MUSICAL correspondent duty again… Review of Rock Of Ages at Shaftesbury Theatre for this week’s New Journal
YOU know when Bucks Fizz used to rip the skirts from its own band members mid performance to spice up their Eurovision fare, the blokes reaching into the waistband region uninvited and then rip-rip-ripping away. The more you think about it the more sinister it becomes.
Well, in the new Rock Of Ages musical, there’s a grubbier variation. Halfway through Foreigner’s I Want To (sung: wanna) Know What Love Is, a belligerent rock star rip-rips a waitress’s entire top off to leave her standing in her bra and knickers. Everybody laughed at the fizzy costume change, as if rockers, being rockers and all, had earned the right to strip a woman half naked without at least asking her name first.
[Don't worry: they sing Journey's Don't Stop Believing at the end]
The move kind of sums up this show, perhaps a little too sleazy for it’s own good and asking you to laugh at the worst ways men can treat women without any real comeuppence. Hardly, a moment passes in the second half without a sexy woman in thigh high boots and her smalls. Take the little ones to Wicked instead.
R of A does comes with good recommendations from the States, although it’s hard not to attract an audience of some sort to a rock musical seamed together with the popular stroke comedy songs of Whitesnake, Europe and and Guns N Roses et al. It’s not without mainstay ingredients of a big time musical: There is the love tale of just a small town girl [they play Don't Stop Believing at the end] and a swoonsome wannabe rockstar set against the backdrop of their favourite Los Angeles bar being threatened by developers.
Then there is X-Factor’s Shayne Ward as Stacie Jaxx, the aforementioned belligerent rock star and lead singer of a world famous band called Arsenal, which in itself is distracting for football fans. His band is waning, a shadow of its former self – the allegory is hurtful. [Don't worry, I told you: they sing Journey's Don't Stop Believing at the end].
Ward’s part is quite brief considering he shares the tube station posters with the slimmed down Justin Lee Collins (the threatened bar’s owner). If you can see through the 101 nob jokes, there are some good moments in there, including smartly-worked set pieces around Foreigner’s Waiting For A Girl Like You and Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot.
And of course, they end it all with Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, that forgotten song given the kiss of life by Glee. The piano intro was all it needed for the sing-a-longers to rev up. As gold and silver tickertape fell from above, it didn’t really matter whether a good story had been told, whether the singing had been note perfect, they were playing Don’t Stop Believing. Right now, that will always shift the tickets.