INTERVIEW: Ben Richards on Rock the Ages

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GRAB your air guitars and let down your mullet as a touring ode to rock music heads to town.

Rock of Ages – which spawned a Hollywood film of the same name starring Tom Cruise – tells the story of a small town girl and a big city LA rocker who fall in love to the tune of some of the biggest hits from the ’80s.

Cue a score filled with well-known foot-stompers including We Built This City, The Final Countdown, I Wanna Know What Love Is and Don’t Stop Believin’.

At the helm of the piece is Ben Richards as leather-clad rock god Stacee Jaxx.

Describing the show, the actor said: “It’s a rock extravaganza. Essentially, if you’ve ever loved the rock hits of the ’80s, songs like We Built This City and Don’t Stop Believin’, then you will love this show.

“The songs are set around a fantastically tight script which has its tongue firmly in cheek. There’s boys in tight leather trousers, girls in tight tops, I even get down to my pants at one point.

“Get ready, because it really takes you on a journey.”

Ben will star alongside former Hear’Say singer Noel Sullivan as Drew Boley when the national tour kicks off next month.

Ben, whose previous theatre credits include Sky Masterton in Guys and Dolls, Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and Jerry Lukowski in The Full Monty, spoke about why the role appealed to him.

“What appealed to me is that the script is fantastic and really funny, plus it’s the chance to play an ’80s rock god,” he said.

The show opened on Broadway in 2009 and made its West End debut in 2011.  

Following the musical’s onstage success around the globe, a star-studded movie version of the show was released in 2012. It starred, amongst others, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Unlike most musicals, which feature only a couple of well-known songs, this is a jukebox production filled with tracks that are well established in our music psyche.

Ben said: “I think it began with a rough storyline and then they got the rights to these amazing songs which fitted in and it actually works really well.

“Some of the links to the songs are so tenuous, that it’s funny. It never takes itself too seriously, which is something I hate, especially in musicals.

“It’s got a real feel good factor. And you have this character of Lonny who chats to the audience and takes you through it, which is a great element to the show.”

The show will be performed at Sunderland Empire in July as part of its first UK tour. Ben says he is looking forward to getting out on the road.

“It’s fantastic, I love visiting these amazing cities. It’s tough because I have a life at home, two dogs and a girlfriend but an actor’s life is an actor’s life and that involves going on the road. Plus, it means I get to go to these lovely theatres,” he 
said.

“I’ve been to the Empire before and it’s a beautiful theatre, I have friends up there so I stay with them and go to the beach at South Shields, which is lovely.”

Ben is an actor who’s managed to carve a successful acting career in the spotlight and the small screen, well-known for playing Bruno Milligan in ITV hit-television series Footballers Wives, along with roles in The Bill and Holby City, and as a regular judge on the BBC’s Strictly Dance Fever.

Meanwhile, his film credits include Julie and the Cadillacs and Bring Me The Head of Mavis Davis.

He said: “I’m really lucky, often actors get pigeon-holed but I’m lucky because I get the chance to do both and bounce between the two which I intend to continue doing. There’s always something new cropping up but, in terms of dream roles, I’d love to be in Jesus Christ Superstar.”

•Rock of Ages is at Sunderland Empire from July 28 to August 2. Tickets are priced from £10 in person at the Box Office or from £12.90 when calling 0844 871 3022 or booking online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland, plus a transaction fee applies.