Live theatre is most definitely back in Birmingham! Last night saw the return of a crowd favourite the The Alexandra, the gloriously camp, over the top spectacle that is ‘Rock of Ages‘ and it was an absolute delight. Spandex, fright wigs and air guitars have never looked so good, and teamed with classic 80s songs from the likes of Whitesnake, Journey, Poison and Foreigner and you have the perfect recipe for raucous, rock fun.
The story is fairly simple – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again, and they all live happily ever after. So far, so predictable. But add the element that it’s the girl who loses boy after she has wild toilet cubicle sex with a bona-fide rock god called Stacee Jaxx (Axl Rose surely), and we start to get a twist on the story. Add in further developments of the leading man joining a New Kids on the Block Style band, and a couple of hilarious cartoon Germans trying to destroy the Bourbon Room on Sunset Strip where all the action takes place, but being foiled by the sassy Regina, and you have a raucous, fun, ball of energy that can’t fail to entertain.
The music is like a who’s who of 80s rock, with the tunes coming thick and fast. Whitesnake, Starship, Pat Benatar, Poison, REO Speedwagon and Journey are all represented. Standout tracks include Whitesnake’s ‘Here I go again’ and Posion’s ‘Every Rose has it’s thorn’ both delivered by the ensemble with passion and verve, especially by Jennie Fitzpatrick as Justice with a voice that can only be described as incredible.
One of the things that makes this such a great night is the cast’s obvious enjoyment in the show. The narrator Lonny (a standout performance from the charismatic crowd pleaser Joe Gash) has such fun ad-libbing and connecting with the audience, whilst the young stars Luke Walsh and Rhiannon Chesterman are suitably sweet and winsome, but show a tougher edge as the musical turns darker., both deliver stunning vocals and are perfect in their roles. Ross Dawes is superb as Dennis Dupree showing his class with a series of knowing one liners. His scene with Lonny when they sing the REO Speedwagon classic ‘Can’t fight this feeling’ is one of the funniest scene in the whole show, saying something in a show that is full of them. Gabriella Williams is also great as Regina, a holdover from the 1960’s activists determined to save the Bourbon, her interactions with the aforementioned Comedy Germans Franz (Andrew Carthy) and Hertz (Vas Constanti) are super, especially when Franz anf Regina emerge in 1980’s fitness wear…
And then we have Kevin Clifton, aka Strictly’s ‘Kevin from Grimsby’ as the debauched rock God
Axl Rose Stacee Jaxx. I have to admit Kevin wouldn’t have been my first thought when it comes to a sexy, addled, rock God but I stand corrected. He is fantastic in the role, with strong vocals (Wanted Dead or Alive is soooo good), lots of charisma and a sense of total tongue in cheek knowingness that makes his performance very funny. His dancing is, of course, off the scale.
Rock of Ages is perfect for those who like their drink to be bourbon, their clothing to be spandex, and their music to be ROCK.