Movies / 23 November 2017, 08:30am / Masego Panyane
There are theatre musicals that often take themselves very seriously, then there’s Rock of Ages. It’s easy to feel uneasy about this one, because it features some very big, rock numbers. But once you survive your initial misgivings, you are in for an entertaining 90 or so minutes.
Rock of Ages takes audiences back to 1987, to the fabled West Hollywood club, the Bourbon Room, where the story unfolds in this seedy, sordid, vibrant heart of the Sunset Strip.
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'n'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 bus boy with dreams of rock'n'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.
One of the best things about sitting through musical theatre is encountering the often amazing voices of the vocalists. In this cast, everyone can hold a note, which then allows the ensemble to create some of the most amazing sounds.
A stand-out performer in this regard is Nompumelelo Mayiyane who plays the role of Justice. Mayiyane’s vocals are powerful, and she seems to capture the audience with her crisp, clean, strong sound. The song that she dazzles most in, is Harden My Heart, which she performs with Claire Taylor, who plays the lead, Sherrie.
Craig Urbani as Dennis and Zak Hendrikz as Lonny have an amazing stage connection. They are hilarious to watch, especially when they discover they’d much rather be lovers.
Another stand-out performance is given by Schoeman Smit, who plays the role of Franz, son of the German property developer Hertz (Neels Clasen). There is something particularly endearing about the clumsy Franz who is deeply afraid of his father. The fight scene between Hertz and Franz, with their respective fists clutched in peculiar ways, is side-splitting.
The production doesn’t take itself seriously, only its music. There are clear scenes in the show that one doesn’t expect to see - like the half-done costume change by Natasha van der Merwe from the character of Regina to one of the girls from the Venus strip club. She comes out looking like two different characters and remarks: “Really guys? Costume change mishap,” much to the enjoyment of the audience.
Dennis also throws in some very clever puns involving casting couches and the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The only thing taken exceptionally serious here is the set, which is decorated with bright-neon bras, panties and spray paint. The set is also functional, requiring minimal additions to convert it into the club, to Venus and to the protest site on the Sunset Strip, which is where most of the storyline plays out.
The band plays these rock numbers like it’s the last time they will ever perform.
The costumes fit in perfectly with the old-school rock theme.
All in all, Rock of Ages is a pleasure to watch and features some of your favourite rock hits from yesteryear.