Review: Rock of Ages, Bristol Hippodrome
Leave your inhibitions at the door if you visit Bristol Hippodrome this week, for you'll be entering The Bourbon Room, the debauched setting of the smash hit musical Rock of Ages. Right from the opening scene, it's obvious that this is going to be a little different from your usual Tuesday night at the theatre. The stage lights are almost blinding as the rock music kicks off, creating a gig-like atmosphere for the audience, who are immediately mesmerised by the skimpy outfits and raunchy onstage antics. This is not a show which breaks you in gently.
Enter the outrageous Lonny, who owns the stage as he narrates the story in full-on panto style. Played by Lucas Rush, he is the star of the show, immediately eyeing up the front row and selecting his 'victim'. In this case it was audience member Kayleigh, who he repeatedly referred to during the evening, but it was all done in good humour and was well-received, as were the many frequent and fun interactions with the audience throughout the rest of the show.
Set "sometime in the mid-late 80s" (according to Lonny), Rock of Ages tells the age old story of small-town girl Sherrie who moves to LA with big dreams of becoming an actress. Played brilliantly by Jodie Steele, she takes a job as a waitress at the infamous Bourbon Room, where she meets wannabe rock star Drew. Luke Walsh plays the 'nice guy' extremely well but Sherrie and Drew's blossoming love story is cut short, partly due to his lack of confidence but mainly due to the over-the-top entrance of arrogant and sleazy superstar Stacee Jaxx. Anthony Costa (former member of boyband Blue) has just taken over the role of Stacee, and his swagger and bad boy persona was fun to watch.
As the night wore on, the costumes got even skimpier, the lines got even cheesier, and there were a few stifled groans from the audience at some of the less than politically correct jokes. The story lines were somewhat secondary, however, to this celebration of more than 25 glam rock hits. My only complaint with jukebox style shows, including this one, is that some songs are inevitably cut short, and I'm left wanting to hear more. All of the cast have strong voices, and there were some fantastic solo performances, especially from former Pop Idol contestant Zoe Birkett, who portrayed Gentleman's Club owner Justice. Her powerful voice was full of soul and she stole every scene she performed in.
I felt this musical worked best when the whole cast came together to perform. Amongst the songs which particularly stood out for me were Here I Go Again, which was a strong ending to the first act. Every Rose Has It's Thorn was performed beautifully and Don't Stop Believin' was the obvious choice for a brilliant finale which got the whole audience up on their feet. The live band deserve a special mention too. They worked incredibly hard at the back of the stage and rightfully received a standing ovation alongside the rest of the enthusiastic cast.
Verdict: It may not be to everyone's taste in 2019, but this is a show which doesn't take itself too seriously and you shouldn't either. Lose yourself in a city and a time where the dreams are as big as the hair, and you will go home with a huge smile on your face. I certainly did!
Rock of Ages is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 20th April, after which it continues to tour the UK. Buy tickets for the Bristol shows here. Age recommendation: 14 years +
Disclaimer: I received a pair of complimentary tickets to Rock of Ages in return for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. Photo credits: Richard Davenport and Darren Bell.