I’m not too sure where to start this…..perhaps something like this: “My name is David, and I love musicals”! I realise that this makes me sound like some kind of addict but in all truth I think I may be. Now, like many people with addictions I am not into just any old musical – I know this because I’ve tried a couple of others and they don’t come close to the thrill and rush that Rock of Ages gives me. More significantly, if any further evidence of my little “problem” were needed, you may realise that writing for Rock-Zone UK means that we get sent things (like CDs or show passes) to enable us to review the latest releases and hopefully encourage our lovely readers to buy their own ticket or CD – this weekend was the third time I’ve seen Rock of Ages and it was the third time I’ve PAID for tickets!
When you take your seats in the rather fabulous Shaftesbury Theatre, you realise that you may just have set foot in a time machine. For a man of a certain age, suddenly I was transported back to the Sunset Strip of the early/mid/late Eighties – adverts, neon and ladies undergarments draped over signs, statues and chandeliers all with some rocking Hair Rock tracks whilst the audience takes their seats (Warrant, Ratt, Autograph and the like)…..even better lovely people wander the theatre selling beer! It was just like being at the Rainbow Bar & Grill.
The fun starts at the point where you usually get hit by the boring bit that the Health & Safety police insist on. Hang on, that’s Lord Coverdale of Whitesnake imploring us to turn off our phones and not record the show. Very tongue in cheek and full of truths and if you have one of those bluetooth ear pieces you may find that David puts you off ever using it again!
Unlike any other West End show, the band is on stage throughout the entire show and are very much a part of the story and they hit the right note as the opening notes of “Just Like Paradise” begin the action. In case you’ve just got back from Mars or have managed to avoid any of the recent promo work by the shows cast (Children in Need, This Morning, Dancing on Ice, Soccer:AM, etc) the big names in the show are Justin Lee Collins (“Good Times”) and Shayne Ward (yep, he off the X-Factor) but the first character we are introduced to is the glue that holds the show together. Lonny Burnett (played by Simon Lipkin) works at the main setting for the show – Dupree’s Bourbon Room – and is the narrator (or “dramatic conjurer”, if you will) and he sets the scene and introduces our hero Drew Boley (Oliver Tompsett) and our heroine, Sherrie Christian (played at this performance by Cordelia Farnworth).
The story? Well many reviewers (who really need to have their sense of humour bypass surgery reversed) have talked about the “thin” plot. A love story that also tells the tale of evil builders attempting to demolish the Sunset Strip (and with it the Bourbon Room). The writer, Chris D’Arienzo, says his goal was to write a musical that straight guys would love and he has. 30 songs from that time before Kurt Cobain and his friends came along and killed all that was fun in rock n roll. Sure the hair was big and the men wore more make-up than their girlfriend but, hey, it was fun. We…er, sorry, they did it with a smile on the face and reaaly learned that there was “nothin’ But a Good Time” to be had.
Big power ballads, 80s rock and lots and lots of laughter (particularly Lonny’s adlibs – there really is nothing funnier than watching people “corpse” and it simply adds to the enjoyment). You may be asking how X-Factor winner Shayne Ward handles himself (oo-er missus….) in the role of Stacee Jaxx? He really does rock and plays the stereotypical, big headed star (who clearly suffers from Lead Singer Syndrome) for laughs and can definately sing like a rocker (who’d have thought it?). Justin Lee Collins is as funny as you would imagine, can sing well and, for diet fanatics, is living proof that dancing and rocking out is AMAZING for the waistline.
A sold out theatre is a sight to behold. This goes even better – the entire cast are clearly having the time of their lives and the audience feel it. By the time “Don’t Start Believing” strikes up, the audience are on their feet and we are all singing about the small town boy and girl. Oh, just in case you get there and the understudies are performing….DON’T PANIC. Having seen the show 3 times, I can guarantee you that your fun will not be affected.
Chris D’Arienzo has clearly achieved his objective – a musical for those of us that “don’t do musicals”. For those whose reviews have been less than 10/10….get a grip, rock was and is supposed to be fun. Life is way too hard for everything to be totally serious, all the time and Rock of Ages is the perfect antidote to the “we’re all in this together” garbage that the government keeps telling us. Do you need cheering up? Do you need to rock out? Want to be smiling three days later? Get yourself to Rock of Ages….you’ll probably be sat next to me – I’ll be there again….and again…..and again!
So yes…my name is David and I’m a Rock of Ages – aholic!
The show is currently booking until October (having already had the run extended twice).
More information and tickets at www.rockofagesmusical.co.uk
Review by David Wilson
Full cast photo credited to Tristram Kenton