Rock of Ages – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Rock of Ages – Review
Bradford Alhambra, June 2014
by Emily Lawley
I’m a self-confessed 80’s rock superfan. I even walked down the aisle to Guns ‘n’ Roses’ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. I know that I will enjoy Rock of Ages. But the show is much more than a musical that simply borrows songs from some of the best rock bands of the Eighties. It guarantees to be one of the best nights out at the theatre that you’ll have in a long time. Even if rock isn’t your first choice of music.
As you make your way to your seats to the sound of Warrant’s ‘Sweet Cherry Pie’ blasting out of the speakers, you know your evening is going to be pretty great. The play opens with the voice of Whitesnake’s David Coverdale laying down the rules of the evening. No photography, no mobile phones, etc, in a rather, ahem, ‘colourful’ fashion. It definitely sets the tone for the rest of the night.
Rock of Ages tackles the well-documented excess and debauchery of Sunset Strip in the 1980s head-on. There are larger-than-life characters, scantily clad chorus girls and a healthy dose of innuendo. But it doesn’t stray into smut. The show stays just on the right side of risqué throughout.
The overarching plot centres around two young dreamers who are new to the Sunset Strip. They are looking to make their mark on the place. Drew longs to become the frontman in a rock band. Sherrie leaves her small town home for the bright city lights hoping to be an actress. The second scene sees these two thrust together and the chemistry between them is clear. But, as with all great musicals, their road to true love does have some twists and turns along the way. This includes the arrival of swoonsome rocker Stacee Jaxx.
All of the action centres around The Bourbon Room bar which is owned by Dennis Dupree. This is where Drew works as a busboy. Dupree is assisted by Lonny who acts as the play’s narrator. He provides most of the laughs in the play. At one point he addresses the audience directly. Throughout there are hilarious asides that involve you deeper in the action. He also reminds the other characters that they are acting in a musical on the stage. He even presents Drew with the programme at one point during a jokey exchange that nearly ends with both actors actually cracking up. The genuine dynamics the cast have on stage really elevates the musical.
Running alongside the fail-safe musical storyline of a love story is a battle between the Strip’s residents and two German businessmen. The Germans want to tear down all of the bars and strip joints to replace them with shops and ‘clean living’. This secondary plot line also provides lots of humour thanks to Cameron Sharp’s fantastic portrayal of the über-camp and over-emotional Franz.
“Dig out your old band t-shirts”
The cast is truly brilliant and their ridiculous level of talent is undeniable. Their renditions of the glam rock hits are fantastic. A true rock ‘n’ roll feel is captured by the whole musical being backed by a real rock band. I was blown away by the power of of Noel Sullivan’s voice (of Hear’Say fame). He plays Drew and I don’t think I have ever seen someone hold a note for as long as he does at the end of his rendition of Steve Perry’s ‘Oh, Sherrie’! Cornelia Farnworth’s performance of Sherrie is also very compelling and her voice is just incredible.
To top it off, the costumes are amazing and absolutely nail the 80s glam rock fashion. So many audience members are dressed up too. So feel free to dig out your old band t-shirts, cowboy boots and get back-combing before you attend.
If you are looking for a night that takes you back to the glamour and heady days of 1980’s rock without the hazy memories the next day then this is the musical for you. Just make sure you listen to some of your old albums first as you won’t be able to help singing along.