Kevin Clifton as ‘Stacee Jaxx’ – Photo Credit: Richard Davenport, Rock of Ages Touring Cast Photos – Photo credits: Darren Bell.
Written by Chris D’Arienzo and with arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp, Rock of Ages is a jukebox musical comedy based on the classic rock anthems of the 1980s. Nominated for 5 Tony awards Rock of Ages opened on Broadway in 2009 closing in 2015. I last saw Rock of Ages in 2018 on its sell-out tour, so I was excited to see what this new touring production was going to deliver in 2021. This new tour opens at The Alexandra, Birmingham from 9th September 2021 before it continues on to Liverpool to keep the party going!
Director and Choreographer Nick Winston has delivered a vibrant dynamic production of this crowd pleasing jukebox musical. From the classic rock stadium lighting (Ben Cracknell), the skilled energetic musicians, to the bold, nostalgic set and costumes of the 80s by Set & Costume Designer Morgan Large, this production really did stand out from other touring productions I had seen before.
Set in 1987 on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, the story tells of a small-town girl Sherrie who meets and falls in love with city boy Drew whilst they both pursue fame and fortune in the world of rock and roll. Stepping into the role of Drew was Rock of Ages veteran Luke Walsh who brings sensitivity, charm and powerhouse vocals to the production. The wonderfully talented Rhiannon Chesterman is his love interest, Sherrie, and together they demonstrated their star quality particularly with their duet High Enough which blew me away.
To take a standard production of Rock of Ages to the next level you have to have the right casting, especially for the role of the Narrator, Lonny, which is a pivotal role to how the audience interacts and enjoys the show. Everyone in this production was perfectly cast, (Casting Director, Jim Arnold CDG), and Joe Gash (Lonny) led the Birmingham audience down a wild, rowdy, rock path with his extravagant brassy performance. He could handle the hecklers in his stride and made sure the chosen audience member, it was Kate on the night, was included in all his wild jokes. Joe really did this role justice and as a new talent, I’m excited to see what he does next.
This production packed a comedic punch with a variety of well-cast duos. Dennis Dupree, Ross Dawes, and Lonny, Joe Gash had me in stitches during their comic duet I Can’t Fight This Feeling. We also had a comedy triple threat with protestor and activist Regina, Gabriella Williams, German candy lover Franz, Andrew Carthy and his tough business father Hertz, Vas Constanti. The dynamic three held the audience in the palm of their hands as they delivered some of the best comedic performances in Rock of Ages that I have seen so far.
Jenny Fitzpatrick as Justice, dance club owner, had huge crowd applause for her vocal performances on the night. Her outstanding vocal performance and charisma on stage brought the character to life. I think I could listen to Jenny sing the phonebook and I would be a happy soul, she left me wanting more and more.
The iconic Stacee Jaxx was played by fan favourite, Kevin Clifton. I had only saw Kevin the week before in Singing in the Rain as Cosmo Brown, so knew what he could deliver on stage. From seeing him in such a different role a week before to he lewd, racy character of Stacee Jaxx, Clifton really is a star talent and one that fully deserves a fan following.
This accomplished ensemble and cast were full of heart and soul and brought an energy that won’t be forgotten by this Birmingham audience. An audience member sitting nearby said, “I haven’t laughed this long in ages and I really needed that”, if that isn’t enough to get you booking a ticket to this show, I don’t know what is.
We say: “In the words of the mighty Poison, Ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ but a good time, And it don’t get better than this. This production of Rock of Ages is a comedic rock triumph!”