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Rock of Ages – New Theatre Oxford

Director: Kristin Hanggi

Book: Chris D’Arienzo

Reviewer: Bethaney Rimmer

With its myriad of rock n roll anthems, and powerful choreography that makes you want to rush up on stage to join in, Rock of Ages is the ideal show for letting your hair down and having nothin’ but a good time (and it don’t get better than this). Featuring 31 heart racing hits, including ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, and ‘Here I Go Again’, and a cheesy but riotous book by Chris D’arienzo, Rock of Ages will have you out of your seats and brimming with nostalgia.

This is the story of fresh faced dreamers, Drew (Noel Sullivan) and Sherrie (Cordelia Farnsworth), who find themselves working in Dennis Dupree’s (Daniel Fletcher) Bourbon Room on Sunset Strip of Los Angeles, in 1987. As the scene that witnessed the beginning of Jon Bon Jovi and Poison, LA was the place to get noticed, which is exactly what these naive youngsters are hoping for. Narrated by the hysterical Lonny (Stephen Rahman-Hughes) you watch this city boy and small town girl strive to achieve their goals, while Dupree does his utmost to keep his beloved bar from being closed down.

At first glance Rock of Ages may seem like a show without much depth or insight, and this wouldn’t be a wholly incorrect assumption to make, but that does not mean it doesn’t have a widespread appeal, even to those who tend to enjoy a more ‘traditional’ musical. While there are moments of utter silliness and debauchery – not to mention this show makes fun of itself on multiple occasions – the talent and capability of this cast, and the quality of the production as a whole, are forces to be reckoned with.

Noel Sullivan showcases outstanding vocals, which is a very pleasant surprise as he didn’t get to deliver this kind of standard as part of former pop band Hear’Say; he certainly makes up for lost time as floppy haired Drew. Cordelia Farnworth has a beautiful voice that complements all those she sings with throughout the show, and both she and Sullivan portray likeable characters who you root for from the very beginning.

As narrator Stephen Rahman-Hughes does a great job of keeping the, albeit predictable, story in full flow, with his unabashed humour and unapologetically naughty attitude. His ability to make the audience laugh with a snap of his fingers is equally matched by the flamboyant Franz, played by crowd favourite Cameron Sharp.

If afforded a closer look at the stage you would probably notice it overflowing with 80s rock n roll detail, as even from a stalls seat you feel instantly transported to the inside of the Bourbon Room, complete with a visible band who play on stage for the entirety of the performance. The setting is especially impressive during the beginning of act two, with the cast at varying levels and the accompanying laser show. From Justice Charlier’s (Rachel Mcfarlane) powerhouse vocals to Lonny’s smoke machine skills, this cast are extremely strong and do a highly commendable job of giving new life to already established hits.

Rock of Ages is the king of the crowd pleasers, and probably one of the few shows where audience participation in the form of singing along is mostly welcomed throughout. If you’re looking for a loud and lively night of entertainment then this’ll be the musical you’re looking for, and perhaps there is an insight to be gained from such a show: never judge a production by preconceived notions because you might just miss out.

Photo: Manuel Harlan | Runs until: Saturday 25 October

Director: Kristin Hanggi Book: Chris D’Arienzo Reviewer: Bethaney Rimmer With its myriad of rock n roll anthems, and powerful choreography that makes you want to rush up on stage to join in, Rock of Ages is the ideal show for letting your hair down and having nothin’ but a good time (and it don’t get better than this). Featuring 31 heart racing hits, including ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, and ‘Here I Go Again’, and a cheesy but riotous book by Chris D’arienzo, Rock of Ages will have you out of your seats and brimming…

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.