The narrative is turbocharged by songs of the 80s in this love letter to the era of hair metal.
Set in “1987-ish” Los Angeles, the plot follows Drew Boley (Sam Turrell), a down-on-his-luck bar assistant who dreams of becoming a rock star by the name of Wolfgang Van Colt and aspiring actress Sherrie Christian (Gabriella Williams) who left home against her parents’ wishes.
Both lead paths converge at the famous Bourbon Room on the LA strip owned by veteran rocker Dennis Dupree (Kevin Kennedy).
Meanwhile, German businessman Hertz Klinemann (Vas Constanti) and his flamboyant son Franz (David Breeds) act as antagonists with their plans to bulldoze the whole Los Angeles strip including The Bourbon Room.
This brings them into conflict with Regina (Stephanie Chandos), a rebel with a cause who tries to save the strip from demolition. With the club facing imminent destruction The Bourbon Room’s future rests with Stacee Jaxx, (played by Reece Duncan) the charismatic and jaded lead singer of Arsenal (whose own band hates him) who regretfully agrees to do one last gig where his career started.
The various narratives are held together by Lonny Barnet, (played by Darius James) who doubles as Drew’s co-worker at The Bourbon Room and the show’s fourth-wall-breaking narrator.
Lonny plays off each character (and even some audience members) superbly with special mention to his chemistry with his boss Dennis which culminates in their impressive rendition of “Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore.”
That manages to be both heartfelt as it is hilarious.
Lonny’s style of narration gives the show a feel of a live performance where anything can happen, which fits the show’s rock and roll concert aesthetic and with his unapologetically lewd and crude humour you never really know what he is going to do or say next.
The supporting cast is full of colourful and fun characters, the father and son duo of Hertz and Franz are a fun pair and make the most of their time on screen and their conflict with Regina over the demolition of the strip acts as a welcome light-hearted parallel to Drew and Sherrie’s story, with Franz in particular stealing the show with his unique comedic performance.
The character of Justice (Natalie Winsor), the maternal proprietor of the Venus Gentleman’s Club also stands out for her powerful performance, particularly in the mashup “Harden My Heart/Shadows of the Night” in her duet with Sherrie.
The first act starts with a slow burn but once the characters are given time to breathe everything soon settles into place before things kick into gear for the second act, as the story of the city boy and a small-town girl reaches its conclusion with an epic closing number.
The show always delivers with its musical performances with the entire cast getting chances to show off their impressive vocal talents.
Another strength is how the show weaves songs of the era seamlessly into the narrative, such as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” which works perfectly as a protest song, while an adaptation of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” serves as the backdrop for the demolition of the Los Angeles Strip
and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” serves as an ensemble number for the whole company as everyone gets a chance to shine.
And with adaptations of songs from the likes of Joan Jett, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and much more, if you’re a fan of 80s songs then this is the show for you.
In the end, Rock of Ages merges the songs of the 80s to craft a narrative that modern audiences can enjoy and rock out to, with songs brought to life by the wonderful cast of characters, ensemble dancers and the amazing live band, (Liam Holmes, Liam Stevenson, Alex Ward, Elliot Mason and Steve Hynes).
So if you’re looking for a Classic Rock musical with all the hits of the eighties then look no further than Rock of Ages, at the Manchester Opera House.