Thursday, 23 May 2019

REVIEW: Rock of Ages at The New Victoria Theatre, Woking

I remember seeing Rock of Ages in the West End in 2011 and absolutely adoring it. Granted, it was 8 years ago so my memory may be a little fuzzy but the general picture is exceptionally positive so I had high hopes for this new touring production from SellADoor Worldwide and Director/Choreographer Nick Winston. Featuring classic rock anthems such as “Feel The Noize”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Here I Go Again” and “Don’t Stop Believing” the programme promises an evening of Rock and Roll magic. 

A classic tale of boy meet girl…. until boy friendzones girl, girl fondles rock star, rock star gets girl fired, girl becomes a stripper, boy joins a boyband, girl runs away, boy finds girl, kiss kiss happy ever after they shall be forever. Throw in some angry protesters, whisky drinking club owners, “Gay or European” German property developers and … ta-da, it’s Rock of Ages! 

Jodie Steele, fresh from her run in Heathers at Theatre Royal, Haymarket, smashes it out of the park as Sherrie – the wide-eyed, innocent farmgirl with big Rock & Roll dreams. Her vocals are faultless and oh-so-powerful. Her confidence and physicality shine through the theatre (and in a role which requires shorts THAT short and pole-dancing in lingerie, that’s pretty imperative!) The good news is, Steele looks as good as she sounds and I can’t fault her characterisation at all; she brought the comedy of the role to the fore without sacrificing a moment of realism in this otherwise pretty bat-sh*t crazy show! 

Luke Walsh as the heartthrob boy who wishes to be a Rock God (known as Wolfgang Von Colt no less) is absolutely sensational. The perfect counter-part for Steele: vocally spot on and confident in his glam-rock range. I adored his performance and only wish he’d be in more! 

Anthony Costa, of boyband ‘Blue’ fame, brings to life the role which Tom Cruise played in the film adaptation of Rock of Ages, Stacee Jaxx. His energy falls flat against his exceptional cast-mates and his vocals were noticeably softer than all the fierce belting powerhouses around him. He is overshadowed by the likes of Lucas Rush whose relentlessly hyper-active portrayal of narrator Lonny was a crowd favourite, especially alongside TV-Screen legend Kevin Kennedy as Dennis. To boot, Zoe Birkett as Justice, a Gentleman’s Club owner known affectionately to her girls as “Mama” is in a league of her own. I had head to toe goosebumps and serious Lady-Of-The-Lake riffing vibes from her throughout. What a set of pipes! 

The ensemble is also loaded with talent – dancing girls bending and snapping in
all kinds of positions, wonderfully athletic men prancing about in every direction, a Germanic father and son duo with more issues than any psychotherapist could ever hope to fix and a proletarian protester who “ain’t gonna take it”! The programme features a brilliant article on “The Legacy of Glam Rock” which concludes with a line which I feel represents this ensemble very well… “What they lacked in subtlety, they made up for in attitude.” 

What is disappointing with this show is the abysmally poor storyline and integration of songs. For a jukebox musical, it is not up to par with its competitors. Furthermore, I was struck by the female roles in this show being reduced to nothing more than crotch-worshipping fangirls with careers as strippers and pole dancers; bar one female journalist, (though even she was seduced to the point of having her knickers torn off mid-song less than 3 minutes after she first appears on stage). I would hope the girls performing feel empowered dancing to crowds of thousands in their underwear, however I was genuinely shocked by how much of the show relied on their flashing of bums, boobs and everything in-between. It was more strip show than musical theatre which I did not expect and nor did the unknowing parents who brought their pre-pubescent sons in the row infront of me!

The show is self-aware including many references to its own ridiculous plot-lines, narrations, “special effects” and …. poop jokes. Rock of Ages is good fun however it lacks substance. For those hoping for an evening of high-class theatre, avoid at all costs BUT if you’re after a rough-round-the-edges show filled with classic anthems you can sing along to and lots of bums, this is the show for you. Sadly for me, I expected more.

Review by Nellie Redbush

Rating: ★★

Seat: Stalls E4 | Price of Ticket: £39.50
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