Rock of Ages is a musical built around classic rock songs from the 1980s. It tells the story of a West Hollywood club that has seen better days but is the essence of rock and roll. Jodie Steele, fresh from the successful West End run of Heathers the Musical, takes on the role of Sherrie in this reinvention of the classic musical.
When Sherrie arrives in town, she meets Drew and a romance hits off until she makes some bad decisions. It’s a story of love, heartbreak and growing up with rock music at the heart of it all.
“Sherrie is a small town girl in every sense of who she is and where she is from,” Jodie said. “She comes from the west country America, turns up in LA with wide eyes and big dreams but she falls onto the wrong path.
She’s naive, and a big dreamer that is open to anything when she turns up in LA. Then when she is hit with a reality check she gains a much more boisterous and strong-willed side to her – she quickly clues up. She is a really nice character with a nice arc to play.”
Jodie enjoys the challenges of the role as she isn’t an entirely likeable character. “The more I’ve done this job, the more I’ve learnt about her as a character,” Jodie explained. “She falls for Drew but then really lets him down and I can see how the audience would think she isn’t very nice. The biggest challenge is finding the light and shade of carrying the story and playing that middle man, but also being likable.”
Sherrie is a character that makes mistakes but she is just trying to find her way as she grows up. “I think for teenage girls in particular, especially ones that have big dreams, will come to this show and really resonate with Sherrie,”Jodie said. “She is new to everything, so I think anyone coming to the show who is new to that in their life will relate to it. For example, during rehearsals our director Nick Winston and I decided it was probably the first time she’s ever had sex.”
Rock of Ages entices a multitude of hardcore rock fans with songs such as We Built This City, We’re Not Going To Take It, Hit Me With Your Best Shot and so much more. Jodie didn’t realise the relationship she had with rock music until she started doing the show. “I love Tina Turner and I love Queen but it’s very different to this kind of rock music,” she explained. “It wasn’t really a case of if I outwardly chose to listen to the songs featured in the show, but you just have them in your life without even knowing.
“They’re played everywhere, in adverts, on the radio, at discos. When you start hearing the music and hear the band play it, you just can’t really beat that genre of music. I do like singing the big ballads, it is amazing.
“People will leave Rock of Ages feeling uplifted, especially because of the ending. The show really is about the music and revisiting all those incredible tunes and the feel-good factor of it. You might have a connection here or there with different characters but I think the real thing is that because you’ll laugh, you know all the music and you’ll go away feeling great – it is such a good night.”
Jodie described this new tour as ‘massively different to the original.’ After seeing it many years ago in London, she thinks this production is a lot grittier. “We definitely haven’t hidden form the fact the girls are strippers,” she explained. “We have fun but we take the serious moments seriously and don’t hide from that so we can break into some real drama. The scenes and the choreography are so much more intense.
“The band are on stage with us which makes a massive different – it is like a huge concert which gives the show so much more. It is very modern and the technicalities we have now isn’t something you could have done back in the 80s.”
Jodie is renowned for playing some stellar roles because of her killer vocals, such as Elphaba in Wicked, Carmen Diaz in Fame and most recently Heather Chandler in Heathers the Musical.
However, Jodie didn’t always think she’d pursue a career on stage. “At school I couldn’t choose between sports and performing arts, but my teacher at college told me to audition for drama school. I auditioned and got into quite a few places, so I entered into this world as a serious underdog and realised how much work I had to do,” she said. “I worked so hard at drama school, every extra hour possible I was in class.”
Asking Jodie for advice for anyone that might be interested in pursuing a career in performing arts, she said: “You have to think of yourself as a business and really protect yourself as a business. You have to organise your life like you’re a walking diary and have as many fingers in as many pies as you can because you can’t really rely on the work in this industry.
“It’s tough and there will be times when you’re out of work so I think it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket and really think outside the box. You have to be a real tough cookie, love it with every bone in your body and always be forward-thinking.
“So even when I take a contract after about three months of doing it I am thinking ‘what is next’ even if I still have nine months of that contract. You can’t get too complacent at all. But, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Rock of Ages is currently on tour and arrives at Wolverhampton Grand from 28 May to 1 June.