Rock of Ages Sunderland: Show packed with classic rock anthems brings the noise to Sunderland Empire Theatre

In the mood for a singalong to quash those Autumn blues? Rock of Ages at Sunderland Empire Theatre could be just the tonic to put some pep in your step.

Planning to see the show for the first time during its Wearside run this week? Let me give you some bullet points; it’s fun, it will definitely make you laugh and, above all else, it’s loud and proud.

Buckle up for an evening filled with ‘80s anthems; from Bon Jovi and Foreigner to Journey and Whitesnake, the classics are all present and correct.

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We’ve got karaoke go-tos, jukebox favourites and those glam rock ballads where only the professionals can reach the high notes.

Rock of Ages is at Sunderland Empire between September 6 and September 10.

And speaking of the professionals, let’s delve into the incredible cast who tie the story of lovebirds Drew and Sherrie, the demise of rockstar Stacee Jaxx and the fate of Hollywood bar the Bourbon Room together and bring it to life onstage.

We’re transported to Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip where, carried along by narrator, loveable rogue and Bourbon Room barman Lonny (Joe Gash), we meet a cast of misplaced misfits looking to achieve their rock-and-roll dreams.

There’s Drew (Sam Turrell) who dreams of becoming a hit-making rockstar; Sherrie (Gabriella Williams) looking to make it on the big screen and Dennis Dupree (Kevin Kennedy, who you may know better as Coronation Street’s Curly Watts). He just wants to live that LA lifestyle in his beloved bar.

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Who's ready for a rocking good night out? Rock of Ages is the show for you.

As the Bourbon Room’s future is threatened by demolition plans, Dupree masterminds a headline-grabbing final show for Jaxx (Cameron Sharp) and his band Arsenal.

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An overwhelming love for music runs through the characters’ plot lines, and it shows in the way familiar songs from the ‘80s back catalogue are given a new lease of life with their performances.

When songs are so well-known it can be both a blessing and a curse. Everybody loves them, sure, but woe betide the performer who does not do them justice in the eyes of the audience.

The classics were treated with tender love and care – it’s tough to pick a favourite, but I’ll make mention of the mash-up between Pat Benatar’s Shadow of the Night and Quarterflash’s Harden my Heart.

Rock of Ages is packed to the brim with classic hits - you can't help but sing along.
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It was a knock-out peformance by Natalie Winsor as Justice and Williams’ Sherrie – those high notes left us awestruck.

Some of the night’s biggest applause (rightly) went to a take on REO Speedwagon’s I Can’t Fight This Feeling; performed as a touching duet between Lonny and Dupree – the true love story of the piece.

The onstage hiccups made it even funnier, and I found myself rooting for their happy ending of sorts, rather than Sherrie and Drew’s.

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Kevin Kennedy, centre, as Dennis Dupree in Rock of Ages.

There’s no question that Gash as Lonny is the stand-out star of the production – he tucks you into his leather vest pocket, carries you through the dizzying selection of rock anthems and keeps you laughing with outrageous one-liners.

And that falsetto. I can’t quite find a way to eloquently sum it up, so I won’t try. Just buy a ticket and prepare to have your socks rocked off.

A final few words with an in-joke for those at Tuesday’s performance; Lindsay, we hope you enjoyed the show!

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Rock of Ages is at the Empire until Saturday, September 10.