Rock of Ages
Paul Johnson | 27 Feb 2019 11:13am
Photo: Richard Davenport
A truly star-studded press night at New Wimbledon Theatre, yesterday, saw virtually the entire Strictly line-up come out to support reigning champion Kevin Clifton in his debut musical theatre tour, including Joe Sugg, Diane Buswell, 2018 winning partner Stacey Dooley, Judy Murray, Dr Ranj Singh, ex-wife Karen Clifton, Oti Mabuse… the list goes on.
In fact you could fill the entire auditorium with celebrities and threaten to overload Twitter but, with all the will in the world, a celebrity audience doesn’t guarantee you a slice of musical theatre history. Unfortunately the new Rock of Ages UK tour is pretty dire. Outdated, crude, misogynistic, racist and musically lost… and don’t even get me started on the paper-thin plot! In fact it misses the mark in so many areas that I almost didn’t recognise the show since first seeing the far superior touring production five years ago when it happened to pass through the very same venue as last night.
Set on California’s LA Strip, Rock of Ages is a jukebox musical that sets out to celebrate the rock era of the 1980s. Cue numbers such as We Built This City (on Rock and Roll), We’re Not Gonna Take It, Waiting For a Girl Like You, Dead or Alive, I Want to Know What Love Is, Here I Go Again, Feel the Noize, The Final Countdown and Don’t Stop Believin’… to name a few. When greedy German developers threaten to bulldoze the entire area to make way for redevelopment, it looks like the end of Dennis’s live-music Bourbon Bar – famous for being the venue where the ‘legendary’ Stacee Jaxx first made his name alongside (the excellent onstage band) Arsenal.
Add a couple of sub-plots to the mix, such as country girl Sherrie arriving on the Strip to see the world, only to fall in and out, and in and out, of love with up-and-coming performer, Drew, plus Stacee’s dubious return to his pre-fame roots and we potentially have a show. Sadly, Nick Winston’s disjointed production fails to ignite much interest in most of its characters… but does feature Nazi-esque Germans with a walk Basil Fawlty would be proud of, a chorus of fully clothed leather/denim-clad men coupled with highly sexualised thong/miniskirt-wearing women, simulated sex/oral sex whenever Stacee Jaxx is onstage and a string of songs that, for the first time, come across as shoe-horned into the production.
The only saving grace is Lucas Rush’s welcomed interactions with the audience as he takes on camp rocker-come-narrator, Lonny. Chris D’Arienzo’s book is actually supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but this production doesn’t appear to know which way it’s heading. I can only presume that the Rock of Ages: High School Edition doesn’t feature anything like the same content as this rather crass version!
Not that it’s the cast’s fault; I’m sure they’re only doing as they’ve been told. The beautiful and lithe Jodie Steele has made the giant leap from Heathers the Musical to play Sherrie, Luke Walsh boasts a fine vocal range as young Drew, ex-Coronation Street regular, Kevin Kennedy takes on hippy bar owner Dennis, Zoe Birkett brings a soulful touch of class to strip-club owner, Justice, while the aforementioned Kevin Clifton stars as Stacee Jaxx until Blue’s Antony Costa takes over in April (who, judging by the private number plate parked outside, I would guess was also in last night).
Presumably Kevin Clifton’s sister, Joanne (another Strictly winner), has encouraged him to dive into the musical theatre pool after she found success first in Flashdance followed by the current tour of The Rocky Horror Show, but he’s a little out of place here demonstrated by his urge to add a Strictly shimmy to his curtain call. Denim and ballroom dancing don’t necessarily make good bedfellows, Kevin. There are better shows waiting for you, sir!
My final gripe must be the enforced standing ovation (“Come on! We want to see all of you up on your feet!”). If you earn one, then accept it and even enjoy it. Standing ovations happen spontaneously when deserved. But please don’t request one or make the audience feel obliged to stand up; it adds a feeling of desperation!
Photo: Richard Davenport
- : admin
- : 26/02/2019