Let us be clear, I am fine with crude comedy, I am not some kind of dinosaur, honest, but Rock of Ages is crude, but regrettably unfunny with it most of the time. It doesn't help that the narrator Lonny is one of the most irritating characters you can imagine, poorly written, and just simply repetitive in his style. The written interplay with the audience at the opening is cringeworthy, and the focus of many jokes around one person on the front row, Audrey, feels awkward and prolonged. It is perhaps no surprise that she and her companion are gone after the interval, leaving initially some awkwardness to material in the second act, still relying on Audrey. It is a huge credit to the performance of Lucus Rush that Lonny is so much better in the second act, professional enough to judge the audience on the night and tone it down, and probably with his ad-libbing regarding Audrey, creating Lonny's best moment off script altogether.
Antony Costa fails to have the required stage presence to make Stacee Jaxx the megastar that he is billed to be, and struggles on a few of the big bold numbers at times as well. Kevin Kennedy, yes, Curly Watts, is though quite a revelation as Dennis. Nearly unrecognisable, and definitely not anything like you would expect. He gives the best performances of the main roles, and in I Can't Fight This Feeling with Rush, has the best scene with some neat stage work which is genuinely the laugh out loud moment of the night.
There are other positives, musical director Liam Holmes and his band pump out some tremendous songs, in a soundtrack that is positively brimming with eighties classics, even if a few of them are butchered a little at times by the performers, or as is the tradition with Juke Box musicals, totally out of place. Dance routines are brilliantly created, and here superbly performed by a fabulous ensemble.
Chris D'Arienzo's book is at times pretty one-dimensional, crude, crude, crude, and it's added jibe at the 2012 film falls a little flat in the sour grapes way, updates are made to the script as well that do not quite work either, making it all a little rough around the edges.
Rock of Ages is noisy, broad, crude, knows exactly what it is about, and if that is your thing, you will love it. However, if you don't want tongue innuendo directed at you throughout the show, don't sit on the front row.
It is a little bit rubbish, but it knows it is, so, Rock of Ages is never without its merits.
Performance reviewed: Tuesday 7th May 2019 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.
Rock of Ages runs at Royal & Derngate until Saturday 11th May 2019 before continuing its tour.
Photos: Tracey Whitefoot