Theatre reviews: Rock of Ages, Singin’ In The Rain

Singin' In The Rain
Singin' In The Rain
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Rock of Ages, York Grand Opera House, by Catherine Scott ****

In 1987 all roads seemed to lead to LA with wannabe rock stars and actors trying to find fame. Big hair, eye-wateringly tight trousers, shoulder pads and dodgy make-up are the order of the day. And this is the backdrop of award winning musical Rock of Ages.

The plot is little more than a vehicle for some cracking rock anthems, 30 in total, all energetically and excellently performed.Hopeful actress Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth) heads for the bright lights of LA where she stumbles across the Bourbon Room and wannabe rock singer Drew (brilliantly played by former Hear’Say starNoel Sullivan).

The path of true loves doesn’t run smoothly when Sherrie has a fling with rock star Stacee Jaxx. Unfortunately Ben Richards (The Bill, Holby City) was ill and so that role, which is little more than a cameo really, 
was ably played by Stephen Rolley.

However the show was almost stolen by the hilarious Lonny (Stephen Rahman-Hughes) who ensured it really was a tongue-in-cheek parody of a decade better known for its music than its fashion.

The show is a little slow to get off the ground, but by the finale, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, the almost capacity audience at Tuesday’s opening night in York got to their feet and enthusiastically joined in and the cast and band left them begging for more.

• To September 6.

Singin’ in the Rain, Bradford Alhambra, by Nick Ahad ****

The big problem with Hamlet, actors tell me, is that you can sometimes hear the audience quoting the play’s most famous lines back at you. In musical theatre a close cousin of a Shakespearean soliloquy is surely taking on the title song of this show. With Singin’ in the Rain, you’re on a hiding to nothing.

James Leece as Don Lockwood handles the challenge admirably. It remains an impressive scene and the flooding of the stage a coup de theatre. The problem is, a musical has to be about much more than one moment.

This feels like a strung together set of musical numbers in search of a narrative. You don’t have to look too far to see an example of how to do it right. The Alhambra this year has hosted The Lion King. Big, brash and full of dance, the songs and movement always drive the story forward. Here it feels like, if not an afterthought, certainly second on the list of priorities.

The story of a Hollywood power couple facing their impending doom in the shape of the arrival of the ‘talkies’, the story is about Lina Lamont and her shrill voice being replaced by the far sweeter tones of Kathy Selden. That’s about it.

The performances, some slightly ropey accents aside, as absolutely fine. Stephane Anelli as Cosmo Brown the only one on stage who seems to truly embrace the fact that performed straight, this script falls flat. He brings brio and just the right amount of postmodernity to his part. The major downfall, however, comes from a story that is flimsy at best.

• To September 13.