‘Rock of Ages’ (Edinburgh Playhouse) | Review By Lewis C. Baird

‘Rock of Ages’ has head banged its way into the Edinburgh Playhouse, playing till Saturday 14th May. This musical has toured the UK several times and rocked out in London’s West End, however the question is, does the newest tour still rock? ‘Rock of Ages’ is set in the 1980s on the sunset strip (LA). The musical follows the love story of Sherrie and Drew, bar staff of the legendary Bourbon room. ‘Rock of Ages’ features some of the biggest and most iconic rock hits of the 80s. 

Joe Gash owns the stage as Lonny, the outrageous narrator of this rockin’ tale. Joe’s wit, energy and powerhouse vocals are a force to be reckoned with. Joe is clearly loving every second on that stage, especially when he gets the opportune moments to break the fourth wall and mess with the audience, oh and his castmates. This is a hysterically funny portrayal that is a standout in this production. Kevin Kennedy is hilarious with his portrayal of Dennis, the owner of the Bourbon room. There are many aspects to this character that have changed since he last portrayed Dennis, and it’s great to see. The character seems more open and perhaps wilder than before. It’s great to see Kevin back on that stage. 

Sam Turrell embraces the cheesefest and brings us a wannabe rockstar in love, as Drew. This is a fun portrayal from Sam who brings a lot of light to Drew, a character that can be made dull due to a heavy-handed portrayal, however, thankfully Sam provides comedic nuances rather than going for the obvious broken-hearted stud. Sam’s vocals are superb and he truly owns each musical number he is featured in, you can tell from the strain his voice was under, that he was not holding back and gave each number his all. Gabriella Williams plays Sherrie, Drew’s stunning love interest who goes down a dark route in search of fame. Gabriella brings us a well-rounded version of this character, rather than a woman who lacks wit or awareness, this helps the audience connect to her, especially in moments where Sherrie could be seen in a bad light. The real gem of this portrayal is Gabriella’s stunning vocals which could easily beat Bonnie Tyler in a rock contest. Sam and Gabriella do a great job bringing these two lovebirds to life. 

Matt Terry brings us a version of Stacey Jaxx which truly embraces the intensity of the rockstar, there are superb moments of comedy but the presence and sheer vocal talent that Matt brings the character is truly impressive. 

Vicki Manser is hilarious as Regina, the hippy secretary who tries her hardest to keep Rock and Roll on the strip. This is a bold portrayal of this supporting character and its fantastic to see Vicki bring humour, energy and also some powerhouse vocals to Regina, turning her into one of the standout characters of the production. Teaming her up with Andrew Carthy (as the funniest version of Franz I have ever seen) is an utter dream. ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ could be the best number in the show, purely due to these two performer’s energies and dynamic. But of course, they need a great Heinz to face off and Vas Consanti is just that. Vas gives us devilish charm, farcical wit and delicious vocals as Heinz. Vicki, Andrew and Vas perform the hell out of these supporting characters. 

Phoebe Samuel-Gray covered the role of Justice beautifully, her powerful stunning vocals and wise sass brought the mother of the Venus club to stage brilliantly. Phoebe is a perfect example of why swings are the jewels of the theatre industry. 

This production featured a dynamic and energetic ensemble who slipped into many featured roles while also dancing and singing the hell out of huge iconic rock numbers. The ensemble for this production are; Erin Bell (Constance), Billy Roberts, Scott Hayward, Darius James, Siobhan James, Hollie Ann Lowe, Morgan Scott and Reece Duncan. 

Nick Winston’s direction and choreography really adds a richness to the musical compared to the motion picture, and other productions of the musical. He uses Chis D’Arienzo book perfectly, with slight adaptions here and there, just to give the production an update and make it still seem fresh. Nick also works in conjunction with Barney Ashworth, who is the musical director for this production. Ashworth delivers the 80s hits fantastically, with a band which can happily blow the roof off the largest seated theatre in the UK. Morgan Large’s set and costume design, works brilliantly as something which gives a gig vibe, but also works as the setting of the bourbon room. Ben Cracknell’s lighting design elevates the concert aesthetic to the production, with a big-budget lighting rig. It is something you would expect to see on the main stage during the Glastonbury festival. 

My only complaint is that visually a hell of a lot of energy gets thrown at this production and at times the sound is not loud enough to match it. Perhaps turning the volume notch up a little would completely blow the roof off the theatre, there were several times where the cast were close enough to doing so. 

‘Rock of Ages’ is a very fun musical which rips up the theatrical rule book and then uses it to roll it up a joint. This production is for musical lovers and those who just love 80s rock. Go and see it at the Playhouse while you can! 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get tickets for ‘Rock of Ages’ here:


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