Rock of Ages 2022
When the world feels like a dark and dismal place, Rock of Ages will shine a light; a very bright, sometimes dazzling, often funny (and a little bit rude) light.
Rock of Ages is a modern day musical theatre phenomenon; it ran for a record breaking 2328 performances on Broadway, has toured in more than 30 countries and spawned a 2012 movie. Director Nick Winston is the man you can trust to ensure you leave this show feeling the world is a much better place, the night a little less dark and Rock will always remain true.
Packed full of iconic rock songs this is the musical equivalent to time travelling for anyone who was around in the 70's and 80’s (or anyone younger who just loves great rock anthems). The story is a classic Boy Meets Girl, Falls in Love, Boy Loses Girl (due to his pig headedness), Boy has an epiphany and wins her back. Running in the background is the threat of big business developing the Sunset Strip and demolishing the iconic bars and music venues. So far pretty formulaic, however what sets this one aside from so many other pop musicals is its total abandonment of the expected norm – Rock of Ages may be serious about the music, but it certainly doesn’t take itself serious at all.
Constantly breaking the 4th wall the cast ensure that the audience are as much a part of the story as the choice of songs – they regularly display acute existentialism by referencing themselves as being actors in a musical, making for a collective sense of us all being ‘in on the joke’.
The cast clearly enjoy the show as much as the audience, none more so than Sam Turrell (Drew) and Gabriella Williams (Sherrie), the story’s love struck leads who brilliantly toy with the perils of LA stardom and sleaze. Both find themselves at the Bourbon Room, a rock club on the Sunset Strip ran by Dennis Dupree (the timeless Kevin Kennedy, giving us a brilliantly gravelly west coast American and still showing that his 1st love of rock music is also his biggest passion); Drew bussing tables and writing music, Sherrie as a wide eyed innocent looking to become an actor. Sadly both of them end up betraying their dreams for a dose of LA reality, namely a boy band producer and a strip club.
Guiding the audience through the story is the narrator and Dupree’s assistant Lonny, played by the mercurial Joe Gash – Gash gives Lonny all the sexual tension of Russell Brand crossed with the over the top flamboyance of Timothy Claypole (from Rentaghost). Impish, mischievous and just deliciously naughty, Gash plays up to, and with, the audience, like an adult pantomime dame, filling scene changes with surreal humour and adding in plenty of on the edge devilishness. I dare anyone to name a better host and surely there is an ever growing list of producers lining up to get Joe into their show once Rock has ran its course.
There are standout performances by Kellie Rhianne as Justice (showing her prowess as a powerful soul singer) while Cameron Sharp as the sleazy aging rock god Stacee Jaxx is the epitome of all our favourite 70's rockers who just refuse to grow old (or die).
The counterpoint to the love story between Drew and Sherrie is that developers Hertz Klinemann (Vas Constanti ) and his son Franz Klinenmann (Andrew Carthy) are trying to persuade city Mayor (Billy Roberts) to sell them the strip so they can bulldoze it all away and replace it with modern, clean, high rises. These 3 make for some of the funniest scenes and at times the most risqué dance routines. Of course, they don't get it all their own way, Vicky Manser as Regina, the patchouli smelling, tie-died hippy mobilises the local proletariat as a resistance group.
The playlist should be filed under ‘definition of jukebox musical’; it feels like the writer, Chris D’Arienzo, wanted to make a mix tape of his favourite 80’s songs and then make up a story to tell by using them. Every tune sits as a chapter heading to progress the story; there is little subtlety in which tune fits where but that is perfect, we’re not here for high brow, deep thinking culture, we’re here for Rock and Roll and for that we salute you.
Backed by a brilliant ensemble, some rather risqué costumes and a rocking live band, this is not so much a love letter to rock as it is a wild Friday night of abandonment and worry about the consequences later.
So, if you like comedy, if you enjoy live music and if you love rock then this is the perfect way to spend an evening.