Up until fairly recently I had absolutely no idea where Bromley was but, after a quick conversation with my lovely friend Lucy, I discovered not only that it was just 30 minutes away from my new flat, but also that Rock of Ages would be playing there for a whole week after I moved in. It would have been rude not to go really so, after a day of assembling flat pack furniture, Lucy and I headed back to the Sunset Strip.
Although I was very excited to be back I was also very nervous – this would be the first time I’d see Stephen Rahman-Hughes as Lonny. If you’ve seen the show before you’ll know that Lonny is the glue that holds the show together – if Lonny isn’t right, the show wouldn’t work. No pressure, Stephen. There were only two changes to the cast: Abigail Climer would be playing the role of Justice instead of Rachel McFarlane which meant that Tara Verloop would be on as Waitress #1. This also happened to me in Manchester so I already knew what a fantastically talented actress Tara Verloop was, and was very excited to see her perform again.
This show was also a bit of a ROAdie reunion with myself and Lucy joined by Bonnie and two of her friends, Mandy, Kimmi, Kate and Abe (so sorry if I’ve missed anyone out) which meant we pretty much took over the front row. As the music started I automatically looked to the top of the stairs and felt a nervous knot in my stomach – for the first time in almost three years I had no idea what to expect when that door opened. As Stephen Rahman-Hughes burst onto the stage it was definitely a shock to the system but I couldn’t help smiling as his quirky, silly and slightly camp Lonny bounced around the stage. He looked like he was having a ball!
As cast member after cast member came onto the stage my excitement grew – everybody had improved so much since those first few shows in Manchester, Noel Sullivan in particular. The last time I saw him was on press night in Manchester and he was so nervous, but not this time. He commanded the stage and belted out note after note with impressive power and control. Cam Sharp was, of course, absolutely spectacular as Franz. He’s grown so much in the role and is definitely the best Franz I have ever seen.
I just can’t take to Jessie May as Regina – she’s technically very good but there’s just something missing. There are no layers to her character she is just very tough and determined all the way through and I missed Regina’s softer side. Don’t even get me started on how she pronounces “Franz.” Everyone else in the cast pronounces it “Fr-a-nz” but for some reason Jessie says “Fr-o-nz” which is very distracting and more than a little bit annoying, and I know I’m not the only ROAdie who feels this way.
Tara Verloop was absolutely sensational as Waitress #1 – I have a huge amount of respect for swings as they have to learn so many parts and are often thrown on at the last minute but Tara attacked the difficult choreography with enthusiasm and looked like she’d been playing Waitress #1 all of her life. Kylie Michelle Smith also stood out as Young Groupie. She’s an incredibly sexy woman and gave Young Groupie a cheeky, flirty edge that made a refreshing change, and she had good chemistry with Tara and Imogen Brooke who plays Constance. Imogen herself is also very talented – the way she completely melts in front of Stacee Jaxx is so much fun to watch and she is a very able dancer too.
By the second act I was really able to enjoy myself and fell head over heels for Stephen Rahman-Hughes’ portrayal of Lonny. It is SO different to anything I’ve ever seen before but that’s what makes it so good. It would have been easy for Stephen to go onto the stage and play the role as Simon Lipkin or Nathan Amzi did, but instead he has taken the role and tailored it to suit his own impressive talents. He is so funny and has built up a great rapport with the rest of the cast – his programme scene had me in stitches when he declared the audience were “just a bunch of Kents.”
It was a very rowdy stage door with all of the ROAdies in high spirits after a brilliant show, and to their credit the new cast members took it in their stride. They must have been warned about the ROAdies beforehand! Talking to Stephen Rahman-Hughes after the show only made me like him even more, he is humble and polite and just a lovely, lovely person. I barely had time to berate Dan Fletcher for nearly killing me with confetti (I had opened my mouth to say something to Lucy and instead got a mouth and nose full of confetti and I’m fairly sure I swallowed some. He also dumped a handful in my hair for good measure) before he was away – apparently he had somewhere to be. After many hugs and laughs it was time to leave, but Lucy and I couldn’t resist booking tickets for the next day on the train home. Well, it would have been rude not to!