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ANGELA SINGER: ‘High energy, nonstop action’ at Cambridge Arts Theatre

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Rock of Ages the musical is high energy, non-stop action and there was a standing ovation at the end. The audience at Cambridge Arts Theatre was on its feet.

On the face of it, the show is hackneyed. The characters are cliches, the story is predictable, and the songs are not ones you leave the theatre singing – but the voices are powerful, the musicians are superb, the dancing is athletic and there is some engaging acting.

This is not nostalgia in the form of schmaltz. It is seedy. It is set on Sunset Strip where dreams went to die. The song I Want to Know What Love Is has been set against a filthy urinal covered in congealed urine.

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But the cast give it their all. Our heroine, Sherrie the aspiring actress, played heart-warmingly by Gabriella Williams – who is an absolute triple threat – has become a stripper. The song is sung as she is obliged to dance with a rock star Stacee Jaxx who wants to take advantage of her – and takes her to the gents. He is played and sung powerfully by Cameron Sharp. 

The show, an homage to the music of the 1980s, unfolds like a pantomime – and for most of it that is the level of acting. At one point early on the audience is invited to shout out responses, a woman in the front row is singled out and asked for her name. Later, there is a pretence at corpsing.

There are references to male body parts. The musical is narrated by Joe Gash, as the character Lonny, rubber limbed, stage camp. You would cast him in the Rocky Horror Show.

As he says, he steers the show along and the audience loved him. Other stand out performances were Natalie Winsor as Justice – she has a voice to fill the Albert Hall, and Scott Hayward as Drew who sings loving duets with the luminescent Gabriella Williams.

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Also, Vicki Manser as Regina, the flower child who is organising a protest to stop the strip from demolition. The song The Final Countdown is a scene of the people’s protest.

Kevin Kennedy as the 60s rocker, Dennis was a revelation. Kennedy (pictured centre) who played Curly Watts in Coronation Street for 20 years and has just turned 61, dances and does the splits.

An evening for those who like their rock music loud, their dancing raucous and suggestive and their comedy comfortingly familiar.

Rock of Ages is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, October 8.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Angela Singer is theatre critic for CambsNewsOnline

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