Big hair, stone wash denim, tight trousers…and that’s just the men. Yes, it’s 1980’s Los Angeles, a decade of excess and debauchery, when soft rock was the soundtrack blaring from convertible cars cruising down Sunset Strip. And indeed, this is the backdrop to tonight’s performance of Rock of Ages at the Alexandra Theatre.
I confess to not knowing much about this particular musical. However, thanks to an ex that was slightly obsessed with Bonnie Tyler, Whitesnake and Chicago, I confess to knowing more about 80’s soft rock than I like to talk about in polite company. And right from the opening bars I’m immersed in the show. And it’s hilarious. I wasn’t prepared for the show to be as ridiculously bonkers and fun as it is. And yes, it’s politically incorrect and highly inappropriate at times…but hey, that was the 80’s.
There are a plethora of storylines going on, creating a high-energy show packed with classic rock anthems. We have a love story between aspiring rocker Drew (Luke Walsh) and naive actress wannabe Sherrie (Danielle Hope). We have German property developers – a hilariously camp father/son duo (Vas Constanti and Andrew Carthy). We have the Bourbon Club (heavily based on LA’s legendary Whiskey-A-Go-Go) under threat of demolition, its owner wanting to stage one last gig to go out with a bang. We have sleazy rockstar Stacee Jaxx (Sam Ferriday) And it’s a rocktastic whirlwind of bright lights, loud music and the kind of dancing to make your dad blush. It’s like a two-hour 80’s rock video.
Dennis Dupree, the Bourbon Club’s hippie owner, is played by Kevin Kennedy, who should change his name by deed poll to “ex-Coronation-Street-star-Kevin-Kennedy”. It’s the second time I’ve seen him on the Alexandra stage, after his previous stint in The Commitments – and it’s the scenes set in the club which hold the story together as all the different storylines converge. But it’s Lucas Rush as foul-mouthed narrator Lonny who steals the show with great comedic banter and audience interaction (Hi to Jackie!) He sums up everything which is wonderfully OTT about this show.
I’ve seen two former X-Factor contestants in shows at the Alexandra this year – Matt Terry in Madagascar and Lucie Jones in Legally Blonde – but those who remember X-Factor’s original incarnation of Pop Idol will remember Zoe Birkett (in the same series with the epic Will Young/Gareth Gates battle). She has a wonderful voice and plays feisty strip club owner Justice with gusto. She commands the stage and is tragically under-utilised as she sparkles in every scene. Yet, all the vocal performances are strong, with not one bum note between them.
It’s not a show of multiple set changes, or big flashy designs. It’s about the performances, the costumes and the music. The onstage band entertain us with a relentless jukebox of rock classics and inevitably the audience are ready to air guitar with them by the time the finale comes around. Rock of Ages is energetic, uplifting and a whole lot of fun. Last night God did indeed give Rock n Roll to Birmingham
Rock of Ages is in Birmingham at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 17th November, and then tours the UK until July 2019. Tickets can be purchased here.
*I was invited to attend this press event by The Alexandra Theatre, however this doesn’t affect my opinion of the show, and an honest review will be given in all cases.
**All production photos are by The Other Richard and are used with permission of the promoters and the Alexandra Theatre