The smash-hit musical Rock of Ages plays Cardiff’s New Theatre this week. The musical comedy features over 25 classic rock anthems, including Don’t Stop Believin’, We Built This City, The Final Countdown, Wanted Dead or Alive, Here I Go Again, Can’t Fight this Feeling and I Want To Know What Love Is.
The cast features X Factor winner Matt Terry as Rock God ‘Stacee Jaxx’ and former Coronation Street star Kevin Kennedy as ‘Dennis Dupree’. The cast also includes Sam Turrell as ‘Drew’, Gabriella Williams as ‘Sherrie’, Vicki Manser as ‘Regina’ and Kellie Rhianne as ‘Justice’.
Among the returning cast is Scunthorpe- born Joe Gash who plays Lonny. A fan of the 80s rock scene, Joe sees his role as an opportunity to live out his rock’n’roll dreams. Joe’s previous credits include Kenickie/understudy Danny Zuko in ‘Grease’ on Royal Caribbean’s – ‘Harmony of the Seas’ and Freddie Mercury on ITV 1’s ‘Starstruck’.
Here, Joe chats to Andy Howells about Rock of Ages.
How long have you been touring with Rock of Ages?
I started last August, then we went through until December and had Christmas off. We were supposed to start again in January and obviously Omnicom made an appearance, so then we got pushed back until April, basically to save the show! The producers made the right call and then we started again three weeks ago!
So, what’s Rock of Ages about?
It’s set in 1980-ish on LA’s Sunset Strip. It’s a story of two people who follow their own dreams, Drew (played by Sam Turrell) who wants to become a Rockstar and Sherrie (played by Gabriella Williams) who wants to be an actress. They meet each other in Dennis Dupree’s bar and its basically their love story intertwined with the arrival of some German developers who come to LA and want to tear down the Sunset Strip to build some Foot Locker Athletic Stores. Dennis and my character, Lonny then try to save it.
How did your association with Rock of Ages begin?
It was back last year; I did an audition as I went for ensemble first. I was doing a TV show called Starstruck. I did a couple of rounds and then they called me back for Lonny, who is the narrator of the whole show. He’s very camp and out there and guides you through the entire story.
I shouted my way through the audition having just been performing as Freddie Mercury every single night on television in front of people like Queen’s Adam Lambert and Beverley Knight.
I got offered Lonny which was surprising. I didn’t expect it whatsoever, but I’ve kind of kept with it since then because I love the show. It’s a fantastic feelgood show. Everybody goes away feeling great.
This isn’t your first show, is it?
I did Grease on Royal Caribbean for a year just before COVID struck. I played Kenickie and went on as Danny Zuko a few times which was fun. I’d done a few cruise ships before doing production shows, but it was my first professional musical, and it was a brilliant one to start with because it’s Grease!
How did you get the musical theatre bug in the first place?
(LAUGHS) I must be honest. When I was eight, I fancied this girl called Bethany at school and she said, “I’m going to audition for High School Musical” and I said, “Me too!” That’s how it began as I had no interest otherwise. Then it was kind of a hobby for a little while. When I was coming to the end of secondary school, it was my mum who said, “If you want to do this seriously you should probably start looking at drama schools!” It was a hobby that turned into something awesome to do for a living, so thank God for Bethany whom I fancied when I was eight years old!
Can you tell me about what your role in Rock of Ages?
Lonny’s never off stage. I think I counted once throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show, I was off stage for something like 18 minutes. It’s full-on. I sing the opening, which is my introduction into the show, Slade’s Cum on Feel the Noize and David Lee Roth’s Just Like Paradise. I also have a duet with Kevin Kennedy who plays Dennis which is Reo Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight This Feeling – it’s a great number.
I sing quite a lot. Lonny’s like the comedic character of the show. You can really play with him, the songs, and the way he does things. The show changes every single time because its audience participation based. That’s why I love it. Every show is completely different, it’s not repetition.
I expect these songs are quite demanding on your voice. How do you keep you look after it?
That was one of the scary things about doing it. Although I do musical theatre, I primarily do a lot of rock. I’ve been in a Darkness tribute band for a few years with the guitarist of the show, so obviously I do a lot of falsetto, Justin Hawkings stuff. It’s a case of once the shows done, I go home, don’t speak and steam a lot. I don’t drink when I’m on tour. I can act like I’m in the 80s, but I can’t do it because I’d slowly die!
What have the responses to Rock of Ages been like?
The audiences are fantastic! We always get great audiences! There are people who come and see our show who call themselves Rock of Ages Roadies, they’ve been to every tour and absolutely love it. The audience always give a good response. The show is so feelgood, and everybody is always on their feet. it’s perfect to come and see after everything that has happened. It doesn’t take itself seriously.
You also get to work with Coronation Street legend Kevin Kennedy?
Yes! I’ve done about five shows with him now, but we get along so well. He’s completely different to the Dennis we had on the first tour which was Ross Dawes of whom I also had a great chemistry with on stage. It’s basically become a different show for me. It’s just great, but then everybody in the cast is because the show can be… just ridiculous!
There are always people corpsing on stage. I’m the worst for it, but I can get away with it as that’s my character! A lot of the reviews we get, people say we are having so much fun. We’re such a close company as we all get along well.
Are you looking forward to bringing Rock of Ages to Wales?
I’m excited as one of my best mates lives in Cardiff. I’ve been a few times, but only to the shopping centre. It’ll be nice to try to explore it a little bit.
You can use your 18 minutes off the stage to explore!
(LAUGHS) Yes! I’ll try and climb out of the backstage window and go for a little wander!
- Rock of Ages plays Cardiff’s New Theatre from Tuesday May 17 to Saturday May 21 2022. For ticket details and availability visit the New Theatre Website.