Rock of Ages

May 21 2014 | By More

★★★☆☆  Believe the Noize

Edinburgh Playhouse  Mon 19 – Sat 23 May 2014

Big hair, big licks and a big ending provide a return to the world of late eighties codpiece rock, as Rock of Ages sticks a pair of socks down its tight leather trousers and struts into the Playhouse.

Set in the late eighties, this is pure jukebox musical territory, with a playlist that is soft-rock to its carefully manicured core.

Richards (Stacee Jaxx) in Rock of Ages The Musical UK Tour . Credit Manuel Harlan

Richards (Stacee Jaxx). Photo © Manuel Harlan

All the obligatory elements of both genres are present and correct – or politically incorrect when it comes to emulating soft rock’s core values.

From the jukebox side, the everyday story of boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, love and known universe fall into jeopardy, and boy and girl make-up thus saving the known universe, are given an overtly knowing telling thanks to Stephen Rahman-Hughes’ entertaining turn as narrator Lonny.

So far as the story itself goes, Lonny’s the sound guy in the Bourbon Room, a rock-joint on the Sunset Strip run by Daniel Fletcher’s loveable old hippy Dennis Dupree. Once he gets going, Rahman-Hughes puts in a strong turn, playing up the smut and delivering on the innuendo while quite capable of holding a note.

This is just like paradise for Noel Sullivan’s Drew, even if he is working as a waiter as the first step on his road to rock-god stardom. It’s all very  pure and simple as the guys hang out, drink beer and sport leather and denim,  while the gals wander round in stockings, suspenders, skirts that barely cover the bottom and a preponderance of screaming fluorescent pink.

“nothing but a good time can be had by all”

Looking rather like a young Jonathan Ross with his floppy-haired wig, Sullivan cuts just the right tone with his bright-eyed puppyish attitude. Never more than when he spies Cordelia Farnworth’s Sherrie, a naive new girl in town in her own search to become a star.

Ben Richards (Stacee Jaxx) in Rock of Ages The Musical UK Tour . Credit Manuel Harlan

Ben Richards (Stacee Jaxx). Photo © Manuel Harlan

But just when looks like nothing but a good time can be had by all, the city that was built on Rock’n’Roll is in danger of being torn down and turned into an anodyne shopping mall thanks to a Jack Lord’s dastardly German. Not to mention rock god Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards) muscling in on Sherrie.

As the soft rock, the power ballads and the pomp anthems keep on rolling out, this is perfect stuff for anyone who can appreciate the irony of  wigging out on the disco floor to the likes of Foreigner, Journey, Twisted Sister and, of course, Starship’s We Built This City.

It is all very good to look at. The design is clever and makes great use of the stage, there are strongly entertaining performances all round and plenty of great dancing – even in the strip-joint scenes when Sherrie is dropped by Jaxx. Yet there is an incongruity to it all: thanks to the style of music on offer it is not until well into the second half that Cordelia Farnworth gets a chance to demonstrate quite how strong her voice is.

A modern twist to the plot demonstrates that it knows exactly the demographic it is playing to. Here are strong female roles, despite the skimpy outfits, and actually rather more hunky male flesh on display than female, thanks to Ben Richards’ open-shirted posturing.

Which is no real surprise. But what does seem odd, is that when there is such a vast catalogue of songs to use to drive the plot on, writer Chris D’Arienzo instead turns to self-referential explanations that are unnecessary and add little by way of amusement.

Still, as it works up to its huge, guitar-wielding, lighter-held-aloft finale, this is a show which knows exactly how to deliver on the entertainment. And leaves with a rock-out which is several orders of magnitude more entertaining than any which has gone before.

Running time 2 hrs 40 mins including interval
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Mon 19 – Sat 24 May 2014.
Daily: 7.30pm (not Fri); Fri, 5pm, 8.30pm; matinee Sat: 2.30pm.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website:
Tour website:
The show on twitter: @rockofagesuk

Rock Of Ages on UK tour 2014:

19-24 May Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
02-07 Jun Torquay
Princess Theatre
0844 871 3023 Book online
09-14 Jun Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
16-21 Jun Bromley
Churchill Theatre
08448 717 620 Book online
23-28 Jun Bradford
Alhambra Theatre
01274 432 000 Book online
30 Jun-05 Jul Aylesbury
Waterside Theatre
08448 717 627 Book online
07-12 Jul Bristol
0844 871 3012 Book online
14-19 Jul Stoke-on-Trent
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book online
21-26 Jul Liverpool
Empire Theatre
08448 713 017 Book online
28 Jul-02 Aug Sunderland
Empire Theatre
0844 871 3022 Book online
04-09 Aug Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
11-16 Aug Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
18-23 Aug Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7652 Book online
25-30 Aug Woking
New Victoria Theatre
0844 871 7645 Book online
01-06 Sep York
Grand Opera House
08448 472 322 Book online
08-13 Sep Southampton
Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
15-20 Sep Dublin
Bord GÁis Energy
0818 719 377 Book online
29 Sep-04 Oct Hull
New Theatre
01482 300 300 Book online
06-11 Oct Cardiff
New Theatre
029 2087 8889 Book online
13-18 Oct Blackpool
Opera House
01253 625252 Book online
20-25 Oct Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
27 Oct-1 Nov Sheffield
0114 249 6000 Book online
3-8 Nov Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
10-15 Nov Southend-on-Sea
Cliffs Pavilion
01702 351135 Book online
17-22 Nov Wimbledon
New Theatre
0844 871 7646 Book online


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