Very Funny, Somewhat Dirty, but Let’s Rock!
by Louw Mulder
There are only a few things better in life than to leave a theatre production where you have hit the epiphany of sheer entertainment. Taking nothing away from all the other brilliant theatre productions that stunned audiences this year, but with reference to Rock of Ages, now showing at the Lyric theatre in Gold Reef City, absolute enjoyment is included in your ticket price. Not only does the music comprise of well-known anthems for young and old, the story, humor and most of all, the presentation of all these elements, are the perfect ingredients for a fun and memorable night out.
In the last few years, VR Theatrical have produced numerous productions on SA stages, succeeding in entertaining and delighting audiences nationwide. We are talking about I Love you, You’re Perfect, Now Change, The Mysteries of Irma Vep, and forthcoming Johannesburg attractions in 2018 such as the hugely successful Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as well as Avenue Q, in association with Kosie House of Theatre.
“We focus on a younger audience, because it is important for theatre to keep up with the times”, Executive producer, Jaco van Rensburg told Stage and Screen after the show: “And even though our productions appear to be very edgy, audiences love them because people feel welcome when seeing these shows and they associate with the type of shows we play, which doesn’t exclude anyone. And mostly because it is fun!”
This time around, in partnership with Gold Reef City, they successfully brought Rock of Ages to the stage, with acclaimed response.
I do firmly believe that the success of this production, is mostly a result of the impeccable casting selection. I don’t think that the effectiveness of this show could have been so magical if it wasn’t for the versatility of all the actors in their various roles. The Headline act for this show, Josh Ansley, played the role of Drew, who falls in love with Sherrie, played by the super talented Claire Taylor. To throw a spanner in the works, is Stacee Jaxx, as sung by Andrew Webster. He does show off his very well-defined body, but his talent, together with that of Ansley and Taylor, lies within their rock voices, that make most of these anthems, revived hits in their own right.
I could carry on about how I enjoyed the performances of the whole cast, like the physically excellent performance of Zak Hendrikz, the vocal powerhouse Nompumelelo Mayiyane, brilliantly with her quick scene-changes, Natasha van der Merwe, and the very camp Schoeman Smit, but I have to highlight two performances that stood out for me on the night. First was Neels Clasen, who is not a new face in a VR Theatrical production. In the role of German developer, Hertz, Classen’s versatility and expertise in accents and impersonations, added to the authenticity of his character.
Acting on opposite sides of the story, was club owner Dennis, played by Craig Urbani, who for me was undoubtedly the standout performance of the night. He fitted his character like a glove, and the noticeable effort he put into the portrayal of his role, was hysterical to watch. I personally, after seeing him recently in Saturday Night Fever and West Side Story, haven’t enjoyed Urbani’s talent as much as in Rock Of Ages… By no means do I suggest that his other roles were off par.
Louis and Nadine Minnaar were responsible for the Scenic Design. I was so impressed with many of the set elements, which in its over-the-top approach, was very effective. The impressive lightning design by Oliver Hauser set the scene for a true rock style musical. At times I felt as if though I was more rockstar groupie, than civilized theatre patron! Some scene changes were illustrated with various illuminating combinations, which made the flow of the storyline effortless to follow. More than once, I caught myself enjoying various scenes so much, and laughing out so loud, I neglected to hear the many beautiful harmonies relating to those scenes. This, in my opinion, is reason enough to admit that seeing Rock Of Ages only once, is just not enough.
Adding to the constantly moving sets, were the choreography of Weslee Lauder, to complete the full picture. Lauder, brilliant on and off the stage, added to the je ne sais quoi of the show. It takes a certain type of character to make two 80’s rocker fellows fall in love, and at the same time, have the audience accepting everything happening on stage, reeling with laughter. Lauder was exactly the man for the Job.
The music was executed with distinction under the directorship of Wessel Odendaal. I am sure that each rock hit of that era featuring in this show, brought at least one or two memories to every audience member, irrespective of age. With the music of the 80’s being very diverse and quintessentially popular, Odendaal had the enormous task of directing the music in such a way, that the expectations of all 80’s music lovers would be met. Odendaal, after the show, acknowledged that he is very thankful to have worked with such talented musicians as those appearing in Rock of Ages. Audiences should not expect replicas and cover versions of the original hits featuring in this musical, but can be sure to be entertained with fitting renditions of these songs, as part of a stand-alone musical production. Putting all these elements together, is Director Elizma Badenhorst, whose resume speaks for itself…
Rock of Ages has a rating of PG16, but van Rensburg said that the final call will ultimately be those of the youngster’s parents. From club scenes to public toilet scenes, from protests to the Final Countdown, there is something for every type of theatre goer in Rock of Ages, to make you remember and appreciate the music and energetic days of the 80’s. Rock of Ages will run until Sunday, 10 December 2017. For more information, especially on Group and Corporate Discount offers, please visit: http://www.stageandscreen.co.za/rock-of-ages/
Experience Rock of Ages in Pictures, with compliments of Gold Reef City.