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Review Roundup: West End's ROCK OF AGES


ROCK OF AGES  at London's Shaftsbury Theatre, led by Justin Lee Collins, Shayne Ward, Amy Pemberton, Oliver Tompsett and Simon Lipkin, officially opened on September 27.

The cast is rounded out by:  Ja'Keith Gill, Rohan Tickell, Jodie Jacobs, Sandy Moffat Nathan Amzi, Natalie Andreou, Grant Anthony, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Cordelia Farnworth, Ian McIntosh, Twinnie-Lee Moore, Jamie Muscato, Andrew Spillett, Zizi Strallen, Amy Thornton and Dylan Turner.

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Carrie Dunn, BroadwayWorld: But Rock of Ages is a nasty show. This is not because it is a jukebox show; indeed, so few songs are performed in their entirety it's hardly a jukebox, more a sampler. It lies in its embarrassment at its own existence: it laughs at musical theatre conventions, it breaks the fourth wall, it mocks its own material (both the Eighties rock, which one might expect, and its own freshly-written script). It's not the only show to do that, of course; the one that most readily sprang to mind as a comparison was, weirdly, Spamalot. But that poked fun with affection and in the context of a farcical fable.

Michael Hann, The Guardian: Aside from the female lead, Sherrie (Amy Pemberton), women exist only to parade in underwear, as hookers, strippers or waitresses, and Sherrie has to take on two of those jobs. The furthest it strays from stereotype is to reveal the developer's camp son Fritz as straight - "I'm not gay! I'm German!" - and to use REO Speedwagon's I Can't Fight This Feeling to celebrate two men discovering their love for each other, though it is a shame that scene is played for comedy rather than tenderness.

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard: Ward, X Factor winner in 2005, and TV presenter Justin Lee Collins, as bar owner Dennis, are the headline names, but they feature little, mercifully so in Lee Collins's case. Instead it's largely left to the helpless Pemberton and Tompsett to grind through 31 identical-sounding songs. If you can't make Cum On Feel The Noize zing, you're scuppered.

Pierre Perrone, The Independent: More a mixtape than a juke-box musical, it manages to both glory in and lampoon the clichés of the rock genres it's built on, with knowing nods to Axl Rose and David Lee Roth, and the odd X-rated joke about groupies and ping-pong balls, and wipes the floor with the Queen vehicle.

Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times: The audience are issued with LED mock-cigarette lighters to wave in the air; health and safety regulations forbid naked flames. It is an excellent emblem of the entire project: a culture that was itself a processed version of rock has been further processed into a celebration of the crassest stereotypes, as if the act of celebration redeemed them rather than indicting us.

Kate Jackson, The Sun: This near-the-knuckle jukebox musical isn't for delicate ears or under-16s - who aren't allowed in. But if you fancy indulging in a night of classic anthems such as Slade's Cum On Feel The Noize and Europe's The Final Countdown, in a show that's camper than Freddie Mercury doing the Hoovering, this is for you.

Alun Palmer, The Mirror: X Factor winner Shayne Ward plays rock god Stacee Jaxx, and he makes a good job of it. Even Justin Lee Collins isn't anywhere near as annoying as he usually is as club owner Dennis. But it is the lesser names that shine, especially Oliver Tompsett as Drew and Simon Lipkin as Lonny. Rock of Ages is a hugely enjoyable evening celebrating a time and music we should really leave behind, but can't.








Photo Credit: Bettina Strenske/Lnp/London News Pictures/


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