Rock Of Ages Proves The Rock & Roll Spirit Is Alive And Well
4.5Overall Score

It’s one of the greatest Broadway productions (which was made even more popular by the 2012 Hollywood film starring Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta) and now, Rock Of Ages has made its local debut at Gold Reef City’s Lyric Theatre.

The production is a celebration of 80s rock and roll. Rock Of Ages takes audiences all the way back to 1987, to the fabled West Hollywood club, the Bourbon Room. The music venue has seen better days, but because it is run by chilled-out former rock impresario Dennis Dupree, and tended to by Dennis’s mischievous assistant, Lonny, it is the epitome of rock and roll.

When the bright-eyed young hopeful Sherrie Christian, a small-town girl who wants to make it as an actress, arrives in town, she bumps into Drew, a Bourbon Room busboy with dreams of rock and roll stardom. Love-struck Drew convinces Dennis to hire Sherrie, and the stage seems set for their romance. But when the Mayor of West Hollywood, persuaded by a couple of scheming German real estate developers, announces his intention to demolish the Bourbon Room and the entire gritty Sunset Strip, the stakes are raised.

After speaking to a few people at the show’s official opening night, many believed that this would be a typical production you’d find at Barnyard Theatres around the country – but this is far from the case. Every aspect of the show has been meticulously crafted to ensure audiences have a rocking time!

The cast in this production is phenomenal. Each actor and actress nailed their respective roles and drew audiences in with their world-class acting. Thanks to a simple yet eye-catching set, the cast transport audiences into 1987 where they tell this famous tale. Rock of Ages features an impressive set list of 28 songs, which is performed by a live band, and led by Musical Director, Wessel Odendaal.

Josh Ansley, who plays Drew, has a knack for theatre. He was the runner-up on this year’s season of The Voice South Africa and showcases his incredible vocal range with a variety of tempos and genres. He delivered a convincing performance and had great chemistry with leading lady Claire Taylor. Claire, who plays Sherrie, is a phenomenal talent and is the string that ties this production together. Her voice is incredible and she is able to adapt to every genre and/or scenario that is thrown at her. Meanwhile, Zak Hendrikz, who plays Lonny, does a stellar job as the production’s narrator. He’s got this type of swag that has audiences hooked on his every word (and an impressive six-pack!) and his character added a great deal of comic relief to the tale.

However, while the main cast members ultimately drive the story, it’s the secondary characters who really elevated the production to great heights. Neels Clasen and Schoeman Smit did a stellar job as Hertz and Franz, the money-hungry German real-estate investors while Craig Urbani did an incredible (and hilarious) job as the Bourbon Room’s owner Dennis Dupree. And what would Rock Of Ages be without superstar Stacee Jaxx? Andrew Webster rocked his performance and really brought out the star power the character needed.

My favourite supporting performance came from Natasha Van Der Merwe who played Regina – former secretary to the city’s mayor who’s love for rock and roll sees her become the genre’s ultimate activist. Her performance floored me and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her throughout the entire performance. She’s quirky, relatable and has so much passion that you can’t help but be impressed.

Rock Of Ages is just about the music as it is about the story and I’m happy to see that a lot of effort was put into this aspect of the production. Vocally, the cast slayed and the band did an amazing job bringing the songs we know and love to life on that stage. That, paired with excellent choreography made for a truly spectacular show. Be warned, however, the production has some bad language and adult scenes which may not be appropriate for young audiences.

Rock Of Ages is an incredibly fun show that is bound to blow you away. In fact, it is easily the best local musical of the year after Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. It’s the production Gold Reef City needed to prove they can take on the local theatre space and put on world-class productions and I am excited to see what this means for the venue’s strategy going forward.

Rock of Ages performances will run at The Lyric during the following times: Tue – Fri at 20:00, Sat at 15:00 and 20:00 and Sun at 15:00. Ticket prices range between R160 and R300, and are available through goldreefcity.co.za, Gold Reef City Box Office, and Computicket.

Trust me – this is a show you don’t want to miss!

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