Another week and another feel good musical at The Alex (kudos to The Ambassador Theatre Group for sending a seemingly endless stream of West End worthy shows out on the road by the way). Moving on from the 70s of the Bolan bio-musical 20th Century Boy this time it’s the 80s courtesy of Rock of Ages, an unashamedly tongue in cheek look at the era that gave us poodle haircuts, spandex and dudes who’d raided their mum’s make up bags (hey...I only did it once).
One of the great things about The Alex is that everyone who works there really seems to get into the spirit of things. Most of the staff had adopted 80s rock fashion for the night and the usherettes did a great job of whipping the crowd up even before the show had started...I’m pretty sure half of them would have got up there on stage given half the chance. Seeing how much fun it looked up there tonight who can blame them?
If you’ve not seen either the film or show before don’t go expecting a serious run through some of the biggest rock hits of all time. In fact it’s more Carry On Jovi than Bon Jovi with every 80s rock cliché well and truly played for laughs. There’s a plot (boy meets girl, girl cops off with someone else in the loo, girl gets back with boy) all set against the backdrop of an LA bar threatened with redevelopment but you may well be too busy singing along to the torrent of hits to notice. Altogether now, "I'm a cowwwwwboy, on a steel horse I ride, I'm waaaaaaaanted, dead or alive". They don't write 'em like that any more do they eh?
As with most of these musicals you only get the odd snatch of some of them but given that they whip through 30 or so that’s pretty understandable. The choice of songs reads like a Now That’s What I Call Rock Music compilation album, everything from Just Like Livin’ in Paradise through to the truly anthemic Don’t Stop Believin’. Whilst most of the show doesn’t take itself too seriously there are some pretty impressive vocal performances in amongst it all plus just enough fret wanking to keep the guitar heads happy. Come on, you’ve got to have a bit of fret wanking in a rock show right?
The entire cast’s rocking brilliant, from the show’s narrator and source of most of the comedy, Lonnie (brilliantly played by Stephen Rahman-Hughes...watch out for the hilarious penis routine) through to sassy strip club owner Justice Charler (Rachel Macfarlane) whose gospel tinged vocal was a real highlight. Ben Richards, who seems to have a knack for playing slightly sleazy dudes (he was great as Franklin Hart in a recent version of 9-5), nailed rock god Stacee Jaxx whilst Noel Sullivan and Cordelia Farnworth were perfect as the musical’s love interests Drew and Sherrie (who Stacee also...er...’nailed’). Aping many 80s rock videos there’s plenty of bare flesh on display up there but much of it is for titters rather than titillation (honestly), besides it’s probably keeping the entire British thong industry going too.
It’s pretty easy to sum up this show in just a few words. In fact one of the featured tracks does the job for you, Nothin’ But A Good Time. Dig out your spandex, crack open the hairspray and you’re pretty much guaranteed just that.
Rock of Ages is on at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 17th May. Tickets here!