Sunderland Empire – until 10 October 2022
I’ve not always been a middle aged mother of three. In the 80’s I discovered rock music, black eyeliner and attitude. I was a Rock Chick and Rock of Ages is the soundtrack to my teens.
This a wonderful cheesy, pantomime-esque show. Set in LA in the 1980’s it has an element of sleaze about it but very tongue in cheek and if the show doesn’t take itself seriously – should we?
Dennis (Kevin Kennedy) owns the The Bourbon Room on Sunset Strip, he has employees Drew (Sam Turrell) and Lonny (the marvellous Joe Gash). When Sherrie (Gabrielle Williams) leaves her home in the country, she’s mugged outside the Bourbon Room within minutes of arriving on the Strip. Drew takes her in to tend her injuries and Dennis gives her a job as a waitress. Drew wants to rock as Wolfgang Von Colt and Sherrie encourages him to follow his dream.
Across town, father and son German’s Hertz (Vas Constanti) and Franz (David Breeds) are trying to convince the Mayor (Billy Roberts) to let them knock down the Strip and build a Footlocker instead. But Planning Officer Regina (Vicki Manser) has other ideas and plans a protest to save the Strip.
Enter into the middle of this, the lead singer of Arsenal, soon to be solo artist, Stacee Jaxx (Cameron Sharp) and madness ensues. After Stacee gets Sherrie fired she ends up in the care of Justice (Natalie Winsor) working in the Venus Club. Will there be a happy ending?
Joe Gash as Lonny moves the plot along, totally irreverent he breaks the fourth wall and flirts with the audience. Stealing every scene he is in (and it is nearly every scene), he adds most of the humour in the show. Flirting with Lindsay in the audience, it felt like he was flirting with me (after all, I am a Lindsay too!)
Rock of Ages is filled with funny moments: Hit Me With Your Best Shot being hilarious and Franz uttering the best line in musical theatre “I’m not gay, I’m German”. Love stories: I Can’t Fight This Feeling being the best love scene ever. And some awesome vocals; Sam Turrell holding his note in Oh Sherrie for what felt like hours, Sherrie and Stacee’s Hate Myself for Lovin’ You/ Heat of the Moment and Natalie Winsor’s powerhouse performance in every song she sings.
I have a very soft spot for Rock of Ages, the original West End show is where I ended up falling into reviewing, and this tour exceeded all my expectations, being even better than the original. Chris D’Arienzo’s book, Nick Winston’s direction and choreography and Barney Ashworth’s musical direction have given producers Selladoor a hit show. With a live band constantly on stage (Liam Holmes, Liam Stevenson, Alex Ward, Elliot Mason and Steve Hynes) it’s a permanent rock party live on stage every night.
On tour around the UK www.rockofagesmusical.co.uk is the perfect bit of sparkle to banish away those winter blues.