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Joe steals the show as Lonny during the fantastic musical Rock of Ages!

Rock of Ages! Written by Chris D'Arienzo and Ethan Popp

Directed by Nick Winston

Review by David Bithell for A View To A Kiln/Radio Kiln

Strictly winner Kevin Clifton (Singin’ in the Rain) who thrilled audiences as rock star ‘Stacee Jaxx’ on tour in 2019 goes back to the ‘Bourbon Room’ when he plays alongside Luke Walsh (lead role ‘Drew’ Rock of Ages 2018/19 Tour), Rhiannon Chesterman (Mrs Henderson Presents), Ross Dawes (Phantom of the Opera), Gabriella Williams (MAMMA MIA!), Jenny Fitzpatrick (Tina The Musical), returning favourites Vas Constanti, Andrew Carthy, Erin Bell and new talent Joe Gash as ‘Lonny’ in the ultimate ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll musical.

Rock of Ages did a fantastic job of combining a romantic storyline with the best 80s rock hits (including Starship’s ‘We Built this City’, Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown and Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’) in true jukebox style, being accompanied with sensational vocals.

Including a very talented cast including Strictly’s winning professional dancer, Kevin Clifton, who proves he has a box of tricks. Who knew he could act, sing and dance with such panache?

The story centres around the meeting of small-town sweetheart Sherrie played by Rhiannon Chesterman, with big dreams of making it as an actress in Los Angeles, and Drew played by Luke Walsh, also trying to make a name for himself with his rock band. We see their up and down relationship take all unexpected turns following the effects of friend-zoning, chasing their dreams and love-rival rock stars like Stacee Jaxx played by Kevin Clifton, whose interests are focused upon making his ego bigger no matter who he hurts in the process, much to the disappointment of Sherrie.

The rock and roll scores centres around The Bourbon Room which is being threatened with demolition, the audience throughout are being reassured that the customers of this rock venue will do everything they can to save it, keeping the spirit of rock music alive.

Coming now to the favourite character of ours (and to ALL the audience it seemed), the amazing Joe Gash who plays narrator Lonny, who is self-aware of the love story tale, where all ends are loose as the curtain falls at the end of the first act, to be neatly tied up by the show’s finale. Joe in my opinion stole the whole show. His character Lonny himself acknowledged this as Act One drew to a close; with hunched back across the stage, clutching his back in what looked like convincing pain, only for him to proudly proclaim that he was “carrying the weight of the show on [his] back”. Every time he appeared on stage, he was met with a barrel of laughs because we knew there was some innuendo coming or some funny action.

Humour was embedded into the writing and performance throughout the musical’s entirety, much to the audience’s delight. There was a moment where he picks out a member of the audience, and they are included into various scenes throughout.

With plot and humour aside, a massive round of applause should be given to the props and costume department for really making us believe that we had stepped into the world of 80’s rock. In fact, the use of said props and costumes was so creative – from tiny bikes to hilarious llama costumes, these certainly add to the comical elements of the musical and to the plot alone.

As the finale approached, the show certainly went out with a bang (not just with Regina setting herself on fire); all the way to the final song ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ that bought everything nicely together.

Rock of Ages runs at the Regent Theatre, Hanley until Saturday 6th November.

Or by calling the box office on 0844 871 7615

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