Kevin Kennedy talks to Frankly My Dear UK about his role as Dennis Dupree in 80s rock musical ROCK OF AGES
Smash-hit musical ROCK OF AGES heads to Manchester’s Opera House later this month with a familiar face taking on one of the roles.
Kevin Kennedy, best known for his portrayal of Curly Watts in TV soap opera CORONATION STREET, will play nightclub manager and former rock impresario Dennis Dupree in the rock musical.
Set in the 1980s, ROCK OF AGES tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake and contains serious rock ‘n’ roll debauchery.
“I think it’s a lot raunchier and a lot sexier than other jukebox musicals” explains Kennedy in an exclusive interview with Donna Kelly from Frankly My Dear UK.
“It’s better put together, the structure of it is a lot more developed and stronger. I also think the material has a lot more fans. The 80s has got a large following. I find with the number of tours I’ve done, especially with something like this and particularly in the North, you’re going to have a ball. It’s just loads of fun.”
Those who have seen the show will know ROCK OF AGES is all about the music. The jukebox musical is built around classic rock songs from the 1980s, especially glam metal bands of the decade. The show features over 25 songs including WE BUILT THIS CITY, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN, HERE I GO AGAIN, CAN’T FIGHT THIS FEELING and I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS played loud and proud by an awesome live band and it’s the music that Kennedy believes is what attracts people to the show.
“People love that kind of music and it’s just not people who were around in the 80s. I think it’s got a whole new set of fans that have come to it late and just really enjoy the fashion element of the 80s, the music and the general atmosphere and feel of it. That is why these things are very popular. You put a good story to that with a great soundtrack and people will come out to enjoy themselves.”
Kennedy has enjoyed a successful music career himself, starting out as the bass player with the now legendary The Smiths, before forming his own band and being signed by Simon Cowell to BMG Records. Kevin is currently signed to Warner Brothers and has toured in New Zealand and Australia with his gold-selling album Present Kennedy.
“I have got a fair rock ’n’ roll pedigree” admits Kennedy.
“I was with The Smiths when I was 14 and whilst I was at drama school, I played in various bands. Through the CORONATION STREET years I played with a band called THE BORDERLINE for many years, then I formed a band called THE BUNCH OF THIEVES and we ended up playing at Reading Festival, Mean Fiddler, NEC and places like that. Then I got signed by Warner Bros and ended up having a gold album, touring in places like New Zealand and Australia. I’ve also played in America in Memphis and Nashville.”
Yet despite his rock ‘n’ roll pedigree, Kennedy admits he was never really a massive fan of 80s rock music.
“In the 80s I kind of gave up on music because I didn’t think there were any decent bands around. At that point, I really got into country music and was really into people like Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle. Obviously, I was very aware of the music that was around me. There was so much new music around that you could lose yourself in one genre and never really venture into anything else. I was always a massive Thin Lizzy fan but they were a little bit earlier than that. I guess I had this kind of no-mans-land between Thin Lizzy and Oasis where I just played music and listened to country stuff.”
While country music may be Kennedy’s preferred choice of genre, it’s clear that music has always been his first love and is one of the reasons that attracted him to the role.
“My two passions are music and acting. To put these two together is just a joy. I get to do all sorts of wild and wacky stuff and not just rock music. I’ve done CHICAGO and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and I did THE COMMITMENTS and FAT FRIENDS which was a new musical, so I get to have a go at everything really and enjoy it. What attracted me to this is that it’s just so much fun.”
In ROCK OF AGES, Kennedy plays Dennis Dupree, the owner of the Bourbon Room, a live rock ‘n’ roll venue on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles which is under threat of being torn down by developers.
“Dennis is a guru of rock ‘n’ roll. Anything you need to know about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll then Dennis is the man you go to. He’s a walking encyclopaedia, he’s given lots of bands their starts and he’s played in a lot of bands. He has fully embraced the 80s drug culture in Los Angeles with great enthusiasm and regulatory so he’s an interesting guy to play. He’s never quite sober, he’s never quite straight and he’s always kind of in a drug haze so that’s fun.”
Assisted by Lonny, who also serves as the show’s narrator, the pair attempt to save the venue from demolishment and a potential romance develops between the comic pair.
“His [Dennis] sexuality is a little bit suspect. He’s not really one thing or the other. They [Dennis and Lonny] just love experimenting with drugs and they love their rock music so it’s a Bromance which may be more than that but it’s never quite nailed down.
It’s really fun working with Lucas [Lucas Rush who plays Lonny in ROCK OF AGES]. Lucas is a superb actor, very accomplished and we get on well which is always a bonus. We have fun and from that, there is a camaraderie.
Once we get the basics right and work out what their relationship is, which is pretty hazy because if there is a new drug on the market then those two would be at the front of the queue, anything that develops from that will develop naturally. We don’t have to work too hard at it because he’s such a lovely bloke.”
As part of the UK tour, ROCK OF AGES visits Manchester for a week-long run at the Opera House, a stint in which Kennedy is particularly looking forward as it’s his hometown.
“All the stuff I’ve done in Manchester is special. I love it because I know that I’ve never brought any rubbish here, it’s always been a great show. I get excited because I know the great people of Manchester are going to embrace it and just have a great time”
ROCK OF AGES runs at Manchester’s Opera House 25-29 September 2018.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.