Review: Rock of Ages hhHh

Rock of Ages, at the Edinburgh Playhouse, is a colourful riot of mullets, spandex and galm-metal.
Rock of Ages, at the Edinburgh Playhouse, is a colourful riot of mullets, spandex and galm-metal.
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UNLIKE other jukebox musicals, Rock Of Ages knows that its audience doesn’t expect complex characters or a meaningful plot. It’s sleazy, shallow, littered with stereotypes and about as reflective of the 1980s hair-metal scene on LA’s Sunset Strip as Spinal Tap’s Black album.

And that’s what makes this award-winning production dedicated to the poodle-perm era of West Coast rock so unashamedly enjoyable: it never gets above its station and isn’t slow in poking fun at itself. Incidentally, it doesn’t apologise for its portrayal of women as waitressing whores with a fetish for S&M clothing, either.

Set in Hollywood’s Bourbon Room around the mid-to-late 80s, we follow young busboy Drew (Noel Sullivan), who dreams of being a rock star in his own glam-metal band.

He meets another wannabe – bleach-blonde country-girl Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth) – who, like thousands of others like her, has just got into town dreaming of making it big, too. Before long, they’re singing songs at each other from any soft metal compilation album you can think of.

But wait, two uptight German developers appear on the scene, wanting to tear down the Strip, thus threatening the Bourbon Room and the dreams of all its hangers-on.

Enter Stacee Jaxx (yes, you’ll see Ben Richards sporting a cod-piece, a blonde wig and 
snorting drugs off some woman’s backside): a charismatic, sexually-charged, narcissistic 
rock singer who “built this city on rock and roll” and now threatens to steal Sherrie away from Drew.

Complimented by an assortment of supporting odd-ball characters, there are some genuinely funny moments. For instance, the scene where narrator Lonny and club owner Dennis Dupree reveal their true feelings for one another to REO Speedwagon’s I Can’t Fight This Feeling received the biggest hoot of the night. And watch out for I’m Not Gay, I’m Just German Franz – a bona fide screwball who reins in the most laughs.

Simply put, Rock Of Ages is a colourful riot of mullets, spandex and glam-metal. While it tells us Don’t Stop Believin, the chances are you’ll either think it’s Just Like Livin’ In Paradise or a case of Here I Go Again.

pLAYHOUSE

BARRY GORDON