Review: Rock of Ages at the New Wimbledon Theatre

Theatre is well and truly back in south west London with the pleather-filled, fantastically inappropriate musical Rock of Ages at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

The vibrancy of the multi-coloured and neon lights, which make up the LA sunset strip, is outdone only by the vibrant, electric energy of the cast.

The audience follows Sherrie (Rhiannon Chesterman), as she leaves her small home-town and heads for the bright lights of Hollywood.

Her story is punctuated by smash-hit rock anthems from the 80s, which are the soundtrack to the production including, The Final Countdown, I Want to Know What Love Is, Can’t Fight This Feeling and Here I Go Again.

These numbers are not only iconic in the eyes of the audience, but also incredibly vocally demanding for the cast, who definitely rise to the occasion to say the least.

Strictly Come Dancing’s Kevin Clifton plays love-rival Stacee Jaxx, a narcissistic and melodramatic portrayal who the audience love to hate.

Then there’s Lonny (Joe Gash), the complete antithesis of Stacee, who becomes best friends with the audience the moment he steps on stage.

The ‘dramatic conjurer’ as he describes himself, carries the audience through the show by breaking the fourth wall and lovingly bulling them throughout, as he does to all the characters in the show.

Gash’s vocals aren’t only musically powerful but also his dialogue is performed with masses of dynamic versatility, which, as the narrator of the show, is very engaging.

This element of his characterisation also largely contributes to the hilarious nature of Lonny and was solidified by his gesticulations and use of physical comedy.

The balance of a wonderfully inappropriate book against an incredibly challenging vocal score is a hard mix to get right.

However, as the cast consistently all have extraordinary pop/rock voices, the audience are able to relax into the wonderful inappropriateness of the dialogue.

Although the close-to-the-line comedy isn’t for everyone, it is always very well delivered and does not appear to alienate any audience member, despite their taste in comedy.

Some vocal stand-outs also have to be Jenny Fitzpatrick who plays Justice, along with Luke Walsh (Drew) and Rhiannon Chesterman (Sherrie).

ROCK OF AGES: Sherrie and Drew (Rhiannon Chesterman and Luke Walsh)
Photographer: Richard Davenport

As an overall spectacle, the continuity between the set, costume and choreography collectively epitomise the electric vibrancy of the production and assist the narrative to move forward.

A big example of this was the matching multi-coloured unitards which solidified the bond and friendship-turned-relationship between Regina (Gabriella Williams) and Franz Klinenmann (Andrew Carthy).

The female ensemble, who were dressed in a mixture of denim, sequins, feathers and pleather, also wholly contributed to this idea.

Director and Choreographer Nick Winston created a melting pot of high-energy choreography, pole-dancing and tricks set against the bright lights and layered staging which seamlessly transformed into each different room, from the sticky floor of the ‘bourbon room’ to the smoky strip-club ‘Venu’.

Rock of Ages is touring until September 2022 at venues all across the UK.

You can buy tickets here.

Featured image credit: Richard Davenport

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