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ROCK OF AGES -
Shaftesbury Theatre London
05 Jan 2012
Shaftesbury Theatre London
I guess it’s logical for Rock and Metal News to review a musical called Rock of Ages, when its set in LA in the late 80’s around a club on the strip that puts bands on and seems to have a bar almost entirely staffed by scantily clad ladies. Remember those day’s?? I have never been to LA myself, but I’m led to believe by those that were there at the time that it was just so.
As we walk in before the show starts in the background they are playing “Turn up the Radio” by Autograph followed by Cinderella’s “Shake Me” and you get the feeling that the people behind this show know their stuff. Truth be told, it would be very easy and highly likely that something like this could either be very cheesy or just resort to micky taking, or worse both. Unless the people, who wrote, directed and produced it actually had a real passion for rock music. With a live band set up at the back of the stage the set captures the feel of a rock club perfectly. Then the lights dim and we get a hilarious public announcement voiced by none other than David Coverdale, and you know they have got the whole tone of this right. Take your seat and you are transported back in time, if only the bar prices were from 1988 as well!!
So now it’s Showtime. The band kick in to David Lee Roth’s “Just like Livin in Paradise” intertwined with “Nothin but a Good Time” as the performer’s hit the stage, and the Narrator of the story and sound man at the club, Lonny, played brilliantly by Nathan Amzi, sets the scene. The bar, the strip, the bands, the 80’s. The basic story is of course a love story of a young girl, Sherrie, from the Mid-West who comes to LA dreaming of becoming an actress. When she gets to LA she meets a young dude called Drew who is the cleaner at “The Bourbon Room” which is run by Dennis (Justin Lee Collins). Of course Drew also has a dream, he wants to be a rock star, and didn’t we all back then?? True it does hit all the clichés but the whole feeling is handled with a charm that looks back to a maybe less cynical time and also with a great deal of humour. But all is not going well for Dennis, a Property Developer wants to knock down the strip including his club and build office blocks. So Dennis decides to call up his old mate Stacee Jaxx (Shayne Ward) who fronts a now stadium sell out band, who got their first break at the Bourbon, to do the last ever gig back where they started at the Bourbon Room.
Now at this point I have to pause because the band that Stacee fronts are called Arsenal. Yes you read it correctly Arsenal. I start to have visions of Arsène Wenger being asked by a reporter “So Arsène, what do you make of the fight during the gig when your singer punched a fan in the front row” and Wenger replying “Well, I did not see the incident”.
Back to the story, Stacee is about to leave Arsenal to start his solo career as he no longer gets on with his band. Before you all shout “oh come on” be honest how many times did it happen? Most singers think that the world revolves around them, that’s why it only takes one to change a light bulb and the rest of the band to tell him how good he was.
Shayne Ward nails the character of Stacee as a kind of cross between Vince Neil, Axl Rose and Brett Michaels, with a hint of just about every other 80’s hair metal lead singer you can name. We all know the path of true love never runs smoothly, and so it is with Drew and Sherrie. As the story of their relationship is neatly intertwined with trying to save the Bourbon, we are treated to huge mix of classic rock songs and some great gags. Seriously much as most of us now think of Wayne’s World whenever we hear Bohemian Rhapsody, I will always think of Rock of Ages when I hear Foreigners “Waiting for a Girl Like you”. Among 30 odd songs in the show are gems from Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, Whitesnake and Journey to name just a few. Some of the songs you expect, but there are a few surprises as well, all of them delivered superbly by the band and the performers.
Justin Lee Collins and Shayne Ward may be the known faces of the production and both do a fine job in their roles, but the whole cast deserve praise for making Rock of Ages so enjoyable. But for me one person really stood out Oliver Tompsett who plays Drew. Drew is the lynchpin of the whole story and Oliver carries it off in style. To sing “Oh, Sherrie” would be a daunting task for most singers, this guy makes it look easy.
So to conclude, if you want to be thoroughly entertained, go see Rock of Ages. I had a great night, I clapped, I cheered, I sang, I laughed my tits off.
Review by Darayus Kaye