Rock of Ages at the New Wimbledon
It’s the mid-to-late 80s on Sunset Boulevard: Drew works at the iconic Bourbon Bar and Sherrie, a small-town girl, arrives on the Sunset Strip to realise her dreams of becoming an actress. Rock of Ages is a number of head-banger anthems threaded like beads onto a thin chain of a plot centred on two dream-driven lovers. Steeped in cliché from the off, the range of characters fulfils many a stereotype; from the long-haired bar owner complete with leather-fringed waistcoat and the scantily clad waitresses to hippie activists and efficiency-obsessed city designers.
After a duff date Sherrie and Drew go their separate ways, both forced into false careers – Drew in a shopping-mall-touring boy band and Sherrie taking work as a stripper. The backdrop is a city at risk of losing its rock ‘n’ roll way at the hands of a pair of very German makeover architects. There’s a joyful comedic pairing of Regina (Jessie May), an activist protecting the city, and the camper-than-camp son of a developer Franz (Cameron Sharp), who against the odds fall in love. Sherrie and Drew eventually find their way back to each other, and even the narrator and bar owner form an amorous relationship.
The cast are energetic, encapsulating that unmistakably musical theatre zing. The girls with pert and elastic posture are the fillers around the rock god men, though, proving just how sexist American culture was in the late 80s.
Vocally, the production is pretty exceptional; the heights reached by the range of Noel Sullivan (Drew) and the clean and expressive voice of leading lady Sherrie, played by Cordelia Farnworth, are particular standouts. Archetypal madam Mama, played by Rachel McFarlane, brings the full-bodied gospel tone to her role and the ensemble numbers, and there is serious glitz and hair-flicking ego from Ben Richards as Stacy Jaxx. Stephen Rahman-Hughes provides the narration with well-placed humour, and credit must be given for the self-deprecation in the script and the unapologetic jukebox.
Similar in many ways to We Will Rock You, the unique selling point of these shows is the hit of nostalgia and sing-along experience they provide. It’s not an epic plot, and for die-hard rockers it’s most likely too sugary, but those passionate about the period of glam metal and its sacred soundtrack in the late 80s will enjoy Rock of Ages.
Rock of Ages is at New Wimbledon Theatre until 22nd November 2014, for further information visit here.