Review: "Rock of Ages" (UK & Ireland Tour)

15. ROCK OF AGES. Zoe Birkett 'Justice' and The Company. Photo Richard Davenport.jpg
  • Lewis C. Baird, United Kingdom Critic

One thing that musicals lack, is a shift in structure. Mainstream musicals mainly always follow a linear plot structure, which have a very Stanislavskian style.  “Rock of Ages” completely tears that expected formula apart. Till Saturday 4th May, the UK and Ireland touring production is playing Edinburgh’s answer to the west end, the Edinburgh Playhouse.

The story is based in the 1980s which is set on the sunset strip, and follows the love story of Sherrie and Drew, bar staff of the legendary Bourbon room. This musical features some of the biggest and most iconic rock hits of the 80s, plus an outrageous narrator in the form of Lonny.

Jodie Steele is an absolute delight as Sherrie. It is so rare to have an extremely talented actress whose name is currently buzzing about the west end, go on a UK and Ireland tour. Jodie’s acting and vocal ability is superb, she brings a totally different performing standard than previously seen to this character. Luke Walsh as Drew is the perfect casting, Luke’s portrayal of Drew is much more believable and balanced than previous actors that have tackled it. With Luke’s insane vocal scale, the rock hits featured in this musical have never sounded better.

Kevin Kennedy is hilarious with his portrayal of Dennis, the owner of the Bourbon room. He soaks up all the comedy the script suggests, to deliver a hysterically blunt portrayal, who has a secret side to his character. Kevin really shows off his vocal techniques with a great accent, plus packs a punch in his singing. A very fun and enjoyable performance of Dennis. Lucas Rush is a standout, with his incredibly funny portrayal of Lonny. His comic timing is unfathomable, he brings so much energy to this role, the audience absolutely love the tongue in cheek humour. Plus, Lucas laps up the flexibly of being able to walk through the fourth wall. Also, he elevates the role further by supplying unbelievable rock vocals. Lucas Rush is absolutely one of the best male actors in musical theatre, he consistently owns the stage in each production he stars in.

Zoe Birkett is a powerhouse as Justice, she absolutely slays, yes slays, every song she supplies her astounding vocals to. Her voice is simply stunning. Within her portrayal of this character, she simply radiates sass, and likability, this is a really strong performance. Antony Costa is surprisingly on point as Stacee Jaxx. Antony’s husky voice and noughties sex appeal suits this character very well, and the sleaziness of the character was portrayed well.

Erin Bell understudies Regina with such confidence. Her rendition of “We’re not gonna take it” and “We built this city” is impressive, her vocal ability suits this character very well. Plus, the corny characterization worked perfectly. It really was a great performance to watch. Adam Strong was also understudying Hertz, the brutal German entrepreneur. Adam’s stern characterization of Hertz, worked very well to ramp up the sense of threat, however, at points it felt as though the serious side of the character was getting in the way of the humour that could have been used. In terms of Adam’s singing ability, his rather operatic styles worked great to make an impact in the small amount of musical numbers that this character is featured in.

Andrew Carthy was fabulous as the hysterically camp Franz. This character’s journey is one of comic highlights of the show. Andrew’s fantastic portrayal of this character really brought a geeky spin as well as the obvious hints of effeminacy. Also, his vocals were superb in the number “Hit me with your best shot”. 

The ensemble for this production were fantastic in adding to the atmosphere of the sunset strip and they all radiated that 80s vibe. The ensemble are as follows, Alexander Day, Joshua Dever, Sinead Kenny, Bobby Windebank, Saran Webb, Paris Green and Ryan-Lee Seager.

Nick Winston’s direction and choreography really adds a richness to the musical compared to the motion picture, plus other productions of the musical. He uses Chis D’Arienzo book perfectly, with slight adaptions here and there, just to give the production an update and make it seem still fresh. Nick also works in conjunction with Barney Ashworth, who is the musical director for this production. Ashworth delivers the 80s hits fantastically, with a band which can happily blow the roof off the largest seated theatre in the UK. Morgan Large’s set and costume design, works brilliantly as something which gives a gig vibe, but also works as the setting of the bourbon room. Ben Cracknell’s lighting design elevates the concert feel to the production with how grand the standard of lighting is. It is something you would expect to see at the main stage during the Glastonbury festival.

Overall, this is the ultimate 1980s jukebox musical, this tour has completely elevated “Rock of Ages” into such a high-quality production, featuring some of the UK’s best talent in musical theatre. It’s a musical which completely throws out the normal structure, and possibly is one of the funniest musicals that the UK currently has to offer. I would definitely recommend catching this production of “Rock of Ages” as it possibly is the best version of the show.