‘Rock of Ages’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by March 12, 2018

‘Rock of Ages’ the wild, raunchy and hilarious musical is being presented by Koorliny Arts Centre and the Kwinana Industries Council, in the comfortable 230-seater, Theatre One at the Koorliny Arts Centre, Sulphur Road Kwinana Town Centre.

The two and a half hours, including 20-minute interval just fly by. The shows can be seen on Friday at 8.00 pm, and twice on Saturday, at 2.00 pm and 8.00 until the 17th March.

 

The scenes: It is 1980 in the Bourbon Club on the Sunset Strip in LA, and ‘The Venus’ a nearby Gentleman’s Club.

The set: was designed by Peter ‘Pear’ Carr and Stephen Carr. It had a well-stocked bar which captured the sleazy atmosphere. The walls are covered by posters of famous people who have starred there. Centre stage is an area ‘framed’ with lighting scaffold, with the live band within. One rear wall acts as a projection screen, but also rotates to show minor sets. On the other side of the stage is a 1-metre high, raised pole dancing area, with several tables and chairs. This is the ‘Venus Club’.

Stage manager Melinda Sklenars and her assistant stage manager Simon Oxley had great control over the numerous entrances of this large cast. Back stage crew, Eleanor Weller and Dre van Graan also worked hard and efficiently.

The wild lighting design was by Stephen Carr, and competently operated by Ash Ryan. Right from the opening drum roll, the lighting was in perfect sync. The follow spots were controlled by Ash Ryan and Stewart Williamson.

The extremely lively sound design was by Sarah Connolly. The quality headsets and the multitude of sound cues were operated by Alex Coutts-Smith.

 

      It is the late 1980s in Hollywood, and the Bourbon Club, one of Sunset Strip’s few remaining legendary venues is in full swing. The untamed host and Bourbon Club manager, Lonny (Timothy How – brilliant) welcomes us in his unique way. The Club’s alcoholic owner, Dennis Dupree (Gareth Jay) sits at a table – bored. Even the scantily clad groupies don’t interest him.

       500 kilometres away, a shy Amish girl, Sherrie (Kate Elizabeth Williams) is leaving home to find fame. She can sing but is totally unprepared for sex-bomb singer, Stacee Jaxx (Tate Bennett) taking to the stage. At the club a young aspiring rock star, (and resident toilet cleaner) is Drew (Matthew Arnold) a shy lad who writes his own songs, composes a song for Sherrie.

       When a German millionaire, Hertz (Grant O’Neil) wants the area for redevelopment, he and his weak son, Franz (Max Gipson) bribe the local Mayor (Murray Petrone) to get planning permission. Local activist, Regina (Georgia McGivern) soon learns of this fraud, and stirs up trouble by telling news reporter (Grace Johnson) and action leader (Ruth Bennett).

        Nearby, the owner of ‘Venus’, the Gentleman’s strip – sorry – entertainment venue, is ex-pole dancer, Justice (Rachel Monamy). Venus Club’s main attraction (Shona Schutz) gives advice to Sherrie.

        When Stacee is busy with underage triumph (Eloise Kirk), Cockney talent manager (Oliver Claire) introduces a stand-in act (Ellis Kinnear).

         Will the Club be saved or will money win the day?

 

The ensemble, many of whom had speaking parts, include Dylan Dorotich, Elise Giaimo, Wyatt Gordon, Shell Italiano, Samantha Nilsen, Diana Moss, and Alex Thorburn

 

Two Award-Winning Directors for the price of one. Stephen Carr was ably assisted by the equally multitalented, Rachel Monamy. This kind of show could have been flat and without spirit, but this talented couple have charged up the cast’s enthusiasm and the result is magnificent. The cast were taken well outside their comfort zones, but they smiled and were glorious.

This show is loaded with university lecturers and private acting and dancing school teachers, and this talent is obvious throughout.

The live musical accompaniment was led by Musical Director, Kate McIntosh (keyboard). The band comprised Christian Ingram (bass guitar), Luke Casserly (percussion), Vlad Sturdy (guitar), and Jonathan Curren (guitar). The problem with a show called ‘Rock of Ages’ could be disappointment if the band doesn’t rock. This group of five gave the drive and depth of twice the number. Could Kate become even more famous for her short piece of dialogue?

There are several well-known songs and melodies, beautifully presented. If I may mention two or three singers who were particularly outstanding, Kate Elizabeth Williams, Matthew Arnold, Rachel Monamy and Gareth Jay, all had vices that one could listen to all day, as they hit even the high notes with full power and perfect clarity. The other leads and chorus were outstanding, not a duff note anywhere.

The brilliant music, coupled with the spectacular costume design by Kiri Siva and Evangalyn Little, the show came alive. The costumes ranged from truly daring, through to hilarious T-shirts.

Choreographers extraordinaire, Allen Blachford and Claire Ball-Matthews gave the performers a 120-minute workout. I am sure there may even have been a few burpees in there, and with two shows on Saturday, the cast would have all slept well. Perfect co-ordination, even when the perspiration was pouring out. Huge energy. Suggestive, saucy, politically incorrect, but never crude.

This was a hilarious, feel good show. Are you one of those boring men who don’t like musicals? Forget it, you will sing and swing with the best of them.

This really is a professional musical at a bargain price for everyone. But as recommended by the director, a show for over 15 year olds.