Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Big hair, big laughs and even bigger voices, Rock of Ages is lewd, loud and most definitely proud!

This riotous rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza return’s to Manchester this week as part of a new UK tour, with uncomplicated debauchery at the top of its agenda. Right from the opening scenes it’s clear that Rock of Ages is a show which doesn’t take itself too seriously and is more than happy to poke fun at the era, the script, the cast and even the audience who absolutely lap it up.

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Rock of Ages transports us back to the 1980’s where small town girl Sherrie (Danielle Hope) and wannabe rock God Drew (Luke Walsh) have headed to Hollywood to pursue their dreams. Things of course don’t quite go according to plan and despite clearly fancying the pants off each other their love story seems more stop than start as they search for their happy ending on the Sunset Strip. Add to this a couple of German property developers who want to turn their beloved Bourbon Room into a snazzy mall and we soon find that not only do they have to try to save themselves but the Strip too.

There’s so much to enjoy about this show that the lack of narrative really doesn’t matter, the cast came here to rock our socks off and that is exactly what they do. It’s clear to see why this feisty and fun show has a huge cult following, not only are the performances top class the show is also incredibly witty with an infectious energy.

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Lucas Rush shines as the cheeky narrator Lonny, his boundless energy and naughty charisma make him an absolute joy to watch. Danielle Hope is perfectly cast as Sherrie, belting out the big ballads with apparent ease while her love interest Luke Walsh comes close to stealing the show with his knock-out performance as Drew, add to this a power-house performance from Zoe Birkett as Justine and you’ve got some of the finest voices in musical theatre right there on one stage.

Rhiannon Chesterman and Andrew Carthy as Regina and Franz respectively are an absolute scream, their outrageous duet during Hit Me with Your Best Shot has the audience howling; while audience favourite Kevin Kennedy strikes the right note as bar owner Dennis.

ROA 1

Director and Choreographer Nick Winston ensures the pace is fast and the choreography is as tight as a rock stars jeans as the incredibly talented cast belt out rock classic after rock classic including The Final Countdown, We Built This City, In Want to Know What Love Is and the infectiously uplifting Don’t Stop Believin’.

It’s cheesy and it knows it but oh so entertaining. With its tongue firmly in its cheek, stunning performances and lots of cheeky fun, Rock of Ages is big, bold, in-your-face theatre which entertains from start to finish.

Catch it at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 29th September tickets available here.

Fat Friends the Musical

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s clear from the moment the curtain raises revealing a row of lycra clad bottoms that writer Kay Mellor’s intention is to deliver belly laughs and plenty of them.

Based loosely on Mellor’s hugely successful TV series which ran from 2000-2005 the show tells the story of lovable Leeds lass Kelly (Jodie Prenger) who despite being a size 20 buys a size 16 wedding dress which she WILL slim into by the time she walks up the aisle to marry nice but dim fiancé Kevin (Andrew Flintoff). An unexpected moment on live TV leaves Kelly committed to a challenge in which shady slimming guru Julia Fleshman (Natasha Hamilton) guarantees the wedding of her dreams if she completes her weight loss challenge whatever the consequences.

Prenger is perfectly cast as lead Kelly, incredibly likeable and entirely believable she brings great warmth and humour to the role portraying the perfect Yorkshire lass who just wants her happy ending. Her comedic timing is impeccable, her voice rich and pure as she puts her heart and soul into Kelly, ensuring the audience fall in love completely with this loveable lass.

Andrew Flintoff’s stage debut is impressive, receiving a roar of approval upon taking the stage he rises to the occasion as hapless Kevin desperate for fiancé Kelly to realise he loves her just the way she is.

Composer Nick Lloyd Webber’s score is uplifting and light, gelling perfectly with Mellor’s witty lyrics and offering some really memorable moments in the show, the ode to Chocolate being a particular stand out moment leaving many an audience member wishing they’d worn their waterproof mascara as tears of laughter roll down smiling faces.

Running alongside the central storyline are several other subplots which add to the depth of the piece and offer their own laugh out loud as well as tender moments too. Natalie Anderson and Jonathan Halliwell charm the audience entirely as Lauren and Paul with their ‘will they won’t they’ dilemma, Lauren being a Jewish Zumba instructor/wedding dress owner and salsa king Paul, a Vicar who can swivel his hips with more gusto than Ricky Martin.

The script is entirely relatable for anyone who has ever been on a diet (and let’s face it that pretty much covers us all). The scenes at the slimming class bring nods of familiarity and whispers of recognition from the audience as weigh-in cards are presented and slimmers de-robe before stepping onto the scales of doom.

The ensemble cast work together wonderfully creating a warm and family like atmosphere. It’s clear from the writing that Kay Mellor has an enormous amount of love for these characters, they are rich and relatable, the dialogue sharp and incredibly witty. Moving from ‘you need to be slim to be happy’ to ‘love who you are’ the message is predictable but nonetheless hugely enjoyable and entirely heart-warming.

Enormously entertaining, chock-full of laughs yet touching and tender, Fat Friends the Musical is a full-fat feast of tip-top fun!

On at the Opera House until Saturday 24th March tickets available here.