rock of ages cast

Lucas Rush as Lonny, leading the cast in another rock anthem. Pictures: Richard Davenport

Rock of Ages

The Alexandra Theatre


It’s sex, drugs, rock’n’roll . . . and did I mention it is great fun - and that pretty well sums it all up. It’s a jukebox musical woven around a bunch of hits from the 70s to the 90s, which is quite futuristic as it is set in 1987.

The plot is . . . well it’s a jukebox musical, so we are not expecting Tennessee Williams. Would-be rock star Drew works in the Bourbon Club, a rock club/bar on Sunset Strip. Sherrie is a would-be actress who gets mugged on arrival in LA and is helped by Drew. That’s the love interest sorted.

Drew is a bit slow on the uptake with the romance bit, exemplified in the pair’s duet around Foreigner’s Waiting for Girl Like You, so Sherrie has it away with rock legend Stacee in the gents (I never said it was a classy club) and our would be lovers then have an angst ridden act and a half, with a strip club thrown in, before the happy ending.

A sub plot has town planning freedom fighter Regina battling to save the club from a developer who has bribed the mayor, eventually falling for Franz, the developer’s son to give us happy ending number two.

Luke Walsh is a personable Drew while Danielle Hope, the winner of BBC’s Over the Rainbow, is a lovely Sherrie, both displaying fine voices with Sherrie shining in Extreme’s lovely acoustic ballad More Than Words. Both combine in the second act in Damn Yankee’s High Enough and Survivor’s The Search is Over to great effect.

Rather like Brad and Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, they are the straight, normal couple, which makes them the odd ones in this show, trying to relate their boy meets girl love story while bedlam ensues around them, all led by the star of the show, Lucas Rush as Lonny, the sound guy at the club and, as he keeps reminding us, the ra-con-teur.

It is a masterful performance with some lovely interplay with the audience, especially Jackie, targeted in the opening number (sit in the front row at your peril) and plenty of visual humour among the one liners and asides, and Rush can sing as well, in the rather micky-taking style of a rock god, or at least minor deity. He is comedy gold.

Danielle Hope as Sherrie

Danielle Hope as the actress with the damaged dreams Sherrie

When it comes to affected, posing, rock minor deities though, Sam Ferriday provides it in spades as Stacee Jaxx, lead singer of the band Arsenal - they must be his backing four (sorry, couldn’t resist it) – who is about to go solo, or, as the band prefer to think of it, good riddance.

He has the gestures and pretension of every rock star who ever trod the wrong side of the line and a sexual morality which on a scale of one to ten would be struggling to reach zero – remember the toilet duck? He is the sex among  the Izal and Harpic man.

Ferriday’s louche character can even count llamas among his conquests - don’t ask - but to give Stacee, or at least Farriday his due, he can sing rock and produces a good duet with Sherrie to Foreigner’s power ballad, I want to know what love is.

Owner of the club is Dennis, played by Kevin Kennedy, who many will remember as Curly Watts from Coronation Street. Less well known is that Kennedy was in the Manchester punk rock band Paris Valentinos with Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke, the duo who went on to form The Smiths, and he later formed his own line up called Band of Thieves – and he still plays a mean guitar and has a more than decent rock voice.

He gives us an aging rocker, who does the drugs and booze, nurtures the rock culture, and, well, to complete the triumvirate, at least thinks about sex . . . a lot.

When it comes to sex though, Justice has it on a stick, or at least a pole, as the owner of the Venus strip . . . sorry, gentleman’s club, Zoe Birkett is Justice, the owner who takes in the jobless Sherrie, Justice has a big heart and a big voice to match.

Hertz, played by Vas Constanti, and his son Franz, Andrew Carthy, are the German duo (pantomime style with comedy in every action) bribing the mayor, Adam Strong, to redevelop the strip, until the gawky, awkward Franz falls for strip campaigner (as in Sunset not Venus) Regina, a lovely performance by Rhiannon Chesterman. She is only small but she can belt out a song and is the sexiest nerd you are ever likely to see.

Speaking of belting it out the show has a five-piece on-stage band who are just magic, taking on every style from heavy rock to soft acoustic with assured confidence and class.

Zoe Birkett as Justice

Rocking for Justice with Zoe Birkett as the strip club owner

Music ranges from Bon Jovi to Whitesnake, Europe to Twisted Sister with Slade’s Cum on Feel The Noize popping up regularly, all ending with Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ – 30 songs to blow away the cobwebs, all played with glorious panache by the band, with energetic support from the superb ensemble of dancers and singers who play every other part and give us some classy dance  routines.

Ironically the Def Leopard track Rock of Ages does not appear as the licence holders, Universal Music Group, would not release it. 

A video screen above the stage enhances scenes, with a few visual jokes thrown in, while there are extra funny moments such as the use of children’s ride on toys for Sherri’s dad’s tractor. Hertz’s digger and, perhaps most embarrassing, Drew’s motorbike and sidecar. It’s hard to pull on a bike from the toy box. And look closely at the placards in the protest scene . . .

Director Nick Winston is also the choreographer laying down some raunchy dances – as one customer, a Scotsman, remarked to his wife at the interval: “They dinna leave much to the imagination”, eliciting the reply, “Ya dinna need no imagination”, Whether this was a comment about people in general or merely her husband is not clear.

Ben Harrison’s sound was loud enough to leave no one in any doubt that this was a rock musical but not so loud as to elicit Spainal Tap's turn it up to 11 deafness while Morgan Large’s setting is deceptively simple, aided by Ben Cracknell’s lighting which added interest and drama.

A small roll out stage at the back for the band and two doorways, for the Bourbon Club and the Venus club, which roll on and off when needed.

As a warning, it is raunchy -very - and even a little sleazy at times, costumes are little more than a suggestion on occasions and there is enough swearing to keep a docker happy, but if that is not going to give you an attack of the vapours it is great fun and a wallow in nostalgia for those of a certain age, giving you memories with laughs thrown in. You leave with a few songs rattling around the brain, a smile and a spring in your step – it might not be Tennessee Williams but it is certainly entertainment wrapped up in feel good factor. To 17-11-18.

Roger Clarke


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