Winning ‘best college musical’ at the D’Oscars every year since 2010, you don’t need a preview to convince you to buy a ticket to Hild Bede Theatre’s (HBT) latest offering. Rock of Ages is set to be a break away from the stereotypical Durham scene; a jukebox musical set in America in 1987, will whisk audiences away to a world of sex, rock and roll and simply great music.
Nominated for five Tony Awards, Rock of Ages tells the tale of small-town Sherrie who finds her way to glamorous Los Angeles, hoping to carve her way as a star. Along the way she falls for Drew who works behind a bar and together they learn the highs and lows of cut-throat Hollywood.
Director Elliot Mather has made the intriguing decision to stage a jukebox musical, allowing for a whole range of vocal talent to be showcased in a way that is often prevented in the classic musical theatre and DST repertoire. Mather notes that ‘we haven’t got trained musical theatre actors, but what we do have are solid rock singers […] we wanted to take it back to the original feeling of seeing Whitesnake live – you’re not going to get a perfect vocal, but what you’re going to get is a voice that is hard and tired but produces a story.’ Audiences can undoubtedly expect to fall in love with the gritty, earthy sounds of an alternative voice, and to enjoy a whole range of popular ‘80s bangers’.
Assistant Director Zephy Losey affirms this, stating that although ‘sourcing [actors] outside of our comfort zone’ has been a challenge, what it has led to has been a host of ‘new people [who have been] incredible for our show,’ singing ‘songs that everybody knows and that appeal to more than just the musical theatre audience.’ Performing everything from ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ to ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, HBT are gearing up to remind us exactly why the ‘80s was the golden era of rock.
Indeed, spying in on a rehearsal myself, I was blown away by the sheer power of the music, with every chorus member working in unison to produce a beautiful collective sound, whilst clearly enjoying themselves. Indeed, Tyler Rainford, who plays Lonny, states that ‘the big chorus numbers are just a lot of fun.’ Fun and comedy are central to what makes this musical so special; production team and cast alike repeatedly promise a hilarious treat in the form of the ‘bromance’ number between Rainford and Jake Hathaway, who plays the stereotype of the legendary rock and roll figure Stacee Jaxx.
Every effort has been injected into making the show as authentically ‘80s as possible, through the intriguing static staging (for which sheer scale of set is impressive) to ‘big showy lights’, colourful wardrobe, great hair and even old Caedmon Hall itself, which Mather exclaims is ‘pretty damn ‘80s’ as it is. Personally I cannot wait to see what Hild Bede Theatre has in store for us this time; a break away from the norm, it will be bold, daring, fierce and most importantly, a joy to watch.
As Tyler Rainford puts it ‘either if you’re into musicals, you’re into the great rock songs of the 1980s or if you’re just in it for a good laugh […] you don’t have to be a musical expert to enjoy this show.’ Promising a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ parody of what musicals are, it’s clear that Rock of Ages has something for everyone. So, head on down to Caedmon Hall this week, I’ve already bought my ticket, now it’s time for you to get yours.
‘Rock of Ages’ will be performed in Caedmon Hall from Wednesday, 22nd February until Saturday 25th February at 19:30 (with one additional matinee on Saturday at 14:30). Book your tickets here.
Photograph: Hild Bede Theatre