The sunset strip is currently making its way across the UK! After seeing a really well-done amateur production of Rock of Ages in Newport a few years ago, I’ve always wanted to see a professional production to see what it’s like. I was even more excited to see it come to Cardiff’s New Theatre during Danielle Hope’s time as Sherrie. Therefore, this review is going to be a review of this particular cast during this production of the UK Tour. I do intend to see the show further down the line of the tour and will then give my thoughts on anything else I notice. However, for now, I’m going to give my thoughts mainly on this particular cast.
Set on LA’s sunset strip, Rock of Ages is a love story littered with over 25 classic rock anthems. Drew, working at the strip’s Bourbon Room, meets Sherrie, a girl straight off the bus from Kansas with dreams of making it as an actress, and they attempt to negotiate not only their own feelings but also the growing corporate threats to the livelihood of the Strip.
The main aspect of Rock of Ages which has always impressed me, and really stood out to me yesterday, is the sheer narrative quality of the songs and how they’re effortlessly blended into both character and story development. This is especially true when Danielle Hope is playing Sherrie. This is a role where her powerful belting vocals are completely intertwined with her acting abilities. Hope somehow manages to sing each and every song differently and not only exemplifies her own abilities but also, something which is far rarer, shows off the strength’s of the show itself through her talents. I feel that this is due to her vocal style imbuing so much feeling into the rock anthems throughout the show. I will also so that she looks absolutely amazing in all of the show’s well crafted, and, yes, revealing, costumes.
Alongside Danielle Hope’s Sherrie is Luke Walsh’s Drew. His look was spot on for the wanna-be rocker and he ensured that the sweet side of Drew’s personality really shone through alongside this. However, the standout quality to Walsh is easily his voice. It is so intriguing to watch his performance as his voice effortlessly blends the really hard rock notes alongside the far softer and emotional quality to Drew’s arc. I was Aldo stunned by his surprise during ‘Oh Sherrie’ which I won’t spoil but it needs to be seen to be believed.
Another standout from the show was Lucas Rush’s Lonny. Lonny can be a difficult character to set the tone for the whole show as he is a microcosm of the balance in the show between raunchy, fourth wall breaking, and sarcastic jokes. However, I feel that Rush got this balance just right and was truly hilarious throughout the show, especially during his fourth-wall breaking moments. We also got to see a slight break moment between Rush and Walsh which really showed their comedy as they laughed together and it actually worked really well in the show as it came during a bonding moment for the two characters. However, Rush’s ability to build chemistry and tone was not exclusive to his relationship with Walsh. His relationship with Kevin Kennedy’s Dennis, especially during ‘I Can’t Fight this Feeling’, was really comedic but heartwarming. Also both Rush and Kennedy constantly showed their excellent vocals as wonderful surprises throughout the show. Rush truly is a part of this show which needs to be seen and he truly adds to the atmosphere of a musical comedy.
Rhiannon Chesterman and Zoe Birkett are excellent in making the most of the smaller role of Regina and Justice, respectively, and drawing them out to the forefront. Birkett’s voice is insane and her costume, when combined with an amazing stage presence, ensures that you’re watching her whenever she’s onstage. Chesterman’s Regina is the right blend of passionate with a little bit of crazy. However, for some reason, last night the songs at times seemed to be a little short or the general song itself wasn’t used enough. This was especially true for these two characters and, more than any, the song’ We Built This City’, however, this could have also partly been the general feeling of the songs and the show themselves that you just don’t want them to end.
On the other hand, I simply wasn’t the biggest fan of Stacey Jaxx in this performance. I don’t think this was only Sam Ferriday’s interpretation but rather the character as a whole. However, I have seen Jaxx as less of a bizarre crazy extreme and more a sullen character and I think this is simply the interpretation I prefer. I also feel that ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ could have been a bigger, more impactful song than it was during this interpretation of Jaxx’s character.
Overall, Rock of Ages certainly did not disappoint with an atmosphere and a cast who’s infectious energy will ensure that you leave the theatre with several songs stuck firmly in your head. Hope really comes into her emotional own alongside other powerhouses such as Walsh and Birkett. If anyone is looking for a musical comedy with infectious songs, this is the place to be especially with Rush manning the narrative helm as Lonny. So, this cast of the Rock of Ages UK Tour gets ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and I’m certainly excited to see the show again in the new year.
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