Despite its catchy score and talented ensemble, ROCK OF AGES tries too hard to be funny, sexual, and different in its 2023 farewell tour.
After making its debut on the West End in 2011 and being adapted to film in 2012, ROCK OF AGES takes its final bow in its 2023 farewell tour.
The Sunset Strip is home to dreamers, rockers, and the infamous Bourbon Room, where Drew (Sam Turrell) fantasises of becoming a rock and roll legend. But his dreams are turned upside down when he meets small-town girl Sherrie (Gabriella Williams), who hopes to hit the big time as an actress. The pair fall in love and realise their dreams can come true, but in ways they never imagined.
The typical jukebox paper-thin storyline is padded out with an entwined tale of bar owner Denis Dupree played by Corrie legend Kevin Kennedy who you may know better as Curley Watts. Dupree’s bar is in jeopardy when big wig German father and son duo Herts and Franz Klinwemann (Vas Constanti and David Breeds) set plans to demolish the well-loved home of rock and roll. Can rock star Stacee Jaxx (Cameron Sharp) help to save The Bourbon Room, or will he interfere with Sherrie and Drew’s love story instead?
The musical is driven by narrator Lonny (Tim Oxbrow), who in the film is played by non-other than the flamboyant Russell Brand. This role seems nothing other than a homage to Brand, his garish style and overtly sexual manner. Humorous at times but often comes across as unnecessary filler throughout the production.
The show’s downfall is that it tries too hard. Press night was, unfortunately, littered with technical faults. After a 40-minute delayed start and a 10-minute cut in Act Two (which can be forgiven as these things happen in live theatre), the most natural humour came from the cast’s jibes regarding these faults. It tries too hard to be funny, sexual, and different, and although hitting the mark sometimes, there are too many misses to forgive. It knows not whether it’s a musical or a rock concert, and although it does both well, it falls in a strange no man’s land in between.
Yet, ROCK OF AGES is jam-packed with rock classics that will leave you with no other choice but to head bob and sing along. DON’T STOP BELIEVING, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN, WE BUILT THIS CITY and HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT are just a few of the (for want of a better word) bangers within the show. Despite being originated by some rock and roll greats, the live band and cast are phenomenal at living up to and performing the songs so many know and love.
The ensemble is also mesmerising, bringing relentless energy and charisma to the brilliant choreography by Rhys West.
Despite its flaws, if you love rock music and are up for a good time, then ROCK OF AGES guarantees to bring the noise and the good times. So, if you WANNA ROCK, you better get down to the Opera House in Manchester before it leaves for the final time.
Alison Ruck is a marketing and PR specialist by day. Following many years as a theatre PR, Alison left the arts industry but became a north west reviewer to keep her love of theatre burning bright. She has a degree in Drama & Media, and performs in Amateur dramatics in her spare time.