Rock of Ages at The Regent is big, brash, camp and outrageous. Set in the 1980s, this is a mix-tape of a musical with belting tunes that most of us had forgotten we knew.
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl and really the story is there as a hook for the music. The audience didn’t pack out the house at The Regent in Hanley looking for intricate plot twists, but to be re-energised by some head-banging tunes, a few laughs and some song-and-dance routines.
Make no mistake, this musical embraces the chance, with gusto, to return to the days of gyrating dancers wearing little and being more explicit than a four-lettered word, and there are a few four-lettered words splattered throughout the script.
Not all of it works, it actually verges on a rocky, horror show of its own in some moments with cheap laughs from having German ‘baddies’. It’s 1987 not 1937, nothing would be lost from losing this. In fact the show could easily be as naff, and old hat, as a great big mullet, if it wasn’t for one vital element – the stand-out performances from the cast.
Camping his way across the stage and starting a running gag with the audience from the off, is the narrator Lonny played by Lucas Rush. He spells out immediately that this musical is not taking itself seriously and creates genuine laugh-out loud moments. Lonny is aided and abetted by sidekick Dennis, brilliantly acted by Kevin Kennedy, who we all know and love as Curly Watts from Coronation Street. Yet in the midst of all the comic capers, the duo actually bring a touching moment of surprising tenderness with a reworked duet of REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling”. Another much loved Kevin, that’s our usually clean-cut Kevin Clifton from Strictly Come Dancing, morphs here into the sleazy rock god Stacee Jaxx and shows that he has a voice that judge Craig Revel Horwood would have to at least give a ‘nine’ for, darling, and some of Stacee’s eye-popping choreography in the lap dance club would have Bruno Tonioli falling off his chair.
The songs are mainly from the American canon of rock with hits We Built This City; Waiting For A Girl Like You; and I Want To Know What Love is. Zoe Birkett as Justice, the strip club owner, reaches for her inner Whitney to take the stage by storm with a voice as loud and glittering as her dress. She is not the only one with big lungs as Luke Walsh playing Drew holds his note for so long that it makes your eyes water. Jodie Steele as Sherrie can turn from girl-next-door to lap-dancer with a flick of a heel. She sings in most of the songs and her voice holds the show together, giving a consistent high quality performance throughout, as does the live band.
Get to Rock Of Ages before The Final Countdown this Saturday.
By Jackie Gregory
Rock of Ages is at The Regent until Saturday February 16. Tickets are on sale now at The Regent Box Office, or by calling 0844 8717649 and online www.atgtickets.com/stoke