Leave your expectations at the door for the hit musical ‘Rock of Ages’, hitting the Edinburgh Playhouse with rock, roll, and some daring dance moves. Full of energy and attitude, this is a show sure to pull you to your feet, so long as you leave your feminism at the door.
It’s the story of Sherrie (Jodie Steele) and Drew (Luke Walsh) and the whole crew at the Bourbon bar in 1987 Los Angeles. Threatened with demolition, the gang pull each other through thick and thin, and find friendship and love along the way. All this, accompanied by some classic 80s bangers, played by an extraordinarily talented live band who cannot go unmentioned.
The musical numbers are definitely a high point in this production. The cast are very strong singers, especially Zoe Birkett as Justice. Sadly, many of the songs were unintelligible thanks to a lack of enunciation, but the cast clearly put their all into their performance, and more than made up for it with their acting.
Crowd favourites included Antony Costa as Stacee Jaxx and, of course, Lucas Rush as Lonny. His narration kept the audience engaged with some very raunchy jokes and interaction (particularly for Fiona in the front row). He did, however, toe the line between sex jokes that are funny and altogether inappropriate. Yes, it was the 80s, but there’s only so many times a character can rub their nipples before I want to leave.
Indeed, much of the show teetered on that tightrope. Though the dance ensemble were undeniably excellent – full of energy and with dance moves sharp enough to slice through steel – the majority of their choreography involved shaking their rear ends at the audience. I would like to make it explicitly clear that there is nothing wrong with enjoying your body for your benefit, and for others’ if that’s what makes you feel good, but when such moves are received by men practically falling over each other to grab you, it does not strike quite the same chord. It seemed the choreography would have been equally as engaging and effective without the underlying sexism.
Still, the show itself remains high-quality. The set is beautiful – a fully-functional bar with many creatively-designed levels. Moments where characters are in a car are hilariously done and do not break up the action; the cast make good use of the whole stage. Drew is likeable and sweet; Sherrie is a sympathetic character you cannot help but root for. The relationship between Lonny and Dennis (Kevin Kennedy) is both hysterical and endearing. I will say, though, that the relationship between Franz (Andrew Carthy) and Regina (Erin Bell) seems forced, no matter how convincingly the actors portray their characters.
Ultimately, this is a fun show that will leave you clapping and stomping and begging for one more chorus of Don’t Stop Believin’. I only wish they hadn’t felt the need to rely on a naked butt cheek to keep the audience interested.
PHOTOS: Richard Davenport
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