On Tuesday evening, audience members at the Theatre Royal were transported back to the 1980’s as Rock of Ages, the jukebox musical directed by Nick Winston, embarked on the fourth leg of its UK tour here in Nottingham. Entering the beautiful ornate theatre, as pounding rock anthems were played, you were unsure if you were about to watch a musical or a gig. The audience, of widely mixed ages and sexes, sat in anticipation, and there was certainly a buzz of excitement.
“The storyline is certainly not an invigorating one, and the musical relies on rock anthems to propel it forward and keep audiences entertained”
Homegrown Kansas girl Sherrie (Jodie Steele) heads to the bright lights of LA to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, yet ends up falling in love (shock) with aspiring young rocker Drew (Luke Walsh). Complications include her run in with trashy, naughty rock legend Stacey Jaxx (Strictly’s Kevin Clifton) whose character is a stark contrast to the sweet young man we are presented with on BBC. His voice was exceptional and would certainly silence any critics who would question his casting and whether he would suit the role.
The storyline is certainly not an invigorating one, and the musical relies on rock anthems to propel it forward and keep audiences entertained. Odd, crude, loud and sexist, the character of Lonny (Lucas Rush) is both a sound technician at the Bourbon Rooms, an LA rock bar owned by Dennis (Kevin Kennedy), and the musical’s narrator. His direct engagement with the audience is pantomime-esque and cringeworthy, as he leads us through the story and ironically comments on the plot’s complexity and originality. It is hard to immerse yourself into the story of Drew and Sherrie, and of other plot lines, when you are constantly being reminded it is fabricated. He did produce some hysterical laughs from the audience and got a rousing applause at the end of the show.
“The musical certainly is not for everyone’s taste”
Through cheap gags and incredibly sexist remarks, the musical certainly is not for everyone’s taste (with goose stepping Germans and smutty dancing for just two examples). Whether it was acceptable in the 80’s, it is uncomfortable to watch young women be perused for their bodies and constantly slapped and touched sexually. This is one of the reasons, along with the occasional bad language, that an age rating should really have been in place.
“Jodie Steele was phenomenal, showcasing her immense range”
One thing which can not be criticised throughout the performance was the vocal abilities of the cast. Jodie Steele was phenomenal, showcasing her immense range in songs such as ‘The Search is Over’ and ‘High Enough’, she carried her small town, sweetheart role with passion and valour. Luke Walsh was a pleasant surprise and had a raw, powerful voice years beyond his age. For musical theatre singers, they all managed to nail the gravelly, rough tone of rock singers whilst still evoking emotion.
“The company were all exceptional [and] the dancing was captivating”
The company were all exceptional. The dancing was captivating and highly sexualised (the strip bar scene was, well, highly convincing). Their agility and flexibility were admirable, but I did feel sympathy for anyone sat in the theatre with their parents, as they frequently had to readjust their incredibly tight and protruding leotards.
If you’re after an evening of iconic rock songs, tongue and cheek humour and 80s nostalgia, then Rock of Ages is the perfect night out. With classics such as ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ to ‘Hit Me with Your Best Shot’, you’ll be leaving the theatre with your feet tapping and singing along for hours to come.
Featured Image courtesy of Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Official Facebook Page.