Book: Chris D’Arienzo
Director: Kristin Hanggi
Reviewer: Naomi Stevens
It is fair to say that Rock of Ages has landed in town with a bang. The show, a production set in LA in the (in their words) mid to late 1980’s when trousers were skin tight and hair was as big as possible, certainly isn’t lacking in the rock element. From the start the musical numbers (all well known 80’s rock classics) come thick and fast and the talented ensemble barely have time to breathe before they are straight into the next.
The plot is based around Drew, played by Noel Sullivan, and Sherrie (Cordelia Farnsworth). Both are looking to make it big in LA. The story itself is a fairly average boy meets girl, with the trials and tribulations which go hand in hand with liking someone and of course things don’t run smoothly, especially after the introduction of Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards) who everyone – including Drew and Sherrie – idolises. Sullivan is charming, sensitive and rather naïve as Drew but there is no doubt that his vocals are extremely strong – he has come a long way since his time in manufactured pop band Hear’say.
Farnsworth plays a sweet, confused and somewhat lost soul which works well alongside Sullivan’s Drew, and when they sing some of the duets together their voices sound spot on. Richards seems to have come straight from the ‘80’s rock scene. He not only looks the part and oozes confidence, but he comes across as the debauched, self-centered and entirely loathsome character brilliantly. The rôle itself may not be the largest, but his presence on stage most certainly is. ‘His’ band are on stage throughout and they could have been pulled straight from any group of the era, giving some superb guitar solos and backing the cast impressively.
There is no weak link within the cast, but Rachel McFarlane who plays strip club owner Justice Charlier and Daniel Fletcher as nightclub owner Dennis Dupree deserve some extra credit. Neither have the biggest parts to play but McFarlane is a vocal power house and Fletcher is extremely funny. The outstanding character though has to be Lonny (Stephen Rahman-Hughes). As narrator he keeps the whole production flowing with some slick moves and hilarious comedy timing. There is never a dull moment when he is on set, which is a lot of the time, and he’s a pleasure to watch.
There are downsides to this show however. It is not really appropriate for children as there is some swearing and just about all the women are seen as objects of pleasure and spend the entire time scantily-clad and performing stripper manoeuvres. That said, the choreography by Kelly Devine is excellent and the girls (indeed, all the cast as there are several ensemble dance routines) are very together. It is also loud. This may seem like common sense as it is a rock show, but there is very little let up between songs and every one is belted out. Although it is fantastic to hear what the cast are capable of, sometimes this means that the words are lost beneath the music which is a shame.
The audience take a while to warm up but once they do it is clear the show is well received. If stereotypes, toilet humour and air guitars are your scene then Rock Of Ages is most enjoyable. However if you are after something more sedate or are easily offended then it would be best to avoid this one. Saying that, it is worth going just to see Rahman-Hughes and Fletcher performing ‘I Can’t Fight This Feeling’ or simply for a showcase of classics including ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’, ‘Final Countdown’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ – the most aptly named as that, really, is the overall essence of this production in so many ways.
Runs until Saturday 12th July 2014 | Photo by Manuel Harlen