Liverpool Empire Theatre, Liverpool – until Saturday 18th September 2021.
Reviewed by Carla Whittaker
The global smash hit Rock of Ages is currently playing to sell-out crowds at Liverpool Empire Theatre until Saturday 18th September 2021. I was exceptionally lucky to be able to get a ticket with my friend to see Rock of Ages on opening night, and what better way to celebrate the reopening of musical theatre than by seeing this show! I had been wanting to see this production for some time, and as it was showing at the ever so popular Liverpool Empire Theatre, a theatre which is renowned for its traditional décor, intimate seating and as always exceptional staff and hospitality.
Rock of Ages tells the story of Sherrie (Rhiannon Chesterman) leaving Oklahoma for the flashy lights of LA to pursue a career in acting, she turns up at Sunset Strip, meets Drew, and is successful in getting a job in the Bourbon Room. Sherrie and Drew’s relationship is far from plain sailing with twists and turns along their journey, including losing their way and opportunity for true love, at the hands of the sleazy Stacee Jaxx played by Kevin Clifton of Strictly Come Dancing who has an eye for the ladies. Sheree leaves the Bourbon Room and starts working in a strip club, whilst the future of the Bourbon Room is threatened with destruction from bad guy German property developers Hertz and his son Franz the rockers will do everything to save it with a parody protest organised by hippy Regina to stop it being rebuilt into a classier development. Entwined within the musical are some of the best 80’s hits including ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘We Built this City’, ‘Here I Go again’, and ‘Hit Me with Your Best Shot’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ in true juke box style, which was accompanied by fantastic strong vocals. The cast did a fantastic effort of getting the audience up on the feet dancing and clapping.
For me, a highlight of the show was the energy, passion and enthusiasm of Joe Gash who played the part of Lonny a team member and close friend of the owner of Bourbon Room; Dennis Dupree. He engaged the audience from the start with his outrageous flirting towards cast and audience alike, with innuendos, charm and charisma being full of showmanship and holding the audience’s attention attentively and maintaining momentum.
The backdrop for the production was simple yet effective of neon lights, and set the scene truly, of a sleazy rock den, with hilarious additions of llama costumes, and tiny motorbikes. Credit should be given to the costume and props department who, really made up believe that we had stepped back into the 80s rock era.
The dancing was well choreographed and well executed by the ensemble however I do feel that the dancing girls at times could be toned down, as on occasions particularly between Stacee and girls was a bit much, however this aside, I fully appreciate that, the production is that of comically steamy scenes, filled with humour of a sexual nature. Given, this, I would not recommend this show as suitable for families and instead would recommend to be watched by adults only.
The chemistry between Rhiannon Chesterman and Luke Walsh on the stage was sensational, and very real, developing from the first encounter with their likeability, warmth, and humour, not to mention the hair-raising vocals which adds to the atmosphere of this production, even though a number of the songs appeared very difficult to sing.
If you want to rewind the years back to 80s rock, then get yourself to see the light-hearted Rock of Ages playing at the Liverpool Empire Theatre until Saturday 18th September 2021 and will continue touring.