Rock of Ages – The Garrick Theatre, London

Ok it’s like this…. about a year ago I admitted to being an addict. Not your usual Rock n Roll addiction for me, oh no. I openly declared that rather than booze and hard drugs my narcotic of choice was a West End stage musical. Now, before any new readers start giving me grief, in my defence this one at least contained some of the most fantastic songs of the decade that formed my love of rock….the heady days of The Sunset Strip of the early/mid/late 80s. Having missed my fix for a while, my body was screaming for a dose of Rock of Ages.

Rock Of Ages-Recast-25-09-12-Shaftesbury-212Now seemed like a perfect opportunity – having recently moved to a new home in the centre of theatreland and having recruited a new cast (minus the big names in the roles of Dennis Dupree and Stacee Jaxx – Justin Lee Collins and Shane Ward), I had to get down to the “big smoke” and here was my opportunity.

The night before I decided to test my West End addiction – managing to get tickets for a well known show that kept telling us that they would rock us – you know the one? Yeah the songs are good but it was….well too much like a musical for me. Even the jokes seemd too “knowing”. The relief I felt when the dulcet tones of a certain serpent master from Teeside (“Hi….I’m David…”) gave the pre-show health and safety talk was immense and, as if by magic, we were back in that golden period for LA and rock music – the early/mid/late 80s.

How would the new cast cope without the lure of the “big names”? Dead easy to answer that – fantastically. This show doesn’t need “names” to carry it and bring in the punters. The show strikes gold on every level that the multi-million dollar movie version failed on – humour, songs (although Mr Cruise did a marvellous job as a rock singer) and mostly no Russell Brand and his Brummie-pudlian accent. Sure, some of the “hits” were bigger in the States than in the UK but so what – this was the era of big hair, tight clothes, glammy make-up (yeah, sometimes the girls dressed up too!) and the songs were GREAT. A true “jukebox musical”, a bit of plot (which, despite what other critics have said, is plenty for the show – have you seen WWRY?) is there to take us between songs and the gags.Rock Of Ages-Recast-25-09-12-Shaftesbury-3947

Unlike the film (thank Gawd!) the star of the show is actually Lonnie. Played by Simon Lipkin to great aplomb – is he winging it? Is he trying to make the cast corpse? Who cares….it’s brilliant.  Ross Hunter is the new Drew and seems to have a voice well suited to the demands of “RAWK” (to me that is the main reason why they pull this off – the songs need to sound like rock songs). The same is true of the whole cast (unfortunately, Tim Howar was off the night we visited and I really wanted to see how the new voice of Mike and the Mechanics performed as Stacee).

If you’ve seen the movie but not the show, you really must get yourself to the West End. Chris D’Arienzo has said the original aim was to create a musical that straight guys would love and, boy, has he managed it. I’ve seen the show four times now and can’t wait for my next visit and the new home at The Garrick  iteally hits the mark. You truly feel a part of the show. The great thing for me is that the cast (and band) seem to treat the songs with the right degree of reverance (if that’s the right word?) – those of us who were around back in the day were “in” on the joke and took having fun VERY seriously. And so do these guys – of course they’re actors but they all give the impression that they love being a part of Rock of Ages

So, I am still addicted to the wonder that is Rock of Ages. Get yourself there so you can be too – but book early, now that they are in the centre of London theatreland ticket sales are storming – there is no reason why with this cast the London version should not replicate the recent achievement of the New York production and become one of the longest running shows in town.

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The other thing to check out if you are going to visit the delights of London – ticket offers are available through sites like Groupon and the theatre has special events too (I really like the idea of “Free Drinks Friday”!). I promise you….if you love rock music and have a sense of humour you will love it. And remember….”Don’t Stop Believing”

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