MusicalNorth WestReview

Rock of Ages – Liverpool Empire

Reviewer: John McRoberts

Book: Chris D’Arienzo

Director: Nick Winston

Rock of Ages is arguably one of the loudest and brashest pieces of musical theatre, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything else and that is where the show’s charm firmly lies. In not taking itself seriously, it can throw numerous musical theatre tropes into the mix and alongside a brilliant framing device through Lonny’s breaking of the fourth wall, it firmly plants its tongue deep within its cheeks.

Set in the 1980s, this jukebox musical tells the story of Sheree and Drew, two young wannabe starlets who are both chasing their dreams in Los Angeles, and how a thirst for commercial development on the Sunset Strip throws their dreams and aspirations in the air so high that the pending crash has ramifications on everyone around them.

Nick Winston’s production is fast, frenetic, and fun, and it seems that these three words run throughout every rocking pore of the production. From the brilliant vocals of the entire cast who set the rock vibe high from the starting chords of the electric guitars to their excellent comic timing, this is a cast that not only gel well together, but they know how to play and rock hard too!

Headlining the cast is Kevin Clifton, who over the past decade has proved his musical theatre chops, he struts the stage with arrogance as the down and out rock singer Stacee Jaxx yet never overshadowing the rest of the cast. As Drew, Luke Walsh gives a strong performance as the wannabe rocker, really coming into his own during the second act where his talent is really allowed to shine. Rhiannon Chesterman is a delightful Sherrie, her transition from naïve country girl to a strong woman is a joy to watch. Joe Gash as the hilarious Lonny bounces around the stage with the energy of a four-year-old on a sugar high, but with the mouth of a dad doing a comedy gig at the local working man’s club. This mix provides plenty of laughter and energy to the show.

The comedy continues with a trio of excellent performances from the German, father and son duo of Hertz (Vas Constanti) and Franz (Andrew Carthy) alongside Gabriella Williams’ brilliant portrayal of protest leader Regina. Their combined rendition of Pat Benatar’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ being a particular highlight.

Morgan Large’s scaffolding set design lends itself perfectly to the style of the show and lit up by Ben Cracknell’s lighting design, really does give the rock concert vibe. It would however be remiss to not mention one of the evening’s biggest issues – and that comes from the follow-spot operator who was clearly watching a different show. From delayed cues to totally missing the cast, to ghastly on-stage ghosting which is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. – While it’s not the particular fault of any of the individuals listed above – it does have a detrimental effect on the production, so much so that a lead performer shot them a very angry “evil eye” during one of their numbers. If it’s annoying the cast, it most certainly is annoying the audience.

That negative aside, Rock of Ages is a riot, providing an excellent cast, strong production values and a killer back-catalogue of some of the best rock numbers to have been produced – you would be dead if you weren’t having a good time at this frenzy-filled spectacle.

Runs until Sat 18 September 2021 and continues on a UK Tour

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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