[Originally posted on On:Yorkshire Magazine: http://www.on-magazine.co.uk/arts/yorkshire-theatre/rock-ages-review-bradford-alhambra/]
As a self-confessed 80’s rock superfan (I even walked down the aisle to Guns n’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine!) I knew that I would enjoy Rock of Ages. But it is much more than a musical that simply borrows songs from some of the best glam rock bands of the 1980s. It is guaranteed to be one of the best nights out at the theatre that you’ll have in a long time – even if rock isn’t your first choice of music.
As you make your way to your seats to the sound of Warrant’s Sweet Cherry Pie blasting out of the speakers, you know your evening is going to be pretty great. The play opens with Whitesnake’s David Coverdale’s voice laying down the rules of the evening – no photography, no mobile phones, etc. – in a rather, ahem, colourful fashion, which definitely sets the tone for the rest of the night.
rock of ages bradfordRock of Ages tackles the well-documented excess and debauchery of Sunset Strip in the 1980s head-on, with larger than life characters, scantily clad chorus girls and a healthy dose of innuendo. But it doesn’t stray into smut – it stays just on the right side of risqué throughout.
The overarching plot centres around two young dreamers who are new to the Sunset Strip and are looking to make their mark on the place. Drew longs to become the frontman in a rock band and Sherrie leaves her small town home for the bright city lights hoping to become an actress. The second scene sees these two thrust together and the chemistry between them is clear. But, as with all great musicals, their road to true love does have some twists and turns along the way including the arrival of swoonsome rocker Stacee Jaxx on the scene.
All of the action centres around The Bourbon Room bar which is owned by Dennis Dupree and this is where Drew works as a busboy. Dupree is assisted by Lonny who acts as the play’s narrator and provides most of the laughs in the play. He addresses the audience directly throughout with hilarious asides that involve you deeper in the action. He also reminds the other characters that they are acting in a musical on the stage and even presents Drew with the programme at one point during a jokey exchange that nearly ends with both actors actually cracking up. The genuine dynamics the cast have on stage really elevates the musical.
Running alongside the fail safe musical storyline of a love story is a battle between the Strip’s residents and two German businessmen (father and son Hertz and Franz Kleinemann) who want to tear down all of the bars and strip joints to replace them with shops and ‘clean living’. This secondary plot line also provides lots of humour thanks to Cameron Sharp’s fantastic portrayal of the über-camp and over-emotional Franz.
rock of ages alhambra yorkshireThe cast is truly brilliant and their ridiculous level of talent is undeniable. Their renditions of the glam rock hits are fantastic and a true rock ‘n’ roll feel is captured by the whole musical being backed by a real rock band. I was blown away by the power of of Noel Sullivan’s voice (of Hear’Say fame) who plays Drew. I don’t think I have ever seen someone hold a note for as long as he did at the end of his rendition of Steve Perry’s Oh, Sherrie! Cornelia Farnworth’s performance of Sherrie is also very compelling and her voice is just incredible.
To top it off, the costumes are amazing and absolutely nail the 80s glam rock fashion. So many audience members were dressed up too so feel free to dig out your old band t-shirts, cowboy boots and get back-combing before you attend.If you are looking for a night that takes you back to the glamour and heady days of 1980s rock without the hazy memories the next day then this is the musical for you. Just make sure you listen to some of your old albums first as you won’t be able to help singing along.