Writer: Chris D’Arienzo
Director: Kristin Hanggi
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
You will feel you want to be donning the lycra and the leg warmers this week when award-winning Rock Of Ages The Musical hits Milton Keynes Theatre with a big 1980s bang and hair to match! No doubt you will also be tapping those toes, doing a bit of air guitar and maybe even some singing (how could one not?!) to this ultimate celebration of 80s culture and music with classic tunes such as ‘The Final Countdown’,’ I Wanna Know What Love Is’, ‘We Built This City’, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ and so many more from the era.
We are just approaching the finale of that wonderful decade, the 80s, with all the hair, lycra, style and colour, not forgetting the hairdos. In Hollywood, on the Strip, it’s party time! Booze flows like Niagara Falls at one of the Sunset Strip’s most famous venues, where a sex god known as Stacee Jaxx struts his stuff on stage amid typically scantily-covered groupies who queue to turn their dreams into reality. In among all this lunacy is the young wannabe rock star (and regular bathroom cleaner at the venue) the humble Drew who has aspirations to be the next big thang! He also has a crush on the latest ingenue arrival from outa town, Sherri, from Kansas. Unfortunately, it seems the rock and roll fairy story may not get its happy ending since Germans Hertz and Franz, the developers, bulldoze their way into town aiming to make the iconic Strip into just another shopping mall. Will Drew, Sherri, Regina and the guys manage to save the Sunset Strip – and their own careers of course – before it’s too late? Will Drew and Sherrie get together? Where does Stacee Jaxx figure in all this??????
The last question could be ‘Will you care?’ One is never so overly-entangled with the oh so light story line as to worry about the ending. It’s a bit like all ‘Light’ foodstuffs with the oomph removed and replaced with one is not entirely sure what! Air? But that is not the point with this show because it is all about fun, nostalgia, the tunes and plenty of self-parody and it certainly gets away with it. A small but dynamic cast helps in this as do the two leads and the wonderfully talented on-stage band, Arsenal, which is incorporated into the story. The first act could do with more pace but the second act more than makes up for it and it is when the humour really takes off.
UnderstudyStephen Rolley does a fantastic job as the vulnerable and shy Drew Boley. Convincing acting, a superb voice and boy can he hold a note! His duets with Cordelia Farnworth as Sherrie all display perfect harmonies. She has a lovely rich and powerful voice and does the part to a tee. Stephen Rahman-Hughes brings us the narrator/M.C and does a great job. He is very funny and has the voice too.Ben Richards gives us a sound performance as the very unlikeable Stacee Jaxx and clearly enjoys the laughs. He is not actually in the piece that much but makes the most of it when he is. A real pity we do not get to hear more of Rachel McFarlane’s vocals as Justice Charlier. What resonance. Cameron Sharp does wonders with the stereotypical German son, Franz. He has real stage presence and brings a special something to the rôle, but no spoilers here!
Kelly Devine’s sassy choreography sums up the 80s well and Beowulf Boritt’s set is very evocative, aided by Zacharry Borovay’s atmospheric projection. So while there are some flaws, if you never take this show too seriously and enjoy all the 80s music and the nostalgia you are assured a fun evening’s entertainment and will be up on your feet at the end, mark my words.
Picture: Manuel Harlan | Runs until Aug 23rd 2014