Next week at the Lyceum we are being transported to Los Angeles in the Eighties when “the dreams are as big as the hair” according to the publicity blurb for Rock of Ages has it.
as leading lady Zoe Birkett puts it: “It’s all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”.
As regards rock ‘n’ roll, we are promised 25 hits from the era from the likes of Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe played live on stage.
It is 1987 on Sunset Strip and Sherrie Christian, a small-town girl who wants to make it as an actress, arrives in town and meets Drew who dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom. When they both end up working at the Bourbon Room, a rundown music venue, all seems set for their romance.
But once a couple of scheming German developers with plans to demolish the Bourbon Room and the rest of Sunset Strip come on the scene followed by charismatic but destructive rock star Stacee Jaxx, it all falls apart and Sheree is forced to take refuge in the nearby Venus Club, which owner Justice Charlier calls a "gentleman's club." In other words a strip club. The only way is up from then on.
Coronation Street star Kevin Kennedy plays Dennis Dupree, embattled manager of the Bourbon Club, with Jodie Steele as Sherrie, Luke Walsh as Drew and Sam Ferriday as Stacee Jaxx.
Zoe Birkett plays Justice, the strip club madam, who enters the story late on.
“Justice comes in halfway through which is perfect for me because I have a little baby so to have 25 minutes off stage is great,” she says. “I don’t feel I am missing out. And then I am on for the whole of the second act. I love the role. She’s a gutsy, sexy strong woman.
She gets to sing Harden My Heart (Quarterflash) and Journey’s Any Way You Want It, as well as the ensemble number, another Journey number, Don’t Stop Believin’.
She also does plenty of dancing. “That was my choice,” insists Birkett who first burst on the scene as a 16-year-old in the very first series of Pop Idol back in 2002. “I am younger than most of the people who have played Justice who have been mostly in their fifties so it is a completely different Justice from how it’s been played before. I am a dancer as well so I wanted to be part of the choreography which the director was happy for me to do.”
She began at stage school at the age of three and later attended a theatre academy and dance school.
After enjoying a solo career in the wake of Pop Idol, she went on to a career in musical theatre, and was last in Sheffield on tour with The Bodyguard understudying Alexandra Burke.
Things have changed since then, 2015. “It is very hard combining performing and being a mother,” she admits. “But I am blessed in having my mother as a full-time nanny who either stays at home or comes on tour with my baby and partner. She’s so young she can come on tour. She can walk and comes on to the stage at the warm-up. She loves it.”
Rock of Ages, written by Chris D'Arienzo, has been on the go since 2005 and certain attitudes have changed since then, let alone the 1980s. “Everything back then was very different,” agrees the singer. The approach of the show is to send it up, tongue-in-cheek.
She is signed up with the show until next July but will break off over Christmas to appear in panto at the Darlington Hippodrome. She grew up in Consett but went to school in Darlington so it is very much coming home for Christmas..
Rock of Ages is at the Sheffield Lyceum from Monday to Saturday, November 26 to December 1.