[Gifted] I feel like since we received the invite to see the new UK tour of Rock of Ages at the New Theatre in Oxford, that Kevin Clifton, who stars as Stacee Jaxx, has been everywhere.
On Saturday, I caught his interview on Graham Norton’s Radio 2 show and then he appeared as a critic on ITV’s All Star Musicals on Sunday night (judging Alan Titchmarsh singing ‘An Enchanted Evening’ from South Pacific – check it out on catch-up!) So on Tuesday, I was greeted with a 10ft version of his face on the theatre’s side.
Rock Of Ages is an LA love story lavished with over 25 classic rock anthems including ‘We Built This City’, ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Here I Go Again’, ‘Can’t Fight this Feeling’ and ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’.
I’ve seen the film but already knew that the story would work so much better on stage. It’s got the two fame-hungry teenagers who head to LA, one to make it as a rock star, the other an actress. The pair meet whilst working as a waitress and janitor in the fictional, fabled ‘Bourbon Lounge’ – the birthplace to many a rock megastar. And so we see their rise and fall in the bid to make it big.
My favourite character was Lonny, played by Lucas Rush, who acts as narrator, clown and fool. To use a technical term, the character of Lonny, ‘breaks down the fourth wall’ to address the audience directly and to let them in on the joke – whether that’s Drew friend-zoning himself with Sherrie or how Stacee Jaxx ends up in Nicaragua.
Lucas picked a member of the audience from the front row to be his comic muse and before you know it ‘Debbie from Row 1’ becomes the evening’s running joke. It’s Lucas who points out that Alec Baldwin has played the same character, Dennis, the owner of the Bourbon Club, as Kevin Kennedy or better known to soap fans as Curly Watts from Coronation Street (who was excellent as the faded rocker by the way!)
I enjoyed the whole score but Zoe Birkett, who plays Justice, did a rendition of ‘Harden My Heart/Shadow’s of the Night’ which was spectacular. She most recently appeared as Rachel Marron in the UK tour of The Bodyguard The Musical.
And as for Kevin Clifton, Strictly Come Dancing Champion 2018? I wasn’t surprised to find that he had both a great voice (we will be seeing his sister, Joanna, in Rocky Horror Show next week and equally has a great singing voice which we witnessed when she appeared in Flashdance) and excellent comic timing. The Clifton siblings definitely have performance in the blood. His scene with Sherrie, played by Jodie Steel, as they belt out ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ was hilarious as the pair make out in the gent’s lav.
Rock Of Ages has a book by Chris D’Arienzo and Arrangements and Orchestrations by Ethan Popp. It is directed and choreographed by Nick Winston. Tickets can be purchased from the New Theatre box office on George Street, by ringing 0844 871 3020 or by visiting the website at www.atgtickets.com/oxford
A warning though, this show contains serious rock ‘n’ roll debauchery!