Rock of Ages

Chris D'Arienzo

Ambassador Theatre Group

Sunderland Empire

From 29 July 2014 to 02 August 2014

Review by John Dixon

Rock of Ages is really another juke-box musical stringing hits of the past with a boy/girl storyline thrown in for good measure.

Of course, it is impossible to imagine any show of this type coming close to the monster that is Mamma Mia, but despite all the odds this shows really works. The secret, which so many other shows of this type have failed to take on board and therefore crashed and burned, is it is never scared to laugh at itself. It’s tongue is firmly in its cheek throughout.

Yes it is loud, yes you do miss some of the dialogue due to the sound levels, yes it's racy and a bit naughty, yes it seems implausible that this show can work, but yes it does and yes it is great fun.

The book is as thin as they come, as we follow Drew (an excellent Noel Sullivan) and Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth looking very like Fay Tozer in her blond wig) as they hunt for fame and fortune.

Both end up at the same place on Sunset Strip when idol Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards) comes to play his last night with his group. But soon they appreciate the idol is not all he is built up to be, but by then they have split up. Of course we know a happy ending will come along.

Into the mix we have German stereotypes as property developers battling protestors and a back catalogue of hit after hit and you just know the protestors will say, “We Built This City On Rock And Roll”. There is no denying laughs are a-plenty, your feet tap and hands clap in this loud rock and roll musical. Although the finale using “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” did remind me of panto, as it seems to be used in every production now.

There is no denying the show belongs to Stephen Rahman-Hughes as narrator Lonny and Daniel Fletcher (bar owner Dupree). The pairing is brilliant with each bouncing off the other and keeping things running along at a cracking pace and plenty of laughs.

This laugh at its self show is a real tonic if you're feeling down or just want a great night out. To be honest, I was not expecting a lot but admit I had a great night out and look forward to the show's return in years to come.