'I can't fight this feeling' of utter joy. What a show! From the second the house lights went down we were transported to the Sunset Strip and into Dennis Dupree's nightclub, the Bourbon room. Rock of Ages is a jukebox musical bursting with songs from the 80s, including Cum On Feel the Noize, We Built This City, Here I Go Again and the show stopping Don't Stop Believing. It tells the story of Drew, a boy from South Detroit and Sherrie, a small town girl, chasing their dreams of making it big and falling in love.
The show is narrated by Lonny, played by Kit Phillips. I have never seen someone immerse themselves into a character so much since I saw Simon Lipkin play this part in the West End production of this show. Phillips could well have been taken for a West End performer on stage this evening. He absolutely owned the show and won over the audience within 30 seconds of being on stage. His comic timing was perfect, knowing where to pause for audience appreciation and his vocals were perfect. His persona filled the auditorium and he received the biggest cheer of the night at the end of the show.
There were other people on stage who gave West End worthy performances. The roles of Drew and Sherrie were played by Jake Hankey and Natalie Hayes. Both gave amazing performances and had phenomenal vocals throughout, belting songs one after the other and not faltering, even one note. Other stand out vocals came from Justice played by Claire Cannon. Her performance of Every Rose Has Its Thorn, a particular favourite, delivered so effortlessly and extremely effectively.
Another favourite of mine was Franz Klinemann played by Daniel Richter. The characterization of Franz throughout was perfect. He was loveable, camp and above all, hilarious. The stage lit up each time Richter entered it, especially when he ripped off his suit to reveal a leotard and leg warmers to deliver a wonderful version of 'Hit me with your best shot.'
I could mention every cast member in the show as they all delivered great performances but I'd be here all night. I do want to mention however, one member of the ensemble who stood out for me. Laura Cupit, playing waitress one and also was one of the shows dancers really delivered tonight. She had powerful vocals when she sung and just shone every time she was on stage. Every move was perfect and delivered so well. This show wouldn't work without its ensemble who did a great job of filling the stage during numbers, delivering good routines and filling during scene changes. Talking of routines, a huge well done to the 4 choreographers who worked together to deliver wonderful routines.
The set was quite simple but worked very well, mostly the bar scene but there was a large screen at the back that changed and made you aware of locations and surroundings, with some vital pieces of set being wheeled on and off.
The show was very well directed by Nick Cupit who put his own spin on things and injected an extremely fun and humorous side to the show. I particularly enjoyed the lighting in the show, especially during emotional parts, great effects, very well done.
The band were wonderful throughout, under the direction of Craig Stewart. He also did a fantastic job of teaching the cast the songs and for them to deliver to the standard they did, he should be extra proud. If I could take a moment to mention the show programme. It was imaginative, in the shape of a vinyl cover along with price sticker. It was high quality and held just the right amount of information and pictures. Well done.
Overall, I left the theatre tonight with sore hands from clapping along, a huge smile and many songs flowing through my head. Well done Encore Productions on a great show and 'Don't Stop Believing!'
Rock of Ages continues at The Brindley in Runcorn until Saturday 22nd October and tickets can be found at http://bit.ly/2eNZwh9
Reviewer: Damian Riverol
Reviewed: 20th October 2016