Theatre Review: ROCK OF AGES – Opera House, Manchester


Revelling in the era of big hair, shoulder pads, power ballads and rock gods, ROCK OF AGES may be cheesy as hell but it knows it

With hit seasons on Broadway, London’s West End and Las Vegas, rock musical ROCK OF AGES makes a welcome return to Manchester’s Opera House this week for an outrageous night of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery.

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. But when German developers sweep into town with plans to turn legendary rock venue The Bourbon Room into a capitalist strip mall, the rock ‘n’ roll fairy-tale looks like it’s about to end. Can Drew, Sherrie and the gang save the strip – and themselves – before it’s too late?

Those who have seen ROCK OF AGES before will know that this is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Revelling in the era of big hair, shoulder pads, power ballads and rock gods, ROCK OF AGES may boast little in the way of a storyline but what it lacks in narrative, it more than makes up for in fun. Expect sexy rock chicks, cheesy California back-drops, tongue-in-cheek dance routines and a rock metal score played loud and proud by an awesome live band.

Much of the show’s success lies in its talented cast who delight in squeezing every last bit of the otherwise thin script. Luke Walsh is professionally solid as wannabe rock star Drew while Danielle Hope belts out power ballads with ease as ‘small town girl’ Sherrie. Kevin Kennedy makes the most of a fairly thin part as nightclub owner Dennis Dupree while Zoe Birkett easily delivers the best vocal performance as Justice. But it is Lucas Rush as Lonny who truly steals the show, his great banter with the audience making him extremely charismatic and watchable.

Yet while Director and Choreographer Nick Winston makes some welcome changes to the pacing of the show, evening out the musical numbers across both acts, a couple of sound and lighting issues hindered an otherwise flawless performance. Occasionally, a spotlight came up a little too late and the dialogue was inaudible at times.

Chris D’Arienzo’s cheesy boy-meets-girl story is also thick with clichés and obvious gags, disregarding any form of narrative in favour of its soundtrack.

But what ROCK OF AGES lacks in story, it makes up for in score, basking in the glory of glam metal power ballads such as WE BUILT THIS CITY, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN, HERE I GO AGAIN, CAN’T FIGHT THIS FEELING and I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS.

A full-on night of frolicsome fun.

4 out of 5 stars

ROCK OF AGES runs at the Opera House, Manchester until 29 September 2018.