Theatre review - Rock of Ages at Manchester Opera House
- Credit: The Other Richard
Rock of Ages, currently playing at Manchester Opera House is completely, utterly bonkers, in the best possible way.
What can I say? Rock of Ages took me completely by surprise. Having done very little research before I went in (no, not bad journalist, simply wishing to remain open minded!) all I knew was that I could expect lots of 80’s rock music. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the scent of patchouli oil hadn’t drifted off of the stage, this being my memory of era – all White Snake and Rainbow and boys in overly fragrant leather jackets doing ‘the spread.’ I was a New Romantic girl myself; big flick, big belts and big beads. Rock of Ages is utterly brilliant though and the music, while excellent, isn’t the hero of this show, that role falls to the cast, every one of them.
The show cleverly avoids any sneering critique of being a ‘juke box musical’ by taking the bull firmly by the horns very quickly, with the narrator breaking the fourth wall very quickly with some audience interaction, making sleazy eyes at Sharon in the front row and keeping the joke going throughout the entire performance.
As he says, he’s no Andrew Lloyd-Sondheim, but even he knows that any good musical needs a love story at its heart. Cue the pairing of fabulously talented Luke Walsh (as city-boy and wannabe rocker Drew) with Manchester’s own Danielle Hope, as Sherrie – a small town girl and wannabe actress. And yes, you know exactly where that’s going already, don’t you? We have to wait though… Both have run to LA to make their fame and fortune and both, as you expect, have their hearts broken.
Set in two key locations, the decaying Bourbon Lounge, the launch pad of many a rock band, and the Venus bar – a ‘gentleman’s club’ strip joint, we see both the good and the bad of LA’s famous Sunset Strip, a locale about to be torn down and made pretty by our show’s villain, the hilariously stereotyped German property developer Hertz and his fabulously camp son, Franz.
There are too many side-stories to go into here, suffice to say that it all comes together in the end, and its not exactly intellectually challenging to start with!
What I must say is that the casting is brilliant. Bartender-sound engineer-narrator Lonny, played by Lucas Rush, is marvellous. He’s definitely got a kick of the Kenny Everetts going on – and not always in the best possible taste. He’s brilliant though, and if it weren’t for the vocal talents of Luke Walsh and Danielle Hope, not to mention the extraordinary voice of Zoe Birkett (as Justice, the utterly beautiful owner of aforementioned strip joint) he’d definitely win the award for best in show.
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Kevin Kennedy takes the role of Bourbon Lounge owner Dennis Dupree, applying his own rock singer talents and jaded, seen-it-all nature to the role. A role taken by Alec Baldwin in the movie version, a fact pointed out by Lonnie to great amusement.
Rock of Ages is immense fun, brilliantly performed and packed with great tunes and eye-widening dancing. You’ll love it, I promise.
Rock of Ages plays at Manchester Opera House until 29 September 2018 and then at Liverpool Empire from 23 – 27 October.