Rock of Ages is a jukebox musical featuring 30 classic rock tracks from the 80s – feel good music which has you head banging and singing along. The story is that of a small town girl who comes to LA to be an actress, ends up working in a strip club, and a city boy who comes to LA to be a rock star, working in a bar and then gets put in a boy band. They eventually get it together with Drew running after her before she gets on the midnight train. It is a simple story but it’s fun and the show doesn’t take itself too seriously which adds to the comedy. It’s impossible to not like the music. They are all incredible 80s rock classics which I defy anybody not to love and sing along to.
The cast of the show were always outstanding. Every single one of them was on it and you could just tell they loved doing it. Let’s start with the leading lady, Natalie Andreou (Mamma Mia, Fame, Footloose) who played Sherrie. She acted the role extremely well bringing an innocence and naivety to the young dreamer. Her vocal ability is truly stunning with a lovely tone and a lot of power. Sherrie performs ‘More Than Words’ which is a very tender moment in the show which comes just before ‘Heaven’ which is sung by Drew and Sherrie to each other. She also sings ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ when Stacee comes to the Venus Club and asks for a dance with her.
The leading man, Ross Hunter (Legally Blonde, We Will Rock You) played an excellent Drew Boley who tried to impress Sherrie, succeeded and then said something stupid to wreck it. He took over from Oliver Tompsett who left to join We Will Rock You. Hunter’s voice is really suited for rock singing as his theatre credits suggest with him having played Galileo Figaro in We Will Rock You previously. Hunter excelled in the role with ‘I Wanna Rock’ and ‘Oh Sherrie’ being standout numbers.
Simon Lipkin (Spamalot, Avenue Q, Wedding Singer) played Lonny Barnett (Sound God), who is ‘the Narrator’ of the show. Lipkin is the perfect example of a natural comedian, entertainer and actor. He has the rare ability to interact with and play off an audience. He brings a masculinity to the role which makes it even more surprising when it’s revealed his character is gay. Lonny is a crucial part in the musical as he strings the whole show together.
Jodie Jacobs (Footloose, Wedding Singer, Evita) played Regina Contz, a protester who is against the de-rock-ifying of the Sunset Strip. Jodie has a truly outstanding voice – a perfect tone with so much power behind it, and is a very experienced actress, as her lengthy theatre credits suggest. Jacobs won an award for her portrayal of this role – Best Supporting Actress. Regina’s standout number is ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ where she rallies the masses to save their strip.
Stacee Jaxx was played by Tim Hower (Mike and the Mechanics), a kind of has-been rock star who is leaving his very successful band Arsenal to pursue a solo career. He seduces Sherrie and the pair end up in the men’s bathroom. Howar’s potrayal of Jaxx was brilliant and his performance of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ was phenomenal.
Dennis Dupree was played by Daniel Fletcher (Miracle on 34th Street, The Blues Brothers, We Will Rock You). Dennis is the owner of the Bourbon Room where a lot of the show is set. He sings ‘Too Much Time on My Hands’, most notably, and also sings ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ with Lonny when they reveal their feelings for each other and disguised sexuality.
Sandy Moffat (Dirty Dancing, We Will Rock You) plays Franz Klinemann who is the son of Hertz Klinemann, played by Rohan Tickell (The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, Mamma Mia), who wants to develop the Sunset Strip. It is a very funny, very gay, character whose defining moment is ‘Hit Me with Your Best Shot’ where he rebels against his father wearing a sparkly blue leotard…
Nathan Amzi (Rocky Horror Show, Miss Saigon) played the ‘money grabbing whore’ Mayor and sleazy record producer Paul Gill. Amzi has a great rock voice and was also the understudy for Lonny.
Rachel McFarlane (Rent and numerous recordings) played Justice ‘Mamma’ Charlier, the owner of the Venus Strip club where Sherrie ends up working. Her voice is truly incredible and the gospel influence really shows – she sang ‘Shadows of the Night’ with incredible power. She also sang ‘Anyway You Want It’ which is the golden rule at the Venus Club.
The ensemble were made up of Grant Anthony (Flashdance, Spamalot, Aladdin), Scarlette Douglas (Thriller Live, Man in the Mirror, Hairspray), Carly M. Dyer (Dirty Dancing, Chicago, High School Musical), Cordelia Farnworth (Mamma Mia, Wizard of Oz, Snow White and the Seven Drawfs), Selina Hamilton (Mamma Mia, Grease, Spamalot), Cameron Sharp (West End Heros 2013, Axe, BBC Proms: Sondheim at 80), Zizi Strallen (Merrily We Ride Along, Dirty Dancing), and Dylan Turner (Footloose, Mamma Mia, Grease).
There are two standout numbers: ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin’. At the end of Act 1 is ‘Here I Go Again’ where ‘everything is all effed up and it seems like nothing is going to work out’ – Sherrie’s a stripper, Drew is under Paul Gill’s wing, the Bourbon Room is being forced to close and the Strip is being de-rock-ifyied.
The show’s epilogue is Lonny now owns the Bourbon Room after Dennis died (done in a very funny way), Franz has a confectionary store in Hamburg and is working to make it an empire, Regina has been elected the mayor of San Francisco and then there’s Drew and Sherrie…who are living in Glendale, starting a family and are the perfect illustration that ‘sometimes on the Strip, the dreams you come in with aren’t always the dreams you leave with, but hey, they still rock’! The finale is ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ which sums up the whole show and gets the crowd on their feet.
The show opened in 2011 at the Shaftsbury Theatre and moved to the Garrick Theatre in early 2013. It was announced the show would close on 2nd November 2013 prior to going on its first UK tour in 2014. We are eager to see it return to the West End. It’s nothing but a good time…