Writer: Chris D’Arienzo
Director: Kristen Hanggi
Choreographer: Kelly Devine
Reviewer: Fiona Hannon
Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre welcomed Rock of Ages to the city last night with its promise of “big hair and big tunes”, and the retro look wasn’t just confined to the stage. Leather jackets, leopard print, fringing and even the odd mullet had turned out to enjoy this celebration of the 80s LA rock scene.
Chris D’Arienzo’s book is pretty juvenile and the plot is far from sophisticated. Will Sherrie and Drew’s romance blossom? Can Regina save The LA Strip from development by Hertz and his son Franz? Will Dupree and Lonny lose The Bourbon Club? However, although there are some great characterisations on stage, it’s clear that the evening is all about the music. The on-stage band and cast blast out hit after hit including ‘Final Countdown’, ‘I Want to Know What Love is’, ‘We Built This City’, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and ending the evening with Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’.
Act one seems a little slow to start, but soon picks up pace with the arrival of Ben Richards as over blown, over sexed, rock god, Stacee Jaxx. Richards owns the stage from that point on, totally convincing as the egotistical front man of rock band Arsenal.
Stephen Rahman-Hughes as narrator Lonny completely wins the audience over with his cheeky, Mike Myers-esque performance, frequently breaking the fourth wall to chat to them. He is at his best when teamed with The Big Lebowski look-a-like Daniel Fletcher, playing the wonderfully warm club owner Dennis Dupree with a surprisingly light touch.
Noel Sullivan (playing shy, unassuming Drew) shows amazing vocal stamina, with a rock solid portrayal, delivering performances that those who knew him from his Hear’Say days might never have expected. Sullivan is ably supported by Cordelia Farnworth as innocent small town girl Sherrie, newly arrived in LA, but inevitably being sucked in to its seedier side after losing her job at The Bourbon Club.
Supporting actors Jack Lord (Hertz Klinemann), Cameron Sharp (Franz) and Jessie May (Regina) are all firm favourites with the audience, delivering first class comic performances and all with excellent vocals.
Choreographer Kelly Devine has some seriously raunchy dance moves, all delivered with precision and high energy, with faithfully over the top 80s denim, leather, attitude and huge hair. Beowulf Britt’s set looked a little cramped on the Lyceum’s stage, but combined with excellent lighting and laser shows designed by Humphrey McDermott, it gives a convincing representation of LA’s seedy clubs and palm trees.
Full credit must go to the on-stage band, Ashley Williams, Andy Gammon, Gary Liedeman, and Alan Marchisone, all led by Pierce Tee. These guys are relentless, rocking out hit after hit all night to the absolute delight of the audience.
If you like your rock loud, flamboyant and with its tongue firmly in its cheek, then Rock of Ages is the perfect night for you. The Sheffield audience loved it, whooping and cheering from the get go, and quick to rise to their feet at the first opportunity.
Runs until: Saturday 1 November