Rock of Ages has come to Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre this week. The Boy and I were invited along to opening night yesterday. It was our first night away from the house since getting back from the hospital so it was a pretty big deal for us.
As with pretty much every theatre review I ever do, I was going in blind to Rock of Ages. Given that it is a musical named after a Def Leppard song, I assumed I would actually know most of the words to this one, as indeed I did. And I suspected it would be cheesy big-haired fun. I was not wrong.
The show centres around two young folks looking for their big break on the Sunset Strip. Their pursuit of their hopes and dreams is narrated via the medium of slightly awkwardly shoe-horned classic rock tunes from the likes of Whitesnake, Journey and Extreme. More Than Words can’t be about your parents though dude, that’s just weird.
Light hearted and daft
Throughout the show, Rock of Ages has its tongue so firmly in its cheek that it won’t be needing an endoscopy any time soon. And there are some good laugh out loud moments in amongst all of the hairspray and hot pants.
The opening night audience absolutely loved it – the show finished to a standing ovation and rapturous applause. But I must admit I was unconvinced. The show has been around since 2005 so I have no doubts that it has a firm place in many people’s hearts, but as a relative newcomer I was left with many questions.
The overriding memory I have was that it’s kind of not cool in how women are shown. It’s the same discomfort that you get from seeing the intrinsic misogyny in the original music videos from the 80s. Yes, some bands were exploiting groupies. Aspiring actresses who bussed tables to get by were taken advantage of. It seems strange that we’re kind of celebrating that on the stage now. I think for me the ‘titilation’ was just a little too overt. There were one too many faked blow jobs in the background. Far, far too many exaggerated crotch flashes in the choreography. It could have been done more subtly and retained its vigour and edge.
What separates the presentation of a stripshow on the stage, from a stripshow? Obviously ain’t nobody getting naked in Rock of Ages, but they’re not far off. I’m not at all bothered by nudity in the theatre either. Here I particularly remember back to the powerful ‘Burning Doors’ that the Belarus Free Theatre put on at the Curve a few years back. But this just seemed a little unecessary – a cheap thrill, a bit of blue for the dads. Maybe I didn’t approach it lightly enough (which is possibly very true given current circumstances) and I’m over thinking it. Perhaps I’m too possessive over rock music? That might mean I am not the best person to judge how it comes across when it is changed into musical theatre…
While it’s not strictly good clean family fun, I think it’s probably harmless enough. Rock of Ages certainly had smiles on the audiences faces and set feet tapping. I definitely enjoyed the odd belly laugh here and there, and appreciated the overt helping of cheese. I’ll leave you to be the judge of how well the fairer sex comes off from the presentation…
Rock of Ages is on at Leicester Haymarket Theatre until Saturday 15th June and tickets start from £26.
We were given complimentary press tickets for the purposes of review.
All opinions written here are my honest thoughts in response to the show.