“Amazing!” Blondie exclaimed as she dried her hands in the loo at the end of the night, while “It’s a game of two halves,” might have been uttered by the man watching football on his mobile at half-time. What he actually said was: “It’s not great. I’ve seen it before. It must be understudies.”
So, there you have it. The first half was rushed and heartless. The diction was unclear. Less than half the audience were clapping along. For an audience-participation-style show that’s not great.
The second half, however, brought a smile to my face and roars of appreciation from a very loyal fan-base. The final number was brilliant and had everyone on their feet. If only there had been more of that. If only they’d played to win from the start.
The Page Three depiction of females as sex objects irked. Page Three knockers have gone. So has Benny Hill … but, lads, we’ve still got Rock of Ages!
I didn’t buy into Lonny, the narrator, (Joe Gash) claiming to have an enormous “third leg” or tweaking his nipples as he writhed in front of the woman in the front row – his portrayal and tight leather jeans were too camp for such robust thrusting to ring true. I’d rather have had more good singing. But the audience roared with laughter, and I cannot fault Gash’s commitment to his role.
This rock show is an ultra sexualised male fantasy featuring skimpily clad young women wriggling. Well done the ensemble. You are a fit bunch. However, the more sensual of the women wore a long-dress and was less overtly sexualised: Justice, played by Natalie Winsor. That woman drew spontaneous applause with her strong and flexible voice and genuine embodiment of the music.
The second half was far more playful. Gash jokingly broke the fourth wall more effectively and lighting “errors” (Ben Cracknell, designer) highlighted the humour well. I enjoyed the silliness, and it looked as though the cast did too, which is always infectious.
Rock of Ages is a high voltage musical extravaganza which doesn’t take itself seriously. I was taken by surprise as the character, Dennis Dupree, turned cartwheels and I appreciated the mini motor bike inversion of masculinity. When Gash and Kevin Kennedy did a mini corpse while chinking their glasses, I wasn’t sure if it was intentional or spontaneous, but I liked it. It is the sort of show that ought to embrace spontaneity and self-deprecation.
The set was excellent (Morgan Large). It worked smoothly and allowed several entrances and exits with a useful screen depicting wider settings.
Additionally, the lighting (Ben Cracknell) added verve to the whole proceedings.
If the playfulness of the second half had been there from the start, this cast may have created a new fan. As it was, once is enough.
Rock of Ages continues until 3rd September with tickets available at https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rock-of-ages/kings-theatre-glasgow/
Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield
Reviewed: 30th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★
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