The Rock of Ages melting pot contains all the key ingredients for a good night out – sex, drugs, rock and roll, plus a mighty dollop of cheese – and minimal jazz hands, I’m pleased to report. Sexy, sassy and just plain silly, you’ll be up on your feet by the finale, clapping like a deranged seal; no doubt about it. So what’s it about? Well, to be absolutely honest, I’ve got no idea… but here goes anyway (spot the rock anthems):
There’s a boy and a girl so, yep, definitely an LA love story of sorts. Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth) is chasing her dream of becoming an actress but she winds up working as a stripper – “oh Sherrie”, such a shame. Drew (Noel Sullivan), living under the pseudonym Wolfgang Van Colt, just “wanna rock” (excuse the grammar, blame Twisted Sister). Drew has been “waiting for a girl like” Sherrie all his life and she “want[s] to know what love is”. After a slight detour down a rocky road called Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards) – tah dah, magic happens.
Oh and there’s a subplot. Two Germans arrive in town, intent on taking over the City they didn’t build and banishing rock and roll (boo!). The proletariat “don’t stop believin’” and there’s a protest where scantily clad women chain themselves to each other: they’re clearly “not gonna take it”. There’s a “final countdown” and a riot, which prompts the misunderstood, effeminate Franz (Cameron Sharp) to declare his love for “Vagina” (he’s not gay, he’s German). For no apparent reason, his cruel capitalist father, Hertz (Jack Lord), grows a heartz and supports his son’s dream of becoming a confectionary shop owner. The Germans wave auf wiedersehen to the hairy headed rockers, leaving them to do what they do best… rock out, maaaan…
So yeah, it’s a bit random. And the way I’ve forced the songs into the overview matches the manner in which they’re forced into the intentionally obscure plot.
Between them, the cast sport fine sets of lungs – they can really belt those tunes out and you’ll want to wave your goosebumpy arms in the air. That being said, a lot of the dialogue is lost to mumbling and, at times, the slapstick comedy is more awkward than funny. I did, however, enjoy Lonny’s massive penis mime – thanks Stephen Rahman-Hughes.
As you might expect with this type of musical, there’s the odd moment of audience interaction, but this lacks the crucial ability to confidently adlib and improvise. Oh and don’t sit in the front row, unless you don’t mind being accused of having herpes.
Sullivan and Farnworth don’t disappoint as the leading man and lady; they’ve got great chemistry and stunning voices. I actually thought Bret Michaels walked on stage at one point, which is a testament to Richards’s Stacee Jaxx: nobody has ever looked so sexy in a bandana. And don’t get me started on the cowboy hat. In all seriousness, Richards rocked. Rahman-Hughes as self-confessed narrator has a strong strange presence, and despite a dodgy accent (sorry), he grows on you… like a cute but mangy stray dog might (he’s got a lot of hair). You just want to take him home.
So if you’re into the rock and roll lifestyle, if you love a bit of raunchy naughtiness, if you don’t take yourself too seriously (or anything else for that matter), then this is probably for you. I, personally, love nothing more than having my face melted… so come feel the noise, girls grab the boys, and get wild, wild, wild at Theatre Royal Brighton this summer.