Rock of Ages (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, August 16)
Bonkers and plot-light it may be, but the lively and hugely enjoyable Rock of Ages packs a powerful punch and keeps the 1980s hits coming and the audience truly satisfied, ensuring the evening is “nothin’ but a good time.”
Fresh from a successful run in the West End, this touring version is just as pleasing, boasting some superb performances and memorable versions of more than 30 rock classics, which almost bring the house down.
Chris D’Arienzo’s story is so weak it’s a bit like being attacked by a bag of cotton wool, but the message of living for your dreams and overcoming the negative at least leads neatly into the rousing finale number Don’t Stop Believin’, picking up loads of other red hot favourites along the way (including I Want to Know What Love Is, Can’t Fight This Feeling, Every Rose Has Its Thorn, and We’re Not Gonna Take It).
The always likeable Noel Sullivan and newcomer Cordelia Farnworth shine as the youngsters hunting for stardom in Los Angeles in 1987, one as a rock steady musician, the other as a silver screen actress. They are often required to belt out their numbers, but there is depth of feeling and class there too meaning the show is never a mere juke box musical.
The ever-brilliant Ben Richards scores another success as fallen rock idol Stacee Jaxx and you sometimes wish he had more to do in this somewhat strange offering in which dodgy Germans try to redevelop Sunset Strip as a massive shopping mall (we know they won’t succeed, of course, as We Built This City on Rock and Roll....).
The show never takes itself too seriously and the cast has such a great time it is impossible not to be infected by their sense of fun. Daniel Fletcher is great as the club owner trying to save his premises from the wrecking ball, while Chris Southgate is perfect as narrator Lonny, with a wicked gleam in his eye and more knowing winks than a Monty Python sketch.
Jessie May and Cameron Sharp are the perfect blend too as the professional protestor and the young German with his own sweet dreams.
True, the audience took time to warm up, but once they did the show’s own warmth, electricity, and humour seemed to spark too. And nobody gives a hoot about the wafer-thin plot when the performers ensure this soundtrack to a decade stays firmly in the mind, well after the last golden confetti strand is dislodged from hair and clothing.