Friday, 1 March 2019

 

Rock of Ages at New Wimbledon Theatre [UK Tour]


[AD - Gifted] When Rock of Ages was playing in the West End I was obsessed with the show. The feel-good story, rockin' 80s score, absolutely perfect casting, and the hilarious absurdity of some of the characters, mashed together in a winning combination that had me return 20+ times. Yes, I thought it was THAT good. There is no other musical or play I've seen that often (or even more than a handful of times), so needless to say I was very excited when a new UK tour of my favourite 80s-inspired musical was announced. This week the tour hit the edge of London at the New Wimbledon Theatre and I was thrilled to be invited to attend the gala night.

It's 1987-ish on the Sunset Strip. Bar back Drew (Luke Walsh) works at the Bourbon Room, dreaming of being a rock star under his stage name Wolfgang Von Colt. And when Sherrie (Jodie Steele), new in Los Angeles and dreaming of becoming an actress, arrives in town and joins the bar as a waitress, sparks instantly fly between the two ambitious youngsters.

But of course their budding romance is anything but easy, or the show would be over in just a couple of songs. Throw in a father-son duo of eccentric German developers planning to demolish the entire strip, including the Bourbon Room, and a has-been rock star wedging his way quite literally between Drew and Sherrie, and you've got yourself just enough debauchery and mayhem to keep the show rockin' for two solid acts.

Even though it's been a fair few years since I saw the 80s musical in the West End, as soon as the first beats of "Feel the Noize"  started playing, all my love for Rock of Ages came flooding back. And despite being so excited for the UK tour it meant that it took me a little while to stop comparing the two productions; missing the choreography, costumes, and more subtle performances by the cast I'd fallen in love with so many years prior as they'd all been so absolutely perfect.

That isn't to say that the touring production isn't an admirable follow-up though. With a little more over-the-top cheesiness and even less clothes than its West End precedent, as soon as the lights dimmed it turned the New Wimbledon Theatre into a tower of rock. With ad-libbing, fourth-wall breaking hilarity courtesy of narrator Lonny (Lucas Rush), a killer soundtrack with legendary tunes such as "We're Not Gonna Take It", "I Wanna Rock", and "Any Way You Want It", and a sweet feel-good story blossoming amidst the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Rock of Ages remains a great night out.

Special mention must also go to Strictly Come Dancing's Kevin Clifton as washed up rock star Stacee Jaxx, Pop Idol's Zoe Birkett as night club owner Justice, and Rhiannon Chesterman as a former government worker turned protester to protect the Strip. They shined with some absolute belters, and they truly took their moment in the spotlight to rock.

Also, Dennis (Kevin Kennedy) and Lonny (the owner of the Bourbon Room and his sound guy) are still the ultimate OTP, their performance of "I Can't Fight This Feeling" being equal parts hilarity and heartwarming.

Rock of Ages was my second ever theatre review back in 2012, and I have come full circle on here. The score and book remain such fun, even after so many viewings, and with the UK-wide tour a whole new audience have the chance to visit the Bourbon Room for a two-hour long journey through the best of the 80s. Mullets and wine coolers optional but highly recommended. Don't stop believin'...


Rock of Ages is playing at New Wimbledon Theatre until 2 March after which it's embarking on tour across the UK (including Nottingham, York, Edinurgh, Oxford, Blackpool, Belfast and more) until 3 August 2019. Get your tickets here.


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