to listen to.
Rock of Ages is a very funny musical, with its tongue in cheek humour and light heartedness, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It puts you at ease and you are able to relax and enjoy listening to the rock and roll classics of the 80s, whilst at the same time watching some amazing dance routines being performed on stage.
I was sat towards the back of the dress circle and the only comment I would make is that you are unable to see the screen, which was located at the back of the set above the platform. I think a few images and other parts were played on this and it was just a shame you couldn’t enjoy them as well.
I would give this a rating of 5 out of 5, and definitely recommend it to others.
Tickets cost from £12.90 to £38.90 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Rock of Ages is at the Grand Opera House York until Saturday 6 September 2014. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8713024.
Grand Opera House York, Clifford and Cumberland Street, York, YO1 9SW | 0844 8713024