The 80s, what an era! When you think of this time period, your mind can’t help but picture big hair, spandex, eyeliner and glam rock. During last night’s performance The Grand Opera House in York, the cast of Rock of Ages transported us back to this iconic era. This immensely popular musical opened on Broadway in 2005 and fans of the 1980s around the world have followed the show ever since. The show has gone on to tour America, Australia and the United Kingdom, and the success continued at it was adapted into a 2012 film, staring big names such as Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise. It was hard not to have high expectations for this musical when you consider its journey up to this point. The show included some of the greatest 80s rock anthems and the live band on stage (Liam Holmes, Drew Lowe, Marc Lew Guerranic, Elliot Mason and Vito Guerrieri) certainly electrified the theatre with their powerful renditions of these well-loved songs.
The famous Sunset Strip is the setting for Rock of Ages is based upon, and the musical gives a story to all the Hollywood hopefuls trying to achieve their dream. From watching last night’s performance, I would definitely label the show as a generic Jukebox Musical, with all the usual, and tired characteristics that I would come to expect. It is musical designed for fans of the ‘glam rock’ era, and heavily relies on their love for the music to overshadow some of the predictable events, thin plot line and weaker acting. The show itself does not pretend to be a thought provoking, complicated narrative, often laughing at its own simplicity and typical musical structure, and this I feel is their redeeming quality. The comedy was the glue holding this entire musical together, providing ridiculous moments and silly laughs to shake up the tired structure.
This comedy relief purely relied on the infectious energy of Lucas Rush in his role of the perfectly inappropriate narrator, Lonny. Rush stole the show from his initial moments on stage, he had the audience in his full control within minutes and truly led the performance in terms of pace and engagement. A show like Rock of Ages places more importance on the singing/dancing ability of its cast, and often overlooks the acting quality, but thankfully Rush was a triple threat and was able to hold my attention during his hilarious moments on stage. Lonny’s partnership with the loveable bar owner Dennis (Kevin Kennedy) was certainly a highlight of the show and the audience absolutely loved their chemistry. I would also like to praise Andrew Carthy within his role of the hopeless Franz, Carthy showed full commitment and engagement during every scene, he is a natural comedy performer and will no doubt entertain audiences for a long time.
Despite the weaker character development shown by some leading members of the cast, the musical (almost) managed hold my attention throughout the evening. I feel this was largely due to the individual performances mentioned above, the electrifying band and complex production design. The musical itself relied too heavily on scantily dressed women and sexual themes, both of which became repetitive as the performance progressed. However, the energetic dancers and powerful singers certainly highlighted the influential music of this era, and I have no doubt in my mind that fans of these iconic anthems will enjoy Rock of Ages, and these are the fans that have made this Jukebox musical as successful as it is.
Reviewed: Christine-Jane Parkes
Reviewed: 23rd April 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★