REVIEW: Rock of Ages – what the show lacks in plot, it sure makes up for in volume

Rock of Ages UK Tour – 2018/19 Production Image by Richard Davenport

Venue: The Alexandra, Birmingham

Performance Date: 10 September 2021

Reviewer: Sophie Mills

Star Rating: ★★1/2

The party show that is Rock of Ages has embarked on another tour of the UK, bringing rock hits of the 80s to our much-loved playhouses. This particular iteration has kicked off at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre, and truly brought the house down.

Rock of Ages follows Sherrie (Rhiannon Chesterman) as she moves to Sunset Strip to make it as an actress. After a mugging upon arrival, she stumbles into Drew (Luke Walsh) who begs his manager, Dennis (Ross Dawes), to give her a job at The Bourbon. Whilst waitressing, Stacee Jaxx (Kevin Clifton) – a huge rockstar and lead singer of Arsenal – performs at the bar and Sherrie, despite head over heels for Drew, finds herself schmoozed by Jaxx. The fallout at the end of act one sees everybody miserable and desperate for redemption. A classic arc of any good musical.

Rock of Ages is well known for breaking the fourth wall which sadly invites the audience to heckle in inappropriate places. Whilst the audience interaction is fun 90% of the time, the unwelcome participation from the audience causes stuttering in the performance with an already broken story to contend with. The vibes are very Rocky Horror, without the cult following to make it acceptable.

The songs come thick and fast, which are a welcome distraction from the clear lack of plot. In fact, the music is favoured entirely over the plot with many songs unnecessarily shoehorned in. It is a poor jukebox musical in this sense. Perhaps Rock of Ages is definitely for the 80s rock music fans and the casual theatre goers, rather than the seasoned musical theatre fans. If you are looking for plot, this isn’t the show for you.

What Rock of Ages lacks in plot, it sure makes up for in volume. Volume of the music, but also volume of talent the small cast possess. Joe Gash’s Lonny is the core of the show, with a stellar comic performance as our narrator. He carries the show without fault, and without him the show would falter and fail.

Other notable performances come from Andrew Carthy’s loveable Franz – a German with a dream, and Jenny Fitzpatrick as Justice – a former soul singer who now owns a gentleman’s club. Whilst Kevin Clifton’s performance is a masterclass, he isn’t on stage enough to leave a lasting impression.

Not a single performer can be faulted for the heart they give their characters, and not a single note is flat throughout the two and a half hour show duration. The dancing is passionate and exciting thanks to Nick Winston’s direction and choreography (inspired considering the minimal storyline to work with). Sadly, as beautiful as they are, Morgan Large’s costume design is a clear attempt at atoning for the poor plot – distracting with a lot of skin. The costumes were beautiful, but inappropriate for anybody to see until the age of 16.

Unless you’re a big fan of 80s music or perhaps Kevin Clifton, Rock of Ages might not be for you. It’s a bit of fun, but sadly nothing to write home about. Rock of Ages in this iteration is fairly forgettable, and in this case it’s not worth the late night of an evening performance which is a real shame for the talented and committed cast.

Runs until: 11th September 2021

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