I have reviewed Rock of Ages before but after the first big cast change just two weeks ago it’s definitely time for another look at one of the loudest and craziest shows in town.
Ross Hunter has taken over from Oliver Tompsett as Drew. Fans of musical theatre might know him from shows like We will rock you where he understudied the lead part of Galileo or Legally Blonde where he was understudy for Warner.
Good things first: I think Ross has a good voice and it’s impressive to see what he has achieved at such a young age. He manages the part just fine vocally and that alone isn’t an easy thing to do. However, for me he just doesn’t suit the part completely. He appears slightly uncomfortable on stage and even though he tries, I just don’t see a rock guy but rather a boy dressed up in rock clothes he doesn’t look natural in sporting long hair that simply doesn’t suit his type. It may be a thing of having to grow into the part and I’m looking forward to see how Ross develops in the part over the next weeks. But at this point he looks the most at home as Jazzy J – the boyband kind of guy.
Tim Howar is the new Stacee Jaxx. I’ve been seeing Tim on stage since 2004 and for me he has always been at his best when given a part that allows him to rock and work the crowd. This show makes no exception to that rule. Tim’s Stacee is a true rock star, completely full of himself and slightly oblivious to the fact that he has passed the peak of his career long ago. While I did like Shayne Ward’s portrayal I think Tim is a lot more suited to play an ageing rock star (I’m not calling Tim old here!). Plus he has the bonus of that killer rock voice. For me Tim is the best addition this show could ever get – a great actor with a brilliant voice who portrays Stacee’s arrogance without going completely over the top.
Natalie Andreou continues as Sherry. Ever since taking over the part full-time early on in the show’s run she has proven that she is absolutely perfectly cast. Her Sherry is funny and likeable and she’s got a great voice to match her brilliant acting.
Simon Lipkin’s Lonny is the star of the show, there is now denying that. He’s hilariously funny and it’s almost impossible to not watch him whenever he is on stage – even when he’s only dancing as part of a female background chorus.
Plus his ad libs are the highlight of every show – there’s no question that this guy is a hugely talented performer with a real feel for comedy, something not many performers have to that extend.
Sandy Moffat and Jodie Jacobs remain in the cast as Franz and Regina. And I’ve said it before: I love them both in their parts. And yes, the German jokes still make me laugh!
Daniel Fletcher has taken over from Justin Lee Collins as Dennis Dupree. First impression: He is tall!! Daniel gives a solid performance but I do think he needs some time to settle into the part. The interaction between him and Simon isn’t as good as it could be but I’m sure that is just a matter of time.
The rest of the cast does well although I did miss Amy Thornton and Zizi Strallen. Great to have Tim Driesen back on a West End stage. I’m very much looking forward to seeing him as Drew sometime soon. And it’s always nice to see Scarlette Douglas on stage even if it’s only in her swing part.
Rock of Ages continues to be a fun show. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is: A rock musical with some great 80ties tunes and cheesy jokes built around a simple storyline. It’s not Sondheim and it’s certainly not for everyone. But do I like it? Hell yes!!
Rock of Ages is playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 6th January (before moving to another, yet to be confirmed theatre from 18th January).
I’m guessing a lot of you have read the reviews for Rock of Ages. Calling them mixed might be pushing it. So let’s be honest, most of them were poor – the critics obviously don’t like having their face melted. Do I care? Hell no! I couldn’t care less about what the critics think. I had a brilliant time at Rock of Ages and since I missed out on seeing Oliver Tompsett it was set in stone right after my first visit that I’d be back for more soon.
However I seem to attract understudy shows. This time it was Dylan Turner as Stacee Jaxx, Nathan Amzi as Lonny and once again Natalie Andreou as Sherrie – understudy central on a Saturday evening.
But first of all on to the man of the evening: Oliver Tompsett. I loved his Fiyero in Wicked and have always wanted to see him in a show that would give him the opportunity to show off his amazing voice. And Rock of Ages does exactly that – Oliver’s voice and those catchy rock tunes are the perfect mix. If you think that guy can’t rock – think again. And he’s not only a fantastic singer but also a great actor. His Drew had just the right amount of boyish charm and his connection to the audience was spot on.
Him and Natalie worked really well together. I do want to see Amy Pemperton (after all she’s a former Jersey Girl) but I won’t be disappointed when Natalie is on again next time I’m watching the show. Honestly, she’s so unbelievably cute (I do think the make up is a bit too much but then that’s part of the show) and I really like her voice.
Dylan Turner did a good job as Stacee Jaxx however he did lack Shayne’s charisma and stage presence. I wasn’t too keen on Nathan Amzi as Lonny I have to say. Granted it was his first day in the part but for me he didn’t seem comfortable on stage. Although I admit that I laughed out loud when he read from the Rock of Ages brochure telling Oliver: “Oh that’s not me, that’s the guy I’m covering for.” Pure genius! Maybe he just needs some more performances to settle into the part. And it is hard to step into the shoes of Simon Lipkin anyway. That guy steals the show the moment he walks on stage.
Once again I loved Sandy Moffat’s Franz. Him and Jodie Jacobs are a joy to watch and “I’m not gay, I’m just German” will never fail to amuse me.
Justin Lee Collins seems to really live Dennis by now. His acting is so natural and his comic timing is perfect. He’s not the greatest singer but he manages the songs really well.
Having seen the show only twice so far it’s a bit hard for me to tell who was covering who in the ensemble but it looked like there were less people on stage than usual. But then that’s no wonder with 3 understudies on that evening. I hope this won’t end up with crazy cut shows (Legally Blonde springs to mind). The show is exhausting enough the way it is for the whole cast.
Rock of Ages once again proved to be exactly what it wants to be: Cheesy, trashy and a whole lot of fun. Don’t expect Shakespeare, don’t expect Sondheim – just stop thinking and analysing and simply enjoy and laugh. Trust me, in this hectic and busy world that’s exactly what a lot of us need now and then. I’m sure about one thing: This hasn’t been the last time I’ve had my face melted.