Are you ready to rock? I said are you ready to ROCK? Well if so, there is only one place to be this week and that is the Derngate Theatre, Northampton as Rock Of Ages hits the stage. This jukebox musical is built around rock songs of the 1980’s and include classics that everyone will know. But what makes this show work isn’t just the brilliant musical soundtrack, it’s the energy of the show and the humour and interaction with the audience.
Lonny Barnett is technically the narrator, but don’t think of it like the narrator in Joseph, its more than that. This is what panto would look like if it was based on rock. It’s 1987, we are in Hollywood and Drew works in the Bourbon room. The club is owned by Dennis Dupree and he is a classic old rocker. There was not much political correctness going on in 1987 so expect lots of cleavage and very short shorts on the ladies – and that isn’t even the Gentleman’s Club! Its that classic love story, with Drew falls for Sherrie, who has just arrived in town so he talks Dennis into giving her a job. Meanwhile a side-line story of two German developers want to buy up the strip so start to knock down the buildings as money is no object. Regina the city planner is not happy abut this. However, the story jumps back to the Bourbon room where Dennis is worried that his club could be knocked down too. He has an idea to invite Stacee Jaxx to play their last ever gig there as that was where they started their band, Arsenal. Stacee agrees after a few blackmail comments involving a llama. Don’t ask! Drew manages to get an agreement to play four songs as their support. Drew and Sherrie become close but he makes the classic mistake of telling her they are friends. When Stacee plays the Bourbon room he accidentally sleeps with Sherrie and then gets her fired. He is not a nice rock star. However, things are on the up with Drew as he is signed by a music producer. If you find the story a bit convoluted, it is! But not to worry as Lonny is on hand to help. He is particularly helpful at the end of act one, coming on with his book, musicals for dummies, and explaining that there is always a moment in a show when things are down, but we should still end on a big number with jazz hands.
Antony Costa (Blue) plays Stacee and gives a great performance of a rocker at the top of his game who is on the way down. I feel for Antony as I like him and know he is a nice guy in real life. Stacee isn’t nice and I struggled with this as its such a different direction for Antony. This just shows how good Antony is in the role. His voice is stunning and I really enjoyed his performance. Lonny is played by Lucas Rush. Well I just loved him (although I think now is the time to say I would never date a man with longer hair than my own). Lucas is exceptional and really is the glue that holds the show together. He is funny, has great timing and can ad-lib with the audience which is no easy task. I would seek him out in anything he plays in future as his performance is on point.
Drew is played by Luke Walsh and is the only male in the show with short spiky hair. Luke is very talented and can not only sing but gives Drew integrity and makes him likeable. A really important skill to master. Sherrie is played by Jodie Steele and she is perfect as innocent Sherrie who has to harden her heart. Jodie also has a lovely singing voice. Justice is the owner of the gentleman’s club and she is played by Zoe Birkett and wow - this girl can sing! Her voice blew me away. I would buy her records. (I can say records – its 1987!). The cast and live on stage band are all extremely talented and I was hugely impressed by not only the singing but the dance numbers. This show has a raw heat; an energy that really makes it feel exciting to watch. You feel you just don’t know what may happen next.
There is almost nothing I don’t love about this show. It is funny. Unexpectedly funny. And breaking the fourth wall works perfectly. Lonny interacts with the audience and there is a perfect moment where he explains to another cast member that they are actors in a musical and this is being scripted. It’s so original as that almost never happens in a musical. Classic rock songs such as We built this city, I wanna rock, We’re not gonna take it, Wanted dead or alive, Here I go again and The final countdown. There are also a few ballads such as I wanna know what love is, Can’t fight this feeling and Keep on loving you.
This is a show that is worth seeing. Worth seeing again and again. It’s full of denim and leather, rock n roll lifestyles and the moral that your dream you come to Hollywood with isn’t always the dream you leave with. It’s truly a fabulous show. So, if you wanna rock get yourself down to the Bourbon room at the Derngate this week.