“Still Rocking at Heart“
*** 3 Stars
It’s hard to believe that its now 17 years since the 80’s Rock jukebox musical Rock of Ages made its debut performances in Los Angeles in 2005. Following an all star film adaptation in 2012 and various productions around the globe including Broadway and London’s west end. The show returns for a new UK tour and proves it’s still rocking at heart.
Rock of Ages, with book by Chris D’Arienzo tells the story of the Bourbon Club in 1987 Hollywood and the lives of those who work there, those who protest at the perceived sexual filth that goes on in there and of the German redevelopers who see only the value of the property and want to knock down the club along with the dreams, hopes and wishes it holds for so many with it.
A comedy pastiche that features the breaking of the fourth wall often plus a slew of 80’s rock classics including Feel the noise, We built this city, The Final Countdown, I can’t fight this feeling anymore and Don’t Stop Believing amongst the 29 songs featured in the show it’s a solid jukebox musical for the masses.
This is a real feel good and fun night of musical theatre and performances on the whole are delivered well. West end veteran Kevin Kennedy returns to the role of Dennis Dupree and is spot on the money especially opposite Joe Gash as Lonny who delivers a high energy performance as the shows narrator who engages with the audience to great effect, although a little more diction is need to understand all he is saying and his accent has a tendency to slip but the joy of his performance is the laughter he brings from the audience.
Sam Turrel as Drew delivers well as the male love interest and his rich voice fills the giant Playhouse with ease. Gabriella Williams as Sherrie gives a heartfelt performance but there are pitchy moments in the vocal delivery which she overcomes especially on the big numbers. Rounding out the principals is x factor winner Matt Terry as Stacee Jaxx who is never over used and brings a rich tenor rock sound and some real camp sass to the rock world of the Bourbon. The production has a talented 13 strong ensemble bringing to life the myriad of characters we see across the show.
Director and Choreographer Nick Winston has truly got the best from his cast and produces a solid show that’s enhanced by Morgan Large’s stunning Set and 80’s Costume design. The set is very much a testament to the stadium rock concerts of the 80’s and it’s simply beautifully lit by Ben Cracknell who has brought real rock power to the lighting. Where it’s not so strong is Ben Harrison’s sound design which surprisingly for a rock show has the volume set low, even the hope of rocking out in the curtain call doesn’t see the volume lift and it’s a wasted opportunity. Hopefully it’s just bedding in issues and they crank up the volume for those rock numbers.
The story line originally showcases diversity with a gay coupling sharing an onstage kiss alongside the central heterosexual storyline; this production omits that and uses comedy to send up the gay coupling and relies on stereotyping of homosexuality that belongs in the 80’s but given where the show is set its actually a wry choice.
Rock of Ages does everything it should, laughs a plenty, and a slew of Rock anthems we all love and it does deliver value for money making it a worthy night of rollicking musical theatre, so pop along to the playhouse, bandana in hand and find out for yourself that you just can’t stop this feeling anymore!
Rock of Ages, Edinburgh Playhouse, runs until Saturday 14th May for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rock-of-ages/edinburgh-playhouse/
The production visits Eden Court Theatre Inverness from 23rd August and King’s Theatre, Glasgow from 30th August.