I have been very lucky in the past week to have been to the theatre not once, not twice, but three times! This is an unexpected luxury, and the reason behind a whirlwind visit Ben and I made to Oxford last weekend.
First up on the list was Rock of Ages. I fell in love with the film when it was loaned to me two years ago, and I loved the soundtrack so much that I actually bought the CD – one of the few physical CDs I own today. I find everything about the film exciting: the bold and brash songs, full of excitement and rage and love and passion. The crazy rocker clothing and electrified 80s hair. The ethos of living a rock and roll lifestyle, and the sheer hedonistic lust for life. Put simply, I was born in the wrong decade!
Having missed the London theatre run of Rock of Ages, I was thrilled when Ben managed to secure tickets to a performance in his old uni city of Oxford. This gave us the opportunity to combine a night at the theatre with a tour of one of the most picturesque cities in the UK. (More of that to come in a future photo post)
Rock of Ages is set in LA in 1987, and revolves around The Bourbon Room; a rough and ready bar where the spirit of rock and roll hangs in the air as strongly as the scents of stale alcohol and vomit. Into this setting comes wholesome Kansas girl Sherrie, who dreams of being an actress. On her first night in the city she is mugged and meets Drew, a wannabe rocker who works at The Bourbon Room while waiting for his big break. Alongside the personal turmoil of the main characters are the machinations of corporate and political figures who target the Sunset Strip as a den of debauchery and corruption, and which make for the subplot of this cracking show.
The most well-known actor among the cast is Noel Sullivan, formerly of Hearsay fame, playing Drew. He certainly has a powerful voice, and he and Cordelia Farnworth, playing Sherrie, are fun and sweet as the romantic leads with big dreams. But, for me, the show was completely stolen by Stephen Rahman-Hughes, who plays Lonny. His character was played by Russell Brand in the film, and can certainly see why he was so suited to this role. In the show he also takes on a narrative role, and he is hilarious, sharp as a razor, and plays things very close to the bone. Rahman-Hughes had the audience in stitches throughout the show with the slightest word or gesture.
The theatre version deviates slightly from the film. I felt the film was a little more conventional, and had more of a Disney ending. The theatre show was funnier but far more controversial. The actors also played it fast and loose with the fourth wall, in large part due to the fact that it was their final night in Oxford.
We had a fantastic night. As a massive fan of 80s rock I was right at home. I knew the lyrics to almost every song, and was singing my heart out by the closing song. If you manage to catch a performance of Rock of Ages while they’re still on tour, I would highly recommend it. If you like your rock and roll with a strong dose of tongue in cheek humour, big hair and belting tunes, then you will have an awesome night. Rock on!
Rock of Ages is touring until the end of November. For venues near you and tickets, click here.