INTERVIEW: Noel Sullivan on Rock of Ages at the Sunderland Empire + WIN TICKETS

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GET ready to rock – says a musical which doffs its cap to ’80s anthems. Katy Wheeler speaks to cast member Noel Sullivan about Rock of Ages.

Big hair and big tunes collide in a mix-tape musical set to rock Sunderland this month.

Rock of Ages promises to transport audience back to the ’80s with its air guitar odes to some of the biggest tracks of the decade – We Built This City, The Final Countdown, I Wanna Know What Love Is, Don’t Stop Believin’ and more.

At the helm of this celebration of Los Angeles rock culture is Ben Richards as Stacee Jaxx and Noel Sullivan as Drew Boley, who are pulling on their leather jackets for a national tour of the show which ran in the West End for three years.

Noel says it’s a feel-good show which doesn’t take itself too seriously.

“I think what people don’t perhaps know about Rock of Ages is that it’s a comedy. It pokes fun at musicals, there’s that breaking of the fourth wall,” he explained.

“It’s also got these massive rock hits and it’s great for audiences to be able to hear them live. We have a fantastic live rock band on the road with us.

“Some people can be snobby about jukebox musicals but it’s a couple of hours of escapism and it’s easy to watch and join in with. We haven’t had one performance yet where people haven’t been up on their feet.”

The musical proved so popular that it spawned a star-studded movie version in 2012 starring Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

They brought to the silver screen the story of a small town girl and a big city rocker falling in love to some of the greatest songs of the decade.

Noel said: “Whenever I get a new part, I don’t go back to watch other people. I’ve heard the film is quite different to the stage show. I may go back and watch it when the tour’s finished, if I’m not sick of Rock of Ages by then.”

Noel’s been on the road since May with the tour, which he says is striking a chord with audiences.

“The tour’s going really well, everyone leaves buzzing. I feel sorry for performers who are in shows like Les Mis where everyone dies at the end, I prefer the megamix show where everyone’s dancing.”

The former Hear’Say pop star is, of course, no stranger to the stage and rock musicals.

His successful theatre career has seen him become well known for his portrayal of Galileo in the West End version of We Will Rock You.

Despite the rock theme to his body of work, he says it’s not a deliberate genre of musical he’s chosen.

“People think that, but you don’t choose the roles,” he explained. “I had nine auditions for Rock of Ages, so you get cast in a style, it’s not of your choosing. But my background means I can hit those high notes for what is a very demanding show. I think the fact I carried the role of Galileo for so many years also showed what I could do.

“In the ’80s they had these big power voices and you’re in rehearsals thinking ‘how will I be able to do that?’, but a voice takes training, like anything else.

“Touring is hard, you don’t know what city you’re in from one week to the next. Sunday’s your day off and you spend it travelling to the next venue and you’re away from your friends and family, but when you get that reaction from the crowd, it makes up for it.”

Though Noel may be well known for being one fifth of Hear’Say, who broke chart records with their debut single Pure and Simple, Noel says his heart lies with the stage.

“I wanted to do this before Hear’say. I fell into that really, I didn’t have any ambitions to be in a pop group,” he said. “I went back to what I wanted to do afterwards and I’ve been doing this for 12 or 13 years now. There’s no comparison with this and Hear’say. Hear’say was only 18 months, one job amongst many.”

He says the Sunderland leg of this tour will be a particular highlight.

“I’ve been to Sunderland with many different shows and I’m looking forward to coming up there. I’m stopping with Faye Tozer (former Steps star who now lives in Boldon) and her husband Mick, as we’re old mates. So it will be like a home from home for me.”

•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

Win Tickets

We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a pair of tickets to Rock of Ages on July 28.

To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: in what decade is Rock of Ages set?

A) ’80s

B) ’70s

C) ’90s

Email your answer to Closing date: July 17.