Friday, 18 November 2011

Rock'n'Roll is Alive, Kicking and Very Entertaining

This week I was invited to watch Rock of Ages, the relatively new musical in the West End starring Shayne Ward and Justin Lee Collins. Musicals aren't generally my bag but I was intrigued and tempted by the idea of taking the lovely Phyllis (blog name) with me for a night of fun. He loves (yes Phyllis is a he) a bit of musical good times so I knew we'd have fun.

Now to be perfectly honest with you, I went with fairly low expectations. Mainly because I don't enjoy the generally large performance style of musicals. I also wasn't tempted by the fact the show markets itself so heavily on it's celebrity cast. I totally appreciate the inclusion of celebs put a lot of bums on seats but my tosh ain't one of them. I respond to having seen and appreciated performers of that genre before. Kerry Ellis for example, I saw her in Wicked and was bewitched (pardon the pun) by her voice.

I also couldn't understand the concept of the show behind the posters on the tube, it seemed like a new version We Will Rock You?

So needless to say I wouldn't have gone without being invited but I am so glad I did!! We had so much FUN!

I would like to just clarify at this point that when I was invited, I asked if they, the show, were inviting me on the agreement that I write a positive post - which I don't do. They replied saying no, they just wanted me to see it and write about it. Whatever I chose to say was entirely my choice. They have not asked to read and edit my post before publishing so the following are all my own (and Phyllis') unbiased opinions.

The plot line is really just a filler for the big rock anthem numbers which are impressively sung by the leads and chorus. As I said I don't go to musicals often at all and I couldn't help but be blown away by the talent we were exposed to live right in front of you. After many Saturdays flicking through X-Factor it certainly puts a few things in perspective!

The whole cast had really great voices and it was amazing to hear such big songs sung so beautifully and with such ease, the only odd thing was a lot of the songs being Rock I found it peculiar to hear songs designed to be raw, sweaty, Rock and Roll songs sung in such a commercial setting. A West End musical is a long way from the sweaty, pumping, crowd surfing masses packing Rock clubs but you could argue a lot of the songs, from Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Poison etc were always commercial. There are also a full live rock band on stage the whole time who certainly looked like the genuine article.

The show is really a big celebration of the 80's in general with dubious fashion trends, a lot of hair and plenty of tongue in cheek jokes. The comedy was the part I was most surprised by, it is seriously funny. This is in large part down to the FANTASTIC Simon Lipkin. He plays Lonny who is also the narrator. He has a lot interaction with the audience and was absolutely hilarious. He sang and danced brilliantly with the rest of the cast but he was a complete show stealer for me. Effortlessly upstaging the celebrity comedian cast member Justin Lee Collins.

Simon Lipkin

Simon Lipkin  &  Justin Lee Collins
In fairness to Mr Lee Collins his part was bizarrely dull considering his casting. If you're going to market the show on him I didn't understand why they didn't give him the funny part but I'm so glad I got to see Simon Lipkin - he's someone I would skip all the way to see in another show.

Shayne Ward was also funny (loved his seduction song) and sang really well. Both the celeb cast mates were given peculiarly low profile intros in the show. There was no opportunity to applaud their much anticipated arrivals in the story. Justin Lee Collins' entrance is in sunglasses meaning that even from the stalls Phyllis and I didn't realise it was him until about 10 minutes later. Shayne Ward's entrance is on a video screen and his live entrance is in the shadows and by the time the lights are up the story has moved on. In hindsight though I enjoyed that they were members of the company as opposed to stars of the show.

We saw a Tuesday night performance and although by the second act (and a few beers) the audience were considerably more vocal both Phyllis and I could totally appreciate the show would be at it's best with a full and energetic audience. Having said that though I cannot praise the cast enough for their energy, it was intoxicating and I was up on my feet with the rest of audience by the finale.

I would like to mention Oliver Tompsett who plays the male lead, Drew, not the most likely looking leading man, his singing talent was incredible and both Phyllis and I were rather smitten by the end of the first act....

Oliver Tompsett
I almost exclusively go to the theatre to see new writing or straight plays. I enjoy plays that provoke debate on the way home and in my head for a few days after but I learnt an important lesson on Tuesday night. Sometimes a night of out and out frivilous fun is incredibly refreshing. Both Phyllis and I bounced out of the theatre chattering away about our favourite parts.

All pictures courtesy of Rock of Ages

There are huge rock anthems, serious laughter (I was crying with laughter at the exchange between Oliver Tompsett and Simon Lipkin at the end of Act One), lots of gyrating ladies in suspenders (if that's your thing) and you get glitter bombed to within an inch of your life.
If you have the dosh and fancy a genuinely fun filled night of entertainment then I recommend it. I have been laughing over memories of the show for 3 days now. In fact I wouldn't mind seeing it again!

Thank you Rock of Ages - I had a blast!

"Ladies love him, guys want to be him, his band hates his guts,
but he's a star and stars are undeniable, like herpes."
- Lonny

P.S I should mention that you can see Rock of Ages perform on Children in Need this weekend.

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