Rock of Ages comes to New Wimbledon Theatre
The Sunset Strip comes to the stage in Wimbledon for musical production, Rock of Ages. Jenny Booth checks it out.
When 80s comedy musical Rock of Ages opened at New Wimbledon Theatre on Tuesday you could have been forgiven for imagining it was actually a show called An Audience With Kevin Clifton, given the number of famous people who had turned up to cheer him on.
From Zoe Ball and Stacey Dooley to Judy Murray and Oti Mabuse, the marble foyer was full of Strictly Come Dancing glitterati who had come out to see the BBC’s nice man of dance play the role of Stacee Jaxx, a debauched lead singer in a rock band who is arrogant, obnoxious and makes out with waitresses in the toilets.
This was not type-casting, and while Kevin gave being a rock god his best shot I felt his niceness rather shone through. His voice was strong and his movement as lithe and snakey as you could wish, but that smile did remind you of when he and Dooley were made up as Minions.
Stacee Jaxx is a small role in Rock of Ages, albeit important as the character keeps coming in the way of the lovers getting together. As for the rest of the show, it starts as brash and raunchy and in your face as the 1980s were themselves, with the male characters leering at female dancers in Spearmint Rhino-style costumes and slapping the bum of heroine Sherrie (Jodie Steele). You have to bear with this, because the show’s theme is how dreams get broken and remade when they come into contact with reality.
The action continues at furious pace, often with three scenes happening at once so the plot doesn’t drag. Events become increasingly absurd, as a dastardly goose-stepping German developer tries to flatten the music clubs of Sunset Strip to build aseptic branches of Foot Locker. The knowing narrator Lonnie (Lucas Rush) keeps the audience laughing with his glam rock asides, bashful bar-keep hero Drew (Luke Walsh) amazes with his lung power, and Zoe Birkett shimmers as Justice, the strip club madame. The other big name on the cast sheet is Corrie star Kevin Kennedy. His portrayal of Dennis the dinosaur was so convincing that it made me think of that Beatles line “Hold you in his arms, yeah, you can feel his disease”, and he played a mean guitar in the finale.
I enjoyed the feisty humour, the power ballads and the party atmosphere. By the end, the whole show is like a surreal party, which is no bad thing.
Rock of Ages runs until 2 March at New Wimbledon Theatre.
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