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Rock show lacks one direction, in a manner of speaking

Reporter: Paul Genty
Date online: 07 May 2014

Rock of Ages, Palace, Manchester, to Saturday

THIS stage show of the movie of the book tries very hard to make you like it.

There is vibrant lighting, a bit of video, a bit of romance, a lot of comedy, some property development and a lot of Eighties glam-rock, played very well and very loud. And that’s the main problem: there is so much going on here that none of it seems very well developed. Much of the humour seems rather forced — to use a popular Eighties phrase, not worthy of great laughs.

It’s the old, old story: would-be rock star Drew (Noel Sullivan) meets would-be actress Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth) on LA’s Sunset Strip in 1987. When their dreams fall apart he ends up in a boy band and she becomes a stripper. And they don’t even have each other — she apparently hooked up with rock legend Stacee Jaxx (played in the movie by Tom Cruise, here by Ben Richards), and Drew thinks he has been rejected.

As I suggested, there’s a lot going on; masses of leers, suggestiveness, skimpy stripper costumes, long-haired rock wigs, comic business, silly asides and so on — all contributing to the evening.

In fact it’s even hard to see who the central characters are: Drew and Sherrie get less stage time than club sound-man, narrator and chief humour-monger Lonny (Stephen Rahman-Hughes), for instance, though admittedly the latter can be a powerful force in keeping the evening moving.

On balance I don’t suppose anyone keen to see the show cares all that much about plot and character: they go for the songs, not the story.

So, the songs? There’s a slew of them, from the likes of Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, Europe, Asia, Styx and many more, though to be honest while they are played and sung strongly, apart from a handful of classics there’s a lot of filler among the 30 or so.

I really wanted to like the show; the movie was fun and hit the right tone, where this doesn’t quite know its tone and just ends up a caricature of the original, which was already a caricature of the real-life LA Eighties scene.

So any way you want it, don’t stop believin’ and come on, feel the noise.


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