Friday, 22 April 2016

“Rock Of Ages” by Heanor Musical Theatre Company
Mansfield Palace Theatre.

Billed as “The Biggest Show In Town”; this could be true as Mansfield isn’t the biggest of towns, this is the first production that I’ve seen from The Heanor Musical theatre Company, and a pretty impressive introduction it was.

“Rock Of Ages” is the story of a club, The Bourbon Rooms, one of the best clubs on Sunset strip. A venue for the rock chicks and rock guys. Run by Dennis Dupree with rock emcee, Lonny and wannabe rock star Drew. Drew bumps into Sherrie, the new girl in town after she was mugged seconds after she stepped foot in the city. Love walked in to Drew’s life.

All does not go to plan though as a German business man is planning to bulldoze the strip which of course includes The Bourbon Rooms. How are they to save the club? Will Drew and Sherrie become more than just friends? Will the dreams created become a reality? All is revealed by the end of the show!

I know, the storyline is a bit lame but it’s a good set of bones to hang a brilliant soundtrack of some of the best rock songs to. And these are delivered with great gusto with a live rocking band, complete with two brilliant guitarists, Richard Shaw and Ian Marshall who rock out at the end with the classic crowd pleaser “Don’t Stop Believing”.

Ben Jones as Lonny, as well as the narrator of the show, brings a lovely comedy element to the show as well as having a very decent rock voice.

Drew, the wannabe rocker, played by Tom Lucking, not only has the rock look but also has a really good rock voice, highlighted more in the second half of the show

Gemma Blake, is the love interest Sherrie, and like all the cast, she looks like she is having an absolute ball doing the show.

Paul Mills plays club owner Dennis Dupree, and again adds a lot of the comedy to the show. There is a brilliant camp section (one of many) where Dennis and Lonny sing to each other Reo Speedwagon’s “Can’t fight This Feeling”, which has to be seen to be believed. Plus a very funny angelic appearance near the end. Heavenly!

The German contingent of the play is represented by Paul Whitworth as Hertz Klineman and his son Franz Klineman, played by Brett Walker. Another brilliant comedy outing, or not as we learn later on in the musical, earning Brett a rapturous and well deserved round of applause.

Al Tandy plays rock god Stacee Jaxx (also doubling as Sherrie’s father and a policeman), and another wonderful performance as the hard rocking, alcohol infused womaniser. A role he looked absolutely at home with.

Aine O’Neill-Mason played Regina (so that’s how you pronounce it!!) and another cracking female voice, so powerful was her voice, she didn’t really need the amplification of a microphone. And what a cracking smile as well.

Running the "Gentleman's club" aka "The Venus Club" was the job of Justice Charlier, played by Katy Freeman. Real soulful voice and while having punters to "satisfy" she kept a heart of gold when she found out about Sherrie's love for Drew. A nice doubled=edged performance by Katy, getting the balance just right.

Quite a big ensemble cast who I’d love to mention all by name but won’t due to space, but be known that you all really swelled the stage vocal wise and talent wise.

Choreography, by Josephine Walker, was typical rock style which looked so good in the ensemble sections.

Directed by Kim Harris and what a great feel good atmosphere he created through the actors and the whole show.

A brilliant live band under the musical direction of Emily Marshall-Sims. At times it was almost like being at a rock concert such was the power emitting form the stage.

Also creating that rock concert feeling was the lighting of the musical. I couldn’t see a credit for in the programme, but a brilliant atmosphere was given by whoever was the talent behind the lighting design.Really good timing on the cinematography backdrop as well.

A brilliant soundtrack, often mashing songs a la “Glee”, including Slade’s ”C’Mon Feel The Noize”, Twsited Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not gonna Take It”, Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again”, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” as well as some brilliant rock ballads like REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Loving You”, Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”, Survivor’s “The Search Is Over” and Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What love Is” among many other classics.

If you want a good night out with some great rock songs and lovely comic touches, then the beautiful surroundings of Mansfield Palace Theatre is the place to head for, but it’s only there till Saturday 23 April 2016, so go on get your rocks off this weekend.

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