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Review: ROCK OF AGES, New Wimbledon Theatre

This crass rock musical fails to move with the times

Review: ROCK OF AGES, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: ROCK OF AGES, New Wimbledon Theatre Rock of Ages, the brash rock musical, is back for another tour. The cheesy story of small-town girl Sherrie arriving on 1980s Sunset Strip to follow her dreams is full of stone-washed denim and bad hair. Unfortunately, it also remains full of chauvinism and boorish gags.

It is a show which doesn't take itself seriously. And it's just as well. With so many great shows crying out to be re-staged, the decision to revive this particular show again is baffling. Crude, vulgar and misogynistic, it feels like it has no place on the stage in 2021.

It is shame, as the cast works very hard to put on a good show. Josh Gash's narrator Lonny is the stand-out; a fey Russell Brand, he is likable and relaxed, with great comic timing, Overall he maintains the pace of the whole production.

Ross Dawes has good stage presence as club owner Dennis Dupree. His duet of "I Can't Fight This Feeling" with Lonny is playfully done.

As Sherrie and Drew, Rhiannon Chesterman and Luke Walsh respectively have an uphill struggle to bring depth to one-dimensional characters. Both have strong voices, with a nice tone and their duets showcase some lovely harmonies.

Strictly Come Dancing's Kevin Clifton also returns to the show as narcissistic rocker Stacee Jaxx. His moves are obviously of high quality and his voice has grown stronger since his previous outing, but he fails to make a huge impression.

The role of world-weary Justice remains desperately underwritten, but Jenny Fitzpatrick squeezes a lot of heart and soul out of the role, with some cracking vocals.

The best thing about the show remains the music itself. The talented band plays its heart out with a raft of loud and proud musical guilty pleasures such as Starships' "We Built This City" and "The Final Countdown" by Europe.

The choreography crosses the line of sexy or cheeky to be tasteless and vulgar. The female members of the emsemble, in direct contrast to the male ones, are often dressed in as little as possible. That, along with constant bending over in mini-skirts and gratuitous amounts of tacky lingerie, is enough to make you think we are indeed back in the 1980s.

The show was last seen in 2019, allowing plenty of time for thoughtful re-writes or even the introduction of a female character who keeps her clothes on. In 2021, the scheming German property developers thankfully no longer goose-step (although one is still called a fascist) and one of the female dancers is sometimes wearing trousers. Unfortunately, Nick Winston's production still suffers from the same tired clichés; women are told to f**k off, have doors slammed in their faces and are objectified in nearly every scene. Even Justice, the token 'strong woman' has regrets that all centre around men.

There is an audience demographic that will always love this kind of show and it would work as a celebration of cheesy 80s rock if there was more depth and satire to the plot. As it is, it's just sexism dressed up as musical theatre.

Rock Of Ages is at New Wimbledon theatre until 25 September, then touring

Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

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From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan

Aliya Al-Hassan is UK Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld. A London-based theatre critic and journalist, she has a life-long passion for the arts, with a focus on theatre and opera. She is a... (read more about this author)

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