Theatre Review: ROCK OF AGES – Opera House, Manchester

The cast of ROCK OF AGES UK Tour 2021

The cast of ROCK OF AGES UK Tour 2021. Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Despite some issues with its staging, ROCK OF AGES makes for a high energy, feel-good and entertaining evening for fans of rock music

3 out of 5 stars

Grab your leather pants and eyeliner, and ready your best air guitar as the 80’s jukebox rock musical ROCK OF AGES heads to town.

Set to the songs of Journey, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and other artists who underscore a tale of big dreams in Hollywood, ROCK OF AGES follows small-town girl Sherrie as she heads to the big city. At the Bourbon Room in the heart of California, the place where dreams come true, Sherrie meets wannabe rocker Drew, who introduces her to Rock ‘n’ Roll and the superstar Stacee Jaxx.

As soon as the curtain lifts, you’re given a glimpse of exactly the type of show you’re in for: not a musical, but a rock concert. ROCK OF AGES is a chaotic mix of sex, humour and rock ‘n’ roll as the on-stage live band create a rock concert atmosphere as they belt out rock classics.

The cast of ROCK OF AGES UK Tour 2021

The cast of ROCK OF AGES UK Tour 2021. Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Joe Gash is Lonny, the host, narrator, and the glue that holds the show together. In his debut, Gash’s vocals stand out to match his perfect characterisation, opening the show with FEEL THE NOIZE, PARADISE and GOOD TIME. Gash’s interpretation bears a great resemblance to Russell Brand, who originated the role in the 2012 film. His charismatic energy gives the show its pace, keeps it alive, and creates a humorous distraction from the distinctly average plot.

BBC STRICTLY COME DANCING’s Kevin Clifton plays rock sensation Stacee Jaxx but sadly disappoints in his casting. His portrayal of the cool and sexy rock star isn’t really convincing, and, at times, he comes across as stiff, clumsy and a tad cringey. That said, he impresses with his vocal talent, holding his own alongside a massively vocally talented cast.

Luke Walsh and Rhiannon Chesterman shine as the leads, Drew and Sherry, respectively. Both display massive ‘rocky’ vocals, belting the house down with songs like WAITING FOR A GIRL LIKE YOU and HIGH ENOUGH.

The cast of ROCK OF AGES UK Tour 2021

The cast of ROCK OF AGES UK Tour 2021. Photo Credit: The Other Richard

The best numbers are saved for the second act, packed with crowd-pleasers, such as I CAN’T FIGHT THIS FEELING ANYMORE, sung by Lonny and bar owner Dennis Dupree (Ross Dawes). It is a song in which the pair delve deep to relinquish control to their hearts. It is a perfectly uplifting and hilarious scene with the whole audience tittering with laughter.

Despite the talented cast, the show does have its problems. The staging needs adapting for touring, with those sitting on the left side of Manchester’s Opera House unable to see a great deal of the stage on the high right, which is rather frustrating.

The show also fights for its own identity. Sitting somewhere between a jukebox musical, a rock concert and a pantomime, ROCK OF AGES boast a lot of audience interaction and breaking of characterisation (particularly from Lonnie). Yet while this does create many hilarious moments, it also leaves you feeling a little perplexed at times.

But, like any jukebox musical, the audience is here for the music, and ROCK OF AGES delivers with hit after hit of nostalgic rock songs.

Overall, ROCK OF AGES is a high energy, feel-good show that guarantees an entertaining evening – particularly for the rockers out there!

ROCK OF AGES runs at the Opera House, Manchester, until 9 October 2021.