I’d never had any interest in seeing Rock of Ages the musical, but an excellent offer for top-price stalls seats (£17 each!) meant that this week my friend Amy and I headed to the Shaftesbury Theatre. I hadn’t got high expectations of the show before I arrived, but it was an entertaining enough way to spend an evening. I’m 10 years too young to feel any nostalgia for the music (the audience was full of thirty- and forty-somethings) and while I was familiar with most of the songs, they didn’t have the familiarity of the Abba and Queen songs that sustain fellow jukebox musicals Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You.
Shayne Ward has been used, along with fellow cast member Justin Lee Collins, as one of the main draws for the show. He lacks charisma and believability as a rock star, although for the majority of the audience just his presence on the stage seemed enough. In contrast, Oliver Tompsett as Drew provided consistently excellent vocal performances while Amy Thornton, understudying the female lead, was a likeable presence with a strong voice. Nathan Amzi (understudying Simon Lipkin) also seemed to relish his role as Lonny.
It was all a bit juvenile, with puerile humour and lots of basically-naked girls prancing around. The derivative plot contained snippets familiar from many other musicals, and even then I’m sure that Legally Blonde wasn’t the first to point out the stereotypical similarities between gay and European men, or that Billy Elliot was the first to feature riot police or comedy dance fighting. At least it doesn’t take itself too seriously, with references to the show’s frivolity. While it certainly doesn’t score any points for originality or depth, the audience was packed and there was a lively atmosphere in the auditorium, and this seems to be enough to sustain Rock of Ages as a popular success.