Director: Kristin Hanggi
Writer: Chris D’Arienzo
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
As the smoke and neon haze of The Bourbon Room clears the audience at Southampton’s Mayflower erupts to the sounds of rock guitars and a heavy drum beat. Yes Rock of Ages is in town! Set in 80’s Los Angeles where big hair and power ballads rule the day and there is enough hairspray to make people worried about standing too close to a naked flame, the somewhat crazy and unbelievable boy meets girl story is interwoven around songs from Whitesnake, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Journey to name but a few.
When wannabe rock star Drew (Noel Sullivan) meets and falls in love with small town Kansas girl Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth) it is clear from the outset that the path of true love is not going to run smoothly. With a detour through Dennis Dupree’s (Daniel Fletcher) Bourbon Room and around the corrupt Civic Hall where permission is granted to demolish the infamous bar and the rest of the strip, Rock of Ages provides a cheesy, sleazy slice of 80’s American West Coast Rock.
Noel Sullivan belts out rock ballads with incredible ease and demonstrates a real rock edge to his voice. Despite the Southampton audience being slow and slightly difficult to warm up; possibly due to a British reserve, by the time Sullivan closes the first Act with Whitesnake’s ‘Here I go Again’ there is a marked change in atmosphere. This impetus continues with Act 2’s opening rendition of Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ and by now the audience are enthusiastically clapping along and stamping their feet in time to the musical numbers that everyone recognises.
Cordelia Farnsworth portrays an innocent edge to Sherrie and demonstrates a vocal strength that belies her tiny frame. Her inability to see that Drew is in love with her and as such makes a poor choice by sleeping with the deliciously obnoxious, sexist and odious Stacee Jaxx played with fabulous abandonment by the sharp and savvy Ben Richards. Stephen Rahman-Hughes gives a sterling performance as Lonny although at times it was a little laboured. A real joy was Cameron Sharp’s portrayal of the extremely camp German Franz, who has spent his whole life being bullied by his domineering father Hertz Klinemann (Jack Lord). Sharp’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ received huge applause.
Rock of Ages is what it is, an irreverent, crazy romp through the 80’s most recognisable rock and judging by the audience it did not matter if you were around in that era to enjoy the show. Overall this is an exciting and noisy night out. If you enjoy 80s rock and some audience participation then rock up at the Mayflower but make sure you get there by Saturday!
Tour photoManuel-Harlan ¦ Runs at the Mayflower until 13th September then continues touring