“Are you ready to have your face mel-ted?” is the unusual question we in the Hull New Theatre audience were asked, on Tuesday evening, when Rock of Ages erupted on to the stage.
Shouted out by the show’s narrator, Lonny Barnet (Tim Oxbrow), before I could make up my mind, yes or no, he had already moved on to other madcap musings – a theme he never wavered from throughout the ear-splitting show.
I’ve enjoyed watching many a shake, rattle and roll rock band in my time, but this is the first time my bones have involuntarily rattled and rolled – so piercing and loud was the drumbeat. Even my theatre seat on Row O juddered. I kid you not.
The story, set in 1987 Hollywood, centres around The Bourbon Room, a bar/club owned by Dennis Dupree (Kevin Kennedy – Curly Watts of Coronation Street fame), that is in danger of being demolished by German developers, Hertz and Franz Klineman (Vas Constanti and David Breeds), who want to turn the Sunset Strip into a clean-living area.
Trying to save his club, Dennis blackmails pop star Stacee Jaxx (Cameron Sharp) into performing there. Perform he does, in the club’s gents toilet, resulting in heartache for naive waitress, wannabe actress Sherrie Christian (Gabriella Williams).
A story of some sorts gradually emerged in this high-energy, extremely loud, flash-bang-wallop of a production The imaginative, colourfully lit stage setting alternated mainly between The Bourbon Room and the Venus strip joint, with a video backdrop continuously running.
Live rock was played throughout by talented musicians, with the cast doing justice (tunefully but a little too loudly for my liking) to well-known hits such as Feel The Noize, We Built This City, Don’t Stop Believin’, I Want To Know What Love Is, to name just a few of the many aired on the night.
Rock of Ages, in its farewell tour, has swearing, scantily clad dancers and general adult naughtiness, hence the age guidance of 12+, but comedic moments abound – the funniest being when Dennis showed off his acrobatic skills by cartwheeling and so on, around the stage. It wasn’t him, of course, but the switch was seamless, and the scene got the loudest laugh on the night.
Throughout, and despite, all the shenanigans, love blossoms for three couples – aspiring rocker Drew Boley (Sam Turrell), city planner Regina (Stephanie Chandos), and the aforementioned Sherrie, Lonny, Franz and Dennis. I leave it up to your imagination as to who pairs with who.
So, it’s a happy ending of sorts, all round – well, maybe not for one of the above who pops their clogs.
Not so happy were my eardrums, which took a pounding from the “noize” belted out for the duration. However, they soon recovered for me to join in with the cheers and applause as we in the audience were urged on to our feet by the exuberant cast at the end of the night.
Running until Saturday, May 20th, 2023; 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Thursday, 18th and Saturday, 20th. Tickets from £15. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Age guidance 12+
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 16th May 2023
North West End UK Rating: