Note: This is a press review for the 2021 tour of Rock of Ages.
Following a sell-out UK tour in 2018/2019, musical comedy Rock of Ages returned to the Alexandra Theatre. A jukebox musical featuring over 25 classic 80s rock anthems including Here I Go Again, Can’t Fight This Feeling, Wanted Dead or Alive and Don’t Stop Believing, Rock of Ages has become a global smash-hit, with sold-out seasons on Broadway, the West End, Las Vegas and spawning a Hollywood movie in 2012.
Set in the Bourbon Room on LA’s Sunset Strip, we follow the story of bartender Drew (Luke Walsh), who has dreams of becoming a rock star. He meets wide-eyed Sherrie (Rhiannon Chesterman), an actress from Kansas who has come to LA with ambitions of making it as a movie star. The very existence of the Bourbon Room, owned by Dennis Dupree (Ross Dawes) is threatened by two camp German developers Hertz Klinemann (Vas Constanti) and his son Franz (Andrew Carthy), who attempts to bribe the city mayor (Adam Strong) to replace the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of the strip with high rise apartments. This angers city planner Regina (Gabriella Willams) who makes it her mission to stop them. Added to this are rock star Stacee Jaxx (Strictly Come Dancing’s Kevin Clifton) – lead singer of Arsenal – and Justice (Jenny Fitzpatrick), the owner of the Venus Room strip club, which she prefers to call a local gentlemen’s club. The story is told through the eyes of narrator Lonny (Joe Gash).
This is the third time I have seen the show, and yet again I wasn’t disappointed. It was a stellar cast (many of whom were returning from the 2018 / 2019 tour), with each member possessing incredible vocal and performance skills. Joe Gash – in his Rock of Ages theatre debut as the narrator – was hilarious: full of energy, repeatedly breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience with plenty of innuendo and incredible comedic timing. He was complimented beautifully by the more sensible Ross Dawes as Dennis Dupree (who clearly was loving every minute on the stage), Luke Walsh and Rhiannon Chesterman were fabulous and had wonderful chemistry as Drew and Sherrie, and we were crying with laughter at Gabriella Williams, Vas Constanti and Andrew Carthy as Regina, Hertz and Franz (prepare yourself for some eye-watering leotards in the second-half). Admittedly, I was surprised at the amazing performance of Kevin Clifton – while I had read endless positive reviews about his previous performances in the role of arrogant rocker Stacee Jaxx, I didn’t expect him to be that good. The powerhouse of the show was undoubtedly Jenny Fitzpatrick as Justice, whose voice was so strong that she almost challenged the sound system and immediately evoked cheers from the audience as soon as she started singing.
I also love the fact that most of the show’s musicians are onstage and are integrated as part of the show, and Liam Holmes, Liam Stevenson, Alex Ward, Elliot Mason and Vito Guerrieri were fantastic.
Rock of Ages isn’t about any fancy and complicated sets and lots of costume changes – it’s about the performers and the music, and last night’s show delivered with boundless energy and then some. Indeed, when you have a standing ovation from an audience screaming for more, you know it has been a total success and the Birmingham audience couldn’t get enough. The show is fun, witty, loud and certainly not appropriate for a younger audience.
If you love your 80’s rock anthems, this is absolutely the show for you!
Rock of Ages is at the Alexandra Theatre for a matinee performance this afternoon and tonight (11th September 2021) so there is still time to book tickets!
Note: Kevin Clifton will not be appearing in today’s performances.
Disclaimer: The Bloke and I were given complimentary tickets to the show, but were under no obligation to provide a positive review.