I AM NOT normally a fan of juke box musicals as for the most part the thin story lines are merely there as links to take us from one old song to the next.
It was therefore a pleasant surprise to discover that Rock of Ages is very much story driven with the fabulous classic numbers of the 80s more a cool back drop.
Kevin Kennedy is outrageously magnificent as Dennis, our narrator and host. His sidekick is Lonny, the owner of the Bourbon Club on Sunset Boulevard (based on the famous Whisky-A-Go-Go which was springboard for such luminary rockers as Led Zeplin, Motley Crew and Guns ‘n’ Roses). Lonny is a tour-de-force performance from the charismatic Lucas Rush who spends most of the show in a drugged up potty- mouthed laid back utopia – until on getting some good news he somersaults around the set like an Olympic athlete.
The story concerns Hollywood hopefuls would be actress Sherrie (gorgeous antelope legged Jodie Steele) and rock star wannabe Drew (Luke Walsh ticking the box nicely). These naïve country boy and sweet little hometown girl arrive in town together, share dreams and fall in love. Of course it’s not going to be an easy path for our star-crossed lovers or there wouldn’t be a story would there?
Sherrie gets seduced and quickly discarded by bad boy rock star Stacee Jaxx (correctly mean and nasty performance from ex Blue band member Antony Costa).
Having done the evils with our poor heroine in the men’s cloakroom at the Bourbon, he gets her fired from her job as a waitress – it’s off to dance the pole in a seedy strip club for her. Likewise Drew fails to make his mark in music. (Spoiler – it all turns out OK in the end)
The Germans are in town too in the shape of property demolishers Hertz (Vas Constanti) and his son Franz (Andrew Carthy). They make for lots of high-jinxed slapstick encounters in their endeavor to flatten the rock and roll clubs of Sunset and turn the Boulevard into high rise condo’s for millionaires.
Rhiannon Chesterman also excels as Regina and for me the shout out honours go to the silky voiced and stunning Zoe Birkett as Justice.
The band appears throughout, sometimes in the spotlight on their own moving stage and sometimes unobtrusively. They are simply awesome and deserve a name call Keyboards and MD Liam Holmes, lead guitars Drew Lowe and Marc Le Guerranic, Bass Eliliot Mason and shaking the roof on the drums Vito Guerrieri.
Rock of Ages is directed and choreographed by Nick Winston with a bevy of long-legged skimpy clothed girls performing erotic dance routines making this one raunchy rock show.
The lighting design by Ben Cracknell is more full on concert rather than theatrical at times with so many lamps blaring out it’s a wonder Wolverhampton didn’t suffer a power cut.
Rock of Ages has been around long enough now to attract a loyal following who know exactly when to clap along to the likes of ‘We Built This City On Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Go and party all this week at the wonderfully refurbished Grand Theatre – you’ll go home happy and perhaps a little deafened as befits this happy homage to glam rock.
The show runs until Saturday, June 1.
Review by Euan Rose.