Reviewed by Nicky Jones
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Bringing the audience straight back to 1987, Rock of Ages opens with a guitar solo which had the audience whooping, cheering and clapping from the very beginning!
This riotous rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza is back entertaining audiences of Manchester once again, featuring all your favourite 80s rock hits including Don’t Stop Believing (Journey), We Built This City (Starship) and Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Pat Benatar).
The show is put together in true jukebox style, with incredible vocals coming from both the leads and the ensemble.
The plot of Rock of Ages is a classic love story – a small-town girl Sherrie (Rhiannon Chesterman) has moved to the big city to achieve her dreams of being a Hollywood actress.
She meets wannabe rock star Drew (Luke Walsh) and they clearly have chemistry right from the start, however throughout the show the couple face challenges which prevent them being together. These include friend-zoning, following their dreams, love-rival rock stars like Stacee Jaxx (Kevin Clifton), who focuses his interests on making his ego bigger and doesn’t care who he hurts along the way – much to the disappointment of Sherrie – and two German property developers wanting to take away their hotspot venue and the place that’s given them a chance; The Bourbon Room.
Throughout the show, humour was embedded into both the writing and the performances. Lonny (Joe Gash) interacts with the audience with tongue and cheek jokes – even picking on an audience member and repeatedly returning to her as the subject of his jokes. All of his lines were delivered with endless amounts of energy and brought so much joy to the auditorium. This was a real highlight of the show. He had impeccable comedic timing and had everyone belly laughing after each delivered line. This is a really fun side to the script that really keeps the show moving, especially as the show doesn’t have a strong narrative. However, this doesn’t matter as the cast totally rock the stage without a strong plot – which is what the audiences are really there to see!
A stand out scene was Regina (Rhiannon Chesterman) and Franz (Andrew Carthy)’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot – it’s outrageous, camp and just a scream – it’ll keep you laughing right until the end of the show!
The staging and production totally make you feel like you’re back in the 1980s at a rock gig – the lighting is bright, retro amplifiers are all over back wall and the live band are centre stage.
The night was tied up with an audience favourite ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, which had everybody up dancing and clapping with huge smiles back on their faces.
Kevin Clifton gave a touching speech after the final few notes – thanking everybody for supporting live theatre once again.
Overall, this show is a complete team effort from the cast. There isn’t one or two stand out leads, but instead the whole cast continually bring each scene to life.
It’s big, it’s bold and it’s been entertaining audiences for years! It’s a fantastic night out of nostalgia – don’t miss it whilst it’s back in Manchester.
Rock of Ages is at the Opera House until Saturday 9th October 2021 tickets available here.