Right then, just in case anybody might have missed it … Davey boy is just a bit of a fan of Rock of Ages. Now toy you a bit of a fan might mean one thing, however in my case the word obsessive probably sums it up more accurately. You know that I interviewed original director Kristin Hanggi last week and have already reviewed the West End production twice (quite restrained considering I saw it FIVE tims between the two theatres over the two and a bit year run. The feel good, fun and frolics to the soundtrack of my life just continued to bring a smile to my (slightly too much guyliner for my age) face – well, that is until they announced that the show was to close. B O O! H O O! However, as in all good theatre, the show was to go on – this time by way of a UK nationwide tour.
With a view to prove that it wasn’t just me, I promptly rallied around my rock n roll friends/family and decided to purchase tickets for the fial night of the first week in … Manchester! Yay, they knew it had to open near Davey Jaxx here! Thta, was back in 2013 and suddenly May 5th’s opening, preview night was on us and, er hang on they announced a first preview and, as luck would have it I won a pair of tickets. By then I’d also been generously given a pair for press night and then as the fates moved in very mysterious ways (and not without a hint of jazz hands)I felt the urge to see the Thursday show too (more of that later) … all before the main event, the Saturday party.
So, the story hasn’t changed – Drew and Sherrie still have big dreams, Dennis still has the Bourbon Room, Stacee Jaxx still “Sparkles”, Franz is still German .. and the show is still about a million times better than the film (did Russell Brand ever explain that bizarre accent?). What we have is a, mostly, new cast and alll I hoped was that they could bring the fun and joy in the same way that the London cast had. The ROAdies seemed a little disappointed about a lack of Simon Lipkin or Nathan Amzi as Lonny but new shows and The Voice seemed to be good reasons for the change. Ben Richards as Stacee is probably best known for his roles in Footballers Wives and The Bill but has plenty of stage experience and, of course there is Noel (yes, off of Hear’Say) Sullivan as Drew. WAIT A MINUTE! Did someone say Hear’Say? How would he handle the might and majesty of ROCK AND ROLL?
The week started and immediately I was off guard. First preview and due to injury to Stephen Rahman-Hughes (Teatro, film and the very hairy backed Bollywood star of the Radox ads), Lonny was being played by Chris Southgate. Considering the short notice Chris did an absolutely sterling job. Although clearly not as settled in to the part as the previous encumbents (it is clear that each actor needs to try a few things of their own to make himself Lonny), the first preview worked well, plenty of humour and some fair attempts to add a little bit of himself. The rest of the cast were, as I had no doubts about, excellent. Ben Richards brought some fun (good singer too), Cameron Sharp was incredible as Franz, Rachel MacFarlane is still amazing as Justice, Cordelia Farnworth makes Sherrie her own and Dan Fletcher is … well, he is Dennis. All in all a fantastic trip back to the early/mid/late 80s (ish!), another friend addicted (sorry, Jez!) – and all despite a few opening night teething problems.
So what could press night bring? As it happens, it brought the fabulous Nathan Amzi (fresh from The Voice!) as Lonny. This was a cool thing for Mrs W and myself, as Nathan was the first Lonny we saw. Now here you could see what a couple of years as 2nd Lonny created. Coupled with his great voice Nathan has some great comedy timing and really brought the show to life (Chicken Tikka anyone?) but it was for two shows only (but, in the words of Max Boyce, I was there). Just as I was leaving it was announced that Simon Lipkin would be helping out for the next two shows and … that was the moment when Mrs W fell out with me. I needed to go and used my press card. Simon has recently been appearing in “I Can’t Sing” the (God forgive me) X-Factor musical and had a few days off before the final curtain down on that particular show (another one, apparently, cruelly cut down it’s prime). What can I say but …. WOW! Simon had made the part of Lonny his own during the West End run and his second night in Manchester was where it became totally clear that, to be honest, they should have fought to get him on tour. No the others (as will become apparent) were GREAT but there is something special when the actor and the character blend so that he can “riff” on the theme to create something far funnier (and still not take the … you know what I mean?)
Which just left Saturday and … Stephen Rahman-Hughes was back. What a smart boy – he took some bits of Nathan and some parts of Lonny and … added a bit of himself. If he can keep adding his own character, Stephen will prove himself to the ROAdies (don’t worry pal, just give them time. They’re very loyal).
Oh, I nearly forgot… Noel Sullivan.All I can say is … forget what you might think about his previous life. This boy can sing – with a proper rock edge. I was VERY impressed.
So is it worth seeing? HELL YEAH! You will sing, dance, laugh and have the best time of your life since … well, since the early/mid/late 80s (ish)! At least you will now the show has left the Palace – sound engineers needed to remember that this was a rock show not a tea dance, SO TURN IT UP! More worryingly, unlike London (where the theatre staff were proactive in getting the audience up and rocking) some of the Palace staff seemed more intent on using the phrase “SHHH!”‘ flashing torches in peoples faces (like some kind of camp light sabre reprimand) and worse, actually removing some people on the Thursday night for apparently having “Nothing but a Good Time”! Camp Jedi tried again on Saturday with two of my party – no, he didn’t know who we were (and I didn’t ask) – but he had vanished for Act 2…. was it that he had been reprimanded or, more likely, thought his light sabre wouldn’t work on the whole audience?
Great fun … and, I bet you would never guess – I’ll be going again (and again!)
12-17 May BIRMINGHAM NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE
19-24 May EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE
02-07 Jun TORQUAY PRINCESS THEATRE
09-14 Jun NOTTINGHAM THEATRE ROYAL
16-21 Jun BROMLEY CHURCHILL THEATRE
23-28 Jun BRADFORD ALHAMBRA THEATRE
30 Jun-05 Jul AYLESBURY WATERSIDE THEATRE
07-12 Jul BRISTOL HIPPODROME
14-19 Jul STOKE-ON-TRENT REGENT THEATRE
21-26 Jul LIVERPOOL EMPIRE THEATRE
28 Jul-02 Aug SUNDERLAND EMPIRE THEATRE
04-09 Aug GLASGOW KING’S THEATRE
11-16 Aug BRIGHTON THEATRE ROYAL
18-23 Aug MILTON KEYNES MILTON KEYNES THEATRE 25-30 Aug WOKING NEW VICTORIA THEATRE
01-06 Sep YORK GRAND OPERA HOUSE
08-13 Sep SOUTHAMPTON MAYFLOWER THEATRE 15-20 Sep DUBLIN BORD GÁIS ENERGY
29 Sep-04 Oct HULL NEW THEATRE
06-11 Oct CARDIFF NEW THEATRE
13-18 Oct BLACKPOOL OPERA HOUSE
20-25 Oct OXFORD NEW THEATRE
27 Oct-1 Nov SHEFFIELD LYCEUM THEATRE
3-8 Nov ABERDEEN HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE
10-15 Nov SOUTHEND-ON-SEA CLIFFS PAVILION
17-22 Nov WIMBLEDON NEW THEATRE