Rock of Ages Review – Hurry it finishes in MK this weekend.
Written by LBRadio on 30th September 2021
by Steve Ashwell
The Rock Of Ages (ROA) touring musical comedy, now on its third national UK tour, comes to Milton Keynes for five days this week. My wife and I went to see the opening night on Tuesday in Milton Keynes and it was our first experience of the show. The theatre staff were wonderful, we had received instructions on what to bring beforehand and everything felt smooth and safe. A few members of the audience were wearing ROA T-shirts, it’s good to know that the show has a loyal community of fans and I was surprised at the wide range of ages in the audience.
The pre-show playlist included some great songs like Ozzy Osbourne’s “Shot In The Dark”, Scorpions “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and Guns ‘n’ Roses “Sweet Child Of Mine” among others. They set the scene perfectly and my foot was already tapping. The list of songs in the show includes many great tunes that are widely known like Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”, REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” and a personal favourite (though probably lesser known) Steve Perry’s solo hit “Oh Sherrie”. Even if you don’t regard yourself as a rock fan you will probably know the songs well enough to enjoy the performances.
There are two main story elements that intertwine: a love story featuring wannabe actress Sherrie and wannabe rockstar Drew (Rhiannon Chesterman and Luke Walsh), and the commercial redevelopment of the Sunset Strip led by German property developer Hertz and his son Franz (Vas Constanti and Andrew Carthy). Both stories are connected by their association with the owner of the sleazy Bourbon Room bar called Dennis Dupree (Ross Davies) and a character who works at the bar that breaks the 4th wall and narrates the show Lonny (Joe Gash). Lonny’s part is quite pivotal to the success of the show and I’m pleased to say the part is very well played and is quite hilarious, especially his interactions with the audience.
I spoke to Rhiannon (love story girl Sherrie) about her role in an interview for Leighton Buzz Radio and her favourite song to perform is “Harden my heart” by Quarterflash. I listened out for it – she gave a strong performance, sang it well and did an excellent song justice.
The songs are either solos, duets or ensemble pieces and the excellent live band provides the engine house, including some awesome guitar solos and synths. The cast’s singing voices are great, including that of Stacie Jaxx (Kevin Clifton), which was a pleasant surprise – I say that because I only know him as a dancer from Grimsby on Strictly Come Dancing. Songs sung by other characters were very good also including Justice’s (Jenny Fitzpatrick), Regina (Gabriella Williams), Franz (Andrew Carthy) and Ja’Keith (Adam Strong).
From the get-go the dancing is sexy, wild and energetic and it carries on throughout the show, together with the revealing costumes and small but inventive set – it adds up to a visual feast. I really enjoyed the ensemble pieces, the dancers are awesome and there is a lot of physical humour. The musical is in two parts – both well paced with story action and the comedic level builds throughout the performance, without revealing too much, to the grand finale.
It was a very entertaining evening out and I’m glad I got the opportunity to catch a live theatre performance so close to home. At the end Kevin Clifton thanked the audience for coming to the theatre again after being closed so long over lockdown, I found it a touching and heartfelt thank you and the love was reciprocated by the audience. It’s an evening I’d certainly recommend to anyone, well due to some of the sleazy scenes (one set hilariously in the gents toilet of the bar) it’s a 14+ show, but that caveat aside, I’d encourage you to give it a try – especially if you’ve never seen it before and you enjoy 80s rock, who doesn’t?
The rest of the tour is quite an extensive one, playing 30 different venues in total, in places like Exeter, Aberdeen, Grimsby, Llandudno among others and some of the places have never before been visited by the ROA. Rhiannon said she was excited to be back out on the road again after lockdown. I’d like to see the show again in the future and if you want to see it locally be very quick, the current run at Milton Keynes ends this Saturday 2nd October.