Rock of Ages

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre


Expectations were running high at the start of this Juke Box Musical. The open stage stacked with oversized speakers and banks of lights among the scaffolding set of The Bourbon Room, a 1980’s club given to rock music, looked excitingly promising.

As a rule of thumb, musicals fall into two defining categories, hit or flop and sadly, it was quickly obvious which one this fell into.

The Narrator, Lonny, (Lucas Rush) addressed the fourth wall, outlining the benefits of the illustrious club and its rock n’ roll reputation, engaging with the audience, and in particular, zoning in on a female, who at various points throughout the entire show became the subject of his overtly sexual ramblings. A taste of things to come?

The storyline can be summed up in a few trite lines. Boy meets girl, romance quickly follows, boy and girl go their separate ways whilst pursuing their dreams of fame and fortune, she as an actress, he as a rock singer. Up pops an aggressive developer whose moral stand is to close down the strip on which the club is situated. Protests ensue. Girl, Sherrie, (Jodie Steele) becomes enticed into the sleazy world of a ‘gentleman’s club’ (i.e. pole dancing venue) where she meets and is seduced by arrogant rock star, Stacee Jaxx, (Antony Costa). Her hopes are shattered until act 2 where she eventually rekindles her love for Drew, (Luke Walsh).

Throughout, the accompanying rock anthems are belted out thick and fast.

There were some good voices, not exactly suited to the depth of the rock lyrics, but the sound design did not enhance the situation. Adding full re-verb and volume does not a rock singer make!! There is a huge difference between loud and shouty and a good proportion of the songs were sung in this fashion. A few rare exceptions were a welcome relief. Zoe Birkett as the larger than life Justice gave super vocal renditions which had passion and feeling. Also, Dennis, (Kevin Kennedy) deserves a mention for his measured performance. Great actor, delivering every line with feeling and clarity, and humour at just the right level.

The choreography, which was bordering on the obscene at times, became tediously repetitive with salacious simulated sex acts. Perhaps the first time that someone tweaks their nipple it might be mildly amusing but overtime it grows irksome and embarrassing. Come on you guys! Don’t you know the meaning of less is more?

Dialogue was at times inaudible. Here again, projection, not shouting is what acting is all about. High pitched squealing too is so very unpleasant, so, that was another no no.

Humour was juvenile with overtones of pantomime, and to sum up in a nutshell, the whole thing lacked what the rock genre is truly about. Soul. Feeling. Grit. Emotion.

There are some fantastic songs in this show but the director and sound are guilty of slaughtering good music in this production and should be the first against the wall, come the revolution!

But, if you want an evening of scantily clad females cavorting and grinding away for a couple of hours, then this show is for you. However, if you are a true lover of rock, stay home and listen to your vinyl. To 01-6-19

Elizabeth M.Smith/Rosemary Manjunath


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