Venue Cymru, May 2 – 6 2023
A DLAP Group and In Fine Company Production(4 / 5)
Rock of Ages, fit for the stone age or a timeless classic?
The 1980’s is an ideal setting for a jukebox musical. For many it is the heyday of glam metal bands, Styx, Journey and Bon Jovi among others and you can take your pick from any number of power ballads. Would this musical be an excuse for an extended playlist of Metal’s favourite songs or would it have some substance to the story?
It is the storyline that could be a problem. Many in this genre of theatre are fairly artificial and predictable and at first glance Rock of Ages falls into this trap. There are two starlets seeking to make it on Los Angeles’ famous strip who meet and fall in love. In their ups and downs they confront the reality of a rockstar lifestyle and the fate of many young hopefuls who tried to succeed only to see their hopes dashed.
There is however, more to this musical than that. The first act felt stereotypical, but the second blossomed into an unexpected parody. It delighted in poking fun at the characters and breaking expectations. My favourite was where the business tycoon revealed a secret dream of designing formal wear for pets. At times it developed into farce, the aging rocker retiring and opening a llama farm in Mexico where he would teach the llamas to swallow and not spit.
One welcome aspect of the performance was the willingness to break down the fourth wall and relate directly to the audience. Most prominent in this was Kevin Kennedy as Dennis Dupree, a rocker turned sound engineer who narrated the play and sought to turn at least one member of the audience into a groupie. This added to the most welcome comic touch in the second act.
This farewell (at least for the moment) tour is a consummate production as you would expect having come from the West End. The set is dazzling, the choreography energetic and complimented the action really well rather than being an annoying interlude. Pride of place goes to the three piece band who, as well as being fittingly loud, were excellent with plenty of screaming guitar solos and thunderous drum rhythms. To criticise, at times the loudness of the music and the quick pace of the production drowned out the dialogue and lyrics in the songs. This made the production, especially in the first act hard to follow.
Would this musical warrant a comeback tour? Some of the songs were great to hear again and it is good to see a production laugh at its own topic matter. It would also suit the rock scene, where it is not unknown for bands to break up and reform several times, so such a prospect should be welcomed. Going by the strength of the standing ovation at the end, this audience would enjoy a return to the stage in the near future.