The juggernaut of a jukebox musical, Rock Of Ages, has hauled its big hair and tight jeans to Milton Keynes Theatre this week for a night of fun and nostalgia.
It is on a national tour, taking in the sights of almost every theatre in the UK and, if 1980s rock anthems are your thing, then you will be slicking back your mullets and breaking out the skin-tight day-glo tee-shirts to wear to the show.
It’s Hear’Say that Noel Sullivan is co-star but I’ve seen two performances at different venues on the regional tour and, on both occasions, Sullivan was a no-show.
We appreciate the guy needs a night off – but when you have the press in to review? Another major character, bar owner Dennis Dupree, was also played by a stand-in.
Snubbing press nights can be perilous because I’ve got to say it, his stand-in, Stephen Rolley, is more than capable and should be given the role.
He’s nearer the age of the character, he’s got a powerful singing voice and his romance with the bubbly Sherrie far more believable than it would be with a middle-aged Noel in a bad wig.
Rock Of Ages is kitsch and lightweight but featuring some seriously heavyweight rock classics played by the real stars of the show – the excellent backing band.
Take a bow the superbly talented Pierce Tee, Ashley Williams, Andy Gammon, Gary Liedeman (Judas Priest, Bad Company and Iron Maiden) and Alex Marchisone.
Back to the show. We’re in the mid-1980s (kind of) in a downtown rock bar called the Bourbon Room on Sunset Strip.
A dastardly developer gets permission to flatten the world’s most famous street to replace it with a modern shopping mall.
The locals are fuming and plan one last gig in the bar featuring the Rock God Stacee Jaxx.
There’s a love story (natch) between wannabe singer Drew (Rolley) and small town girl Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth) who is determined to make it in films.
Footballers’ Wives sexpot Ben Richards probably has the best job in theatre playing Jaxx.
The teeth are ridiculously whitened, the fake tan and blond wig gloriously OTT, and he spends the entire show wrapping himself around a bevy of babes.
His nightly intro is filmed live back stage every show and he gets away with as much as he dares – it usually involves him talking to camera while eating nuts off a cutie’s naked behind.
Here we have a musical which is good but not great. The singing is knockout with a peerless playlist featuring songs by Bon Jovi, Poison, Whitesnake, Styx, Twisted Sister, Europe, Journey etc.
But the whole production is let down by a weak storyline, clunky dialogue and abysmally poor gags.
Stephen Rahman-Hughes, as narrator Lonny, works incredibly hard to whip up the audience but, at last night’s MK opening, there was little response from the audience until the finale.
One joke after another fell flat.
Go for the music, go for the singing. Go and have a good time but don’t expect a great time.
Rock Of Ages is at MK Theatre until Saturday and then back on tour.