“Enjoy having your face melted!”
Be prepared to take a step back in time to the 80s with Rock of Ages the Musical. Whether you were around then or merely a twinkle in your denim clad, permed parents eyes you will revel in the nostalgia of an era where Def Leppard ruled and it was ok for men to wear ‘guy-liner.’
The UK tour kicked off its run this week at a packed out Palace Theatre in Manchester. The enthusiastic crowd were more than ready to sample the onstage action having already had a taste of the theatre staff getting their ‘Rock On in the foyer dressed in costume and belting out rock tunes.
From the opening scenes you can tell that Rock of Ages the Musical is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, in fact it indulges in being a parody of all things ‘Rock’. You’ve got the womanizing rock god Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards), the wannabe rockstar Drew, who works behind the bar (Noel Sullivan) and the hot ‘small town girl’ Sheree (Cordelia Farnworth) a rock groupie who yearns to be wild!
If you’re looking for a plot then you’ll be left disappointed, as there’s very little in the way of a storyline but there are some classic songs in this jukebox musical including; Poison’s Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive.
Nathan Amzi (The Voice UK) steals the show as cheeky narrator Lonny. Amzi who understudied the role in the West End run only came up to Manchester to support the cast at the weekend but found himself onstage after the tour’s Lonny (Stephen Raman-Hughes) was injured and they needed a stand-in. He has some great banter with the audience and despite being a little too close to the bone with his innuendo Amzi has boundless infectious energy that makes him extremely watchable and charismatic.
Noel Sullivan delivers some great vocals as Drew displaying a strong performance which, along with his back catalogue of theatre credits, cements him as a talent above and beyond the manufactured TV band Hear’Say he is often more remembered for. Cordelia Farnworth is perfect casting as love interest Sheree, belting out power ballads with ease and showing off an enviable figure in the skimpiest of outfits, leaving very little to the imagination.
On the whole this is an entertaining production, although I felt it could have been improved by more onstage time for Holby City’s Ben Richards who created a brilliant caricature in Stacee Jaxx. Richards really shone in the few scenes he featured so it was a real shame he wasn’t used more.
Another issue was the sound, which will hopefully have its problems ironed out as the tour progresses. On Press Night there were a couple of moments where the dialogue was inaudible and some of the musical numbers would have definitely have benefitted from extra amplification. It was only really as the show reached the end of the first half and in the finale that the volume delivered the punch it needed throughout. If you are going to play rock…then as KISS once sung “Shout It Out Loud”!
Rock of Ages the Musical runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday 10th May.