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Review: Rock Of Ages at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre


Actor Ben Richards

Actor Ben Richards

Actor Ben Richards

Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Foreigner, the 'hair metal' or 'glam metal' of the Eighties is now the music granny nods her wig along to. Was garish, middle-of-the-road 'Rock' ever a threat to society?

In Chris D'Arienzo's jukebox musical, yes. An ascetic German, Klineman (Jack Lord) and his son Franz (Cameron Sharp) buy the Mayor of LA and set about cleaning up Sunset Strip. The Bourbon Room, a rock club owned by Dennis Dupree (Daniel Fletcher) where Arsenal, a glam-metal band fronted by archetypal rocker Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards) cut their curls is due to be bulldozed. This hotbed of big hair and sequins is "sapping the vitals of the city". But, as Klineman learns after two hours and 20 minutes of soaring high-pitched vocals and tortured guitar strings, 'We Built This City On Rock and Roll.'

D'Arienzo's thinly comic story is built on very little, however, and without the excellent four-piece band, Kristin Hanggi's electrically choreographed and often brilliantly-sung production would be completely insubstantial.

Would-be singer Sheree (Cordelia Farnworth) leaves Kansas for LA and winds up waitressing at the Bourbon where she meets aspirant nice-guy rock-singer Drew (Noel Sullivan).

But Stacee, playing his last gig with Arsenal at the Club to prevent its closure, intervenes and the lovers go their separate ways - Sheree to become a stripper, Drew to be coerced into a boy band. But somehow they 'Don't Stop Believin'' and even if they don't realise their original dreams, what they find "still rocks!" Well, it would, as it's a baby.

Lonny (Stephen Rahman-Hughes) narrates this over-stretched tale with plenty of diversions into toilet humour and physical comedy involving genitalia.

Hanggi's swaggeringly confident production is really in no hurry, and while some of the horseplay between the songs is entertaining enough, some of it feels like time-killing. Utterly self-assured time-killing which the audience, tickled constantly by Rahman-Hughes, loves.

With over 30 songs and no reprises they can perhaps be forgiven for dawdling for breath now and again. Though some of the songs blur together, no two numbers are the same, thanks to Kelly Devine's tightly paced, vigorous choreography, and eye-poppingly superb dancers. The principals, Farnworth, Sullivan, and Richards are in great voice. 'Here I Go Again' 'I Want To Know What Love Is,' 'The Final Countdown' and many more Eighties classics raise the roof, and the hair.

Irish Independent