Vivienne Kennedy reviews Rock of Ages, playing at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 20 April
Some theatre is deep and meaningful, designed to make you think and reflect, while other shows aim to do nothing more than to make you laugh and grin. Rock of Ages comes into the latter category. I find it rather reminiscent of pantomime, albeit the rockiest, raunchiest panto you are ever likely to see.
With a book by Chris D’Arienzo and songs that were originally performed by a host of 1980s rock legends, the show is about Sherrie, a small town girl livin’ in a lonely world, and Drew, yep, you guessed it, just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit. They meet on Sunset Strip and fall in love swiftly, but take both acts to admit it to each other. Running alongside their tale is the story of a battle to save a city, the one that was built on rock ‘n’ roll to be precise, from the demolition ball and subsequent gentrification. It’s not giving too much away if I say there are happy endings all round.
Rock of Ages is high energy from start to finish and features some fantastic performances, particularly from Jodie Steele and Luke Walsh as Sherrie and Drew as well as from Kevin Kennedy (yes, Coronation Street’s Curly Watts) in the role of Dennis Dupree, Lucas Rush as Lonny, Rhiannon Chesterman as Regina, and Antony Costa (formerly one quarter of Blue) as Stacee Jaxx. The band – Liam Holmes, Drew Lowe, Marc Le Guerranic, Elliot Mason, and Vito Guerrieri – deserve a shout-out too.
Personally, I find the way the women are treated in some scenes a little uncomfortable to watch. I don’t remember it bothering me so much when I first saw the show a few years ago. Even back then I thought it probably wasn’t a show for staunch feminists, but in the intervening years I think we’ve all become less tolerant of things previously considered ‘acceptable in the 80s’ and it’s harder to watch now.
Likewise the stereotyping of two German characters feels quite wrong – that’s not a criticism of actors Andrew Carthy and Vas Constanti by the way, more a thought that perhaps the script needs updating.
That said, with both criticisms, I tend to think I’m in the minority and perhaps overthinking things, the audience around me laugh and clap in all the right places, obviously thoroughly enjoying themselves, and overall I do too.
There is some bad language and a few sexual references, not to mention some very revealing costumes (only to be expected when part of the show is set in a ’gentlemen’s’ club), and therefore the age guideline is a sensible 14+.
For further information, including performance times and ticket prices, and to book online, visit bristolhippodrome.org.uk.
Image: Lucas Rush as Lonny in Rock of Ages, photographed by Richard Davenport