Thoroughly enjoyable, funny, full of great actors and a cracking team effort made this the best Duchess's performance I have seen yet.
After seeing the Duchess's previous production, A Midsummer Night's Dream, my expectations were incredibly raised for their next treat; Rock of Ages in this case. Were they fulfilled? Well, let's just say my hands were practically numb from clapping by the end of it!
Having also seen a Duchess's drama group musical before, 2014's Return to the Forbidden Planet, I know what this talented collection of people are capable when it comes to this department. However, I didn't realise they were this capable. Talk about being blown away! The voices, the acting, the lights, set, everything… was perfect.
The enthusiasm was outstanding, with everyone giving it their all. I had the chance to look at everybody individually, and not one person looked as if there was even a flicker of detachment. The focus was superb. Something different was tried this year too, with the band no longer off to the side, but taking centre stage instead. They were integral to the performance, with even some lines for themselves. And while I don't pretend to know anything about music, guitars, drums and keyboard came together to paint a brilliant audio picture.
Vocals were good too, with some excellent singing from all, notably main characters such as Sherrie (Daisy Hope), Justice (Cerys Williams), and Lonnie (Amy Barrett). As an overall narrator of the musical, and a breaker of the theatre fourth wall, Amy is perfect as Lonnie; and for her last performance she certainly gave it her all. Partnered up with Dennis Dupree (Fraser Wright), the two make an excellent pair, both funny in their own way. Billy Swan as Stacee Jaxx was good too, playing the superstar persona very well, if a little quiet on one or two occasions.
That brings me to my one, and I must say only, criticism. There were several moments, admittedly more in the first half of the first act, where the music would drown out the speech/singing from the actors, but they truly went for it to make themselves heard; and since this technical issue can happen in professional shows, the fact they could be heard was superb.
I find it incredibly easy to say that if the show had ended at the first half, I would not have been disappointed whatsoever. Obviously there was the story to conclude, but there was enough expert singing, dancing, humour and more to suffice itself.
Speaking of humour, the two Klinemann's, made up of mother Helga (Charley Anstee), and son Franz (Dan Thomassen), were amazing; and very very funny. Franz really stood out, with Dan facing a problem of part of a rip off suit still being attached to him just as he was about to dance! He faced it outstandingly, and with excellent improvisation, removing his shoe and the clothing with it before dancing on a mismatched level. Consistent references to it, and a general ecstatic atmosphere, made him one of my favourite characters.
Our two mains, Drew Boley (Sean Elliott) and Daisy as Sherrie, are aptly portrayed, both playing the city boy and small town girl very well. They create the dynamic 'rocker love story', and shared several songs too. Sean played the awkward dreamer well, Daisy very good as his counterpart, and at all she did. The interactions as the two tried to figure out where they stood with each other made way for some mild humour too.
There was so much good in the performance it was unbelievable. And as the fastest selling show yet, this talented group have lots to be proud of. Rock of Ages took my expectations and blew them out of the water, and then some. Thoroughly enjoyable, funny, full of great actors and a cracking team effort made this the best Duchess performance I have seen yet.
Here's all the brilliant people that helped make this performance epic.
CAST: Drew Boley – Sean Elliott; Sherrie Christian – Daisy Hope; Lonnie Barnett – Amy Barrett; Dennis Dupree – Fraser Wright; Stacee Jaxx – Billy Swan; Justice Charlier – Cerys Williams; Regina Spectator – Sophie Murray; Helga Klinemann – Charley Anstee; Franz Klinemann – Dan Thomassen; Sherrie's Mother – Harriet Renner; Sherrie's Father – Joe Bennett; Mayor – Oscar Wilson; Waitress #1 – Clarissa Lauder-Frost; Constance Sack – Ella Paul; Ja’Keith Gill – Matty Potts.
CHORUS: Ethan Allan, Izzy Baker-Cresswell, Bea Barnes, Lexy Bee, Hannah Breeze, Georgia Brown, Megan Brown, Ula Campbell, Jenny Clapcott, Harry Clark-Thompson, Cora Drummond, Oscar Elliott-Selkirk, Isaac Ellis, Lucy Embleton, Michael Head, Xenia Johnson, Martin Latto, Rachael Latto, Isaac Mills, Isabell Niles, Becca Pitcher, Anna Simpson, Courtney Swain, Sarah Walker, Ben Williams.
BAND: Austin ‘Fast Hand’ Troy (Guitar) – Jacob Crooks; Brian ‘Amnesia’ Guthrie (Guitar) – Anthony Newman; Missy Vox (Keyboard) – Issy Maxwell; Guy Savage (Bass) – Alex Rae; Dave ‘Snazzy’ Davis (Drums) – Dan Lyst; Guitar Tech – Aidan Hickman.
THE CREW: Director – Martin Allenby; Assistant Director – Sam Murray; Musical Director – Susie Cochrane; Assistant Musical Director – Dan Lyst; Associate Director – Richard Lyst; Choreographer – Joanne Burn; Assistant Choreographer – Maya Woolfrey Lighting – Jack Carriga, Robert Stephenson Sound – Sam Smith, Jack Clements; Promotion and Video – Edwin Barnes, Will Larkin, Neil Hawkins; Costumes – Sarah Denton, Pip Terry, Caitlin Brown; Set Design – Ruairí Ryan, Lou Middleton, Ruth Brown, Richard Hay, Callum Wood, Megan Hallows; Backstage and Set – Callum Wood, Megan Hallows, Zara Browell, Ruairí Ryan; Make-Up – Erinn Parry, Vicky Robertson, Georgia Brown, Lucy Embleton, Sally Larkin Front of House Manager – Rosie Murton.