Two years ago while in New York I saw a leaflet advertising 'Rock Of Ages', a musical telling a love story with 80s glam Metal songs, all set on the sunset strip. I was sold! My travelling companion wasn't however and so I've had to wait for it to make the journey across the pond to London's West End.
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In the time between however, a terrible phenomenon happened - 'Glee', which seems to have singlehandedly destroyed my love for 80s cheese! I just don't get as much pleasure listening to 'Don't Stop Believing' anymore and I was worried 'Rock Of Ages' would be given the same treatment. Especially when X Factor's Shane Ward was announced to play one of the key roles, along with the insanely annoying rock wannabe Justin Lee Collins. But as I walked into the opening night at the Shaftsbury Theatre, I decided to clear these doubts from my mind and prepared myself for an evening of fromage, which is a good enough way to spend a Tuesday evening if you ask me.
As you walk in you are handed your very own 'Rock Of Ages' groan-inducing FAKE lighter, but the Roxy, Venus and Girls Girls Girls signs on set are realistic and a little bit of Metal faith is restored. And then the show kicks off with a cartoon version of the 'Cov', giving you the obligatory warning about mobile phones and moving on to a comedy spiel about why there's no Def Leppard tracks to look forward to.
And after this you first set eyes on the aptly mulleted narrator who flirts sleazily with members of the audience and tries to get you to cop off with the stranger sitting next to you. Come on, lighten up very boring bloke sitting next to me, we're at a musical based on the sunset strip glam scene of the 80s, not Shakespeare! And that should give you a clear indication of whether you'll like this show or not.
It's a tongue-in-cheek musical which will involve singing along to hair Metal classics that have all been chosen to tell a love story along the way. You'll laugh lots and yes you'll definitely cringe a few times, and you'll hardly notice that there's an X Factor contestant in your presence, as Shane Ward pulls off being an egotistical lead singer rather well. Justin Lee Collins was a great surprise for me, and whoever cast him as an understated hippy club owner had a genius insight as he plays it so well.
But the real star of the show is Simon Lipkin who plays Lonny, the narrator and resident mullet man, who keeps you entertained throughout with his filthy jokes and seedy ways. He really shines in the second half of the show and without him I doubt it would have been quite the same. Oliver Tompsett, who plays Drew, the young kid in the love story, has a fantastic voice which can be compared to Toby Jebson, therefore making the show a little more credible, but I have no idea why costume put him in Vans instead of Converse.
A lot of the cast are typical West End performers and so it's inevitable that there's a slight 'Glee' feel to the whole thing, but I found it a hugely entertaining and a very light-hearted evening! Out of all the rock orientated musicals this is definitely # 1 for me and I can't wait to don my glam rags and do it all again soon!