I saw Rock of Ages last week at the Shaftesbury theatre and in all honesty I had no clue what to expect from this show. I do quite enjoy a good jukebox musical ad thought this one would be a similar kind of thing to We Will Rock You – great songs tied together by a less than brilliant storyline. I was wrong.
The Rock of Ages UK website tells the story as follows… “Set in LA’s famous Sunset Strip in 1987, Rock of Ages tells the story of Drew, a boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small town girl, both in LA to chase their dreams of making it big and falling in love”. That’s just one part of the mix. Throw in one hilarious narrator, a set to die for, an audience who have been given LED lighters, one crazed protestor and two German developers and you’ve just about got it.
Oliver Tompsett plays Drew, who at the start of the show is basically a lackey with a huge rock talent that is yet to show through. Regularly throughout the show he took my breath away with what I already knew was a fantastic voice. We had first understudy Natalie Andreou as Sherrie and she did not disappoint. Not only is this a difficult part vocally but the character goes through many different emotions throughout the show and I felt each one of them.
Moving on to what many have billed as the two “stunt casts” of the show – Justin Lee Collins as Dennis Dupree and Shayne Ward as Stacee Jaxx. Both were fantastic in their respective roles (who knew Justin Lee Collins could sing? Not me!) but Shayne Ward was the stand out for me as sleazy rocker Stacee Jaxx. He was every inch the character I expected him to be with such a raw vocal talent that he was a pleasure to listen to. These two were a pretty good example of stunt casting gone right!
West End regular Jodie Jacobs played Regina, a protestor who was a laugh a minute and had some absolutely killer vocal moments thrown in for good measure. Another high point for me was Sandy Moffat as Franz who I found absolutely hysterical!
It’s clear from what I have heard all over the West End that the show is stolen most nights by the fantastic Simon Lipkin, who plays Lonny, a narrator of sorts. His adlibs within the script were hilarious as well as his connections with the audience and constant reminders that “we are watching a musical”. If Simon doesn’t win an award for this show when they come around I would be very surprised indeed!
Special mentions from me go to Twinnie Lee Moore – when she sang her solo the woman next to went “Where did THAT voice come from”. I don’t think I need to say any more – and Rachel McFarlane who made for a very regal Justice.
All of the adlibbing and the comedic script made for a show that really didn’t take itself too seriously and I think a show like this needs that awareness. There are so many people in the West End who write off this kind of show as a “Jukebox” musical and therefore not a very good one, but I think everybody should give it a chance. It easily has one of the most energetic casts in the West End at the moment who will take you on a spinning rollercoaster ride through the Rock of Ages.
A Quick Note : Rock of Ages has a chosen charity for the year – The Teenage Cancer Trust who are a charity devoted to improving the lives of teenagers and young adults with cancer. Rock Of Ages are helping with collections as well as selling a limited edition plectrum keyring. You can buy the keyring at the theatre merchandise stand or on the Teenage Cancer Trust Website. A great bit of merchandise for a fantastic cause.
Rock of Ages is running at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Tickets at the box office, online or by telephone at 020 7379 5399. During previews (until 27th September) Tickets are £15 to £46. After 27th September Tickets are £20 to £57.50 Mon-Thurs and £20 to £65 Friday and Saturday nights.
Day seats are available from the box office at 10am priced at £25.
Show Schedule – Mon-Thu 7.30pm, Fri 5.30pm and 8.30pm, Sat 4pm and 8pm
(A word of advice – If you are going for the Friday 8.30pm performance, arrive after 8.15pm as the theatre is very crowded due to the afternoon show not finishing until nearly 8pm)