Rock Of Ages - Review
Note: Venue and cast has changed this this review
The title of this new musical may have you guessing about its objectives or focus. There are shades of the church when compared with the Christian hymn of the same name, suggesting some kind of evangelical adulation of rock. But it actually turns out to be quite an ordinary, almost run-of-the-mill musical which in spite of the negative connotations of that description, proves to be fun even if there's not much meat on the dramatic bone.
The 'run-of-the-mill' aspect is found in the boy-meets-girl storyline. Oliver Tompsett's Drew is a wannabe rock star, and finds work at a Sunset Strip bar where he bumps into Amy Pemberton's Sherrie. The course of true love does not run smoothly, however, and the couple are, at least temporarily, split. You can see that there's not much that is unique in that plot, and the sub-plot about a father and son duo of property developers hardly fires up the imagination either.
Shayne Ward is likely, I suppose, to be the biggest draw in the acting and singing department as he is well-known to millions thanks to his appearance on the TV series 'X Factor' back in 2005 which he went on to win. But, though Mr Ward's performance is professionally solid, it lacks real sparkle as though he is still working himself into the role. That may well be the case, especially as the version I saw was one of the earliest press nights. The real star of the show, though, is Simon Lipkin's excellently-drawn Lonny who acts as the kind of host and jollies the proceedings along. In the process he demonstrates a near-obsessive penchant for the opposite sex which verges on the manic. It's all done in the best possible taste though, and Mr Lipkin's genial and charming character turns what might be a highly negative trait to some people, into an endearing character that is hard not to like.
I am not exactly a great fan of rock, or rock and roll for that matter, but the tunes are well-produced and sung, and the overall selection is varied enough to provide good balance. You may recognise songs like 'Final Countdown' and 'We Built This City' even if your knowledge of rock history is as minimal as mine.
The first half is the better of the two having the best ideas and more energy. By the end of the show, it begins to feel very stretched, especially because very little of any real consequence happens in the second half. At one point, the show's programme appears on stage for no good reason apart from the fact that the writer had run out of ideas and was clutching desperately at straws, including having to write himself into the script.
Otherwise, though the storyline is hardly riveting, it's not as dire as some that I have seen, or so contrived that one loses any link with believability. On the other hand, it's not stunning or totally brilliant either. It is a kind of Goldilocks show, at least in terms of enjoyment – not too good, not too bad, but just about right to make a fun, though undemanding, night out. And, after all, that is what many people want from a musical.
" This is as unpleasant a pile of theatrical poo as it has ever been my misfortune to tread in. "
Charles Spencer for The Daily Telegraph
"It's a very peculiar show indeed, with an unvarying and unpleasant tone of careless sexualisation."
Michael Hann for the Guardian
"As a feelgood, singalong, rock'n'roll musical it's hard to fault."
Pierre Perrone for the Independent