WBOS are back with a bang this year with their production of Rock of Ages. The jukebox musical scored by the greatest rockers of the 80s is an electric production that excellently displays the company’s exceptional vocal talent.
Telling the story of the sunset strip in LA, the story focuses on the Bourbon Room – a rock bar which is the hub of live rock music in the city. When German developers announce they’re planning to knock the whole strip down, the town fight against it. As the narrator Lonnie (Simon Pugh) says, “What’s a musical without a great love story?” We are instantly introduced to Sherrie (Olivia Jones) and Drew (David Walters) who are an unlikely pair that fall in love.
Constantly breaking the ‘fourth wall’ Lonnie is a character that interacts with the audience as he tells the story. Played by Simon Pugh, he is fantastically funny in the role as innuendos and witty remarks naturally roll of his tongue. He provides a strong narrative throughout the performance and his energy really lifts the performance.
When naive young Sherrie arrives in the city to become an actress, she ends up getting a job at the Bourbon Room and meets aspiring rocker Drew. Olivia Jones captures the sweetness of Sherrie, but it is her vocals that stand out. With a strong power, range and tone, it is a delight to hear her stellar vocals tackle numbers such as ‘More Than Words” and “I Want To Know What Love Is”. Jones’ voice blend well with her love interest Drew’s rocky tone. David Walters has every essence of a leading man, his stage presence is exceptional as he performs the role with effortless characterisation. He really holds his own during his big numbers and manages to capture the balance between both the hardcore rock numbers and the more touching musical moments.
The pair of German developers that are threatening the future of sunset strip provide an immense amount of comedy in the performance. Hertz and Franz Klinemann played by Simon Peacock and George Stuart use their terrific German accents to bring their characters to life. George Stuart has the audience roaring with laughter with his highly camp characterisation and superb comedy timing – he is an excellently crafted character and his number Hit Me With Your Best Shot is tremendously funny. His love interest, hippy and local protestor Regina is played exquisitely by Emma Wetherall as she displays the awkwardness and geeky element nature of the role brilliantly.
Other stand-out performers include owner of the Bourbon Room Dennis Dupree, played by Gregg Yates who oozes rock and roll. Sarah Moors who has a powerful and highly characterised voice as the mother of the local strip club Justice Charlier. Playing the sexually charged rocker Stacee Jaxx, Lydnon Flavell brings both first-rate vocals and unbelievable energy to the performance.
Directed and choreographed by Ben Cole, the choreography itself is impressive, and the ensemble bring a huge amount of high-energy that makes it is truly rock and roll performance. Although letting it down is the sound, as the levels don’t quite work making it difficult to hear at times.
WBOS’ production of Rock of Ages is racy, sensual and charged with rock. The cast boast tremendous energy and their vocals are enviable as they create a powerhouse of rock.
On at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday the 29th of April, tickets and information can be found here.
Photography by Ariane Photography Studio.