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“ROCK OF AGES”

When half the audience is up on stage dancing with the cast during the finale you know you have been watching a pretty decent show, and so it was with the Griffin Players latest musical Rock of Ages. As a piece of traditional musical theatre it would have Rodgers and Hammerstein turning in their graves, but as a piece of simple musical entertainment it was out of the top drawer and left the Library Theatre rocking.

Rock of Ages is a cheesy jukebox musical that holds nothing back; it is loud, surprisingly funny, often rude and occasionally shocking but generally engaging. If the story was pretty thin and occasionally got lost in parts and some of the classic songs seemed to be a little shoe horned in, ultimately it didn’t matter - the programme promised us songs to melt our faces and that is what the audience got and they loved it.

Director Richard Alexander had a first class cast who delivered, and at the same time seemed to be having as good a time as the audience. Richard moved his characters around the slightly cramped stage with ease and the pace never faltered. Seeing the opening night of a show sometimes means you do not get to see the best performance - not this time. Richard had his cast and crew well prepared, they all looked comfortable and knew exactly what they were doing.

As the leading lady Katie Alys Barton sang beautifully as the stardom-seeking Sherrie - she looked the part and lead by example. Katie seemed as comfortable in the rock numbers as she was in the ballads, especially in More Than Words. As her love interest and leading man Nico Bamford as Drew showed his versatility and a fine voice particularly in the slower ballads. Individually they excelled but as a pairing  their love story was unconvincing.

As Lonny Joshua Thompson obviously found his true role, seedy but still somehow charming. He tied the show together, communicated well with the audience and this was possibly the best performance I have seen him give to date. Along with the grumbling and growling Dennis – Paul Rogers - they had one of the best numbers in the show with Can’t Fight This Feeling, funny and ultimately surprising.

Marc Rolfe as ageing rock legend Stacee Jaxx lumbered around the stage letching at any lady in sight.

There were a few dodgy accents at times, but if anything they added to the fun. Luke Murphy’s performance as the German businessman Hertz was overshadowed by his son Franz, played by Carl Connelly who sounded as though his German accent was pinched from the Three Little Pigs in Shrek. Carl almost stole the show with his overly camp portrayal.

Chloe Badham was a good hippy Regina who finally got her man, and I loved her rendition of We’re Not Gonna Take It. The main cast was completed by Jenna Ryder Oliver as the Madam Justice.

Richard Alexander also got the best out of his Ensemble. Ellie Turton, Jo Herd, Juliet Llewellyn-West and Forrest Jones all pitched in confidently with minor roles: Alice Hayden, Allanah Rogers and Louis Chapman completed the line up. Rarely I have ever seen a show where the ensemble have been so engaged, active and enthusiastic. No deadpan faces on this stage, they all gave it everything and added so much to the overall show by doing so.  

MD James Driver got the best out of his singers and his band was excellent; in conjunction with Graham Elliott’s sound the band cleverly underplayed the lib when required, did not overpower during the poignant ballads and upped the tempo and noise for the heavier rock numbers.

Lynette Driver’s choreography was subtle in places and very raunchy in others, a fine mixture of styles and grouping throughout and a special mention for Jo Herd’s outstanding dancing.

Gary Nash once again came up trumps with his set - he produced a seedy run down bar with a great backdrop of the Hollywood Hills. Having a small raise on stage for the band got them involved in the show, but the highlight was the small revolve that was put to numerous uses. Andrew Maxted’s lighting was good – suitable to the piece, subtle and worked very well when changing scene or mood. Izzy Wheeler and Liz Maxen’s costumes suited the era and some great wigs.

In conclusion, one of the best shows to grace the Library Theatre stage for some time, expertly directed and a great evening’s entertainment.



















GRIFFIN PLAYERS -  “ROCK OF AGES”

 review date: 22nd June 2017

Luton Library Theatre

Director:  Richard Alexander

MD:  James Driver     Choreographer:  Lynette Driver  





Asst: Kerry Collins

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