From a young age, Staffordshire’s very own Cameron Sharp appeared in amateur musicals at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, honing his skills before finally heading to the West End and the world of professional theatre 10 years ago.
This week, he returns to his favourite venue starring as Stacee Jaxx in the UK farewell tour of eighties power rock musical, Rock of Ages.
“Actually, this is the first time I have been back to the Grand as a professional,” said Cam. “I have so many memories of the theatre; it is such a great place and everyone on the touring circuit says the same. I was spoilt, as I got to perform there, growing up.”
“I remember doing Ragtime, Oliver, The King and I and La Cage Aux Folles there. I did so much am dram though, I struggle to remember which show was at which theatre!"
A string of successful West End hits followed, including School of Rock, Beautiful – the Carole King Musical, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar and Sweet Charity to name but a few, but Rock of Ages, in which Cam made his professional debut, holds very fond memories for him.
Cam has played no less than three different characters in this show over the years, but which is his favourite?
“I feel like I have grown with the characters nicely. Drew is essentially the lead character, and he has so many incredible songs. It is such a demanding role and takes a lot of discipline and hard work to maintain it. I had the fearlessness of youth when I played Drew in the West End when I was just 22, but now it feels a bit daunting.
“Then Franz is the hero and the comedy role, which is also great to play. Then to skip to my current role, Stacee Jaxx, who is the polar opposite of both of them. He is the villain in that slightly problematic rock star way, so he is great to play, and I think he is my favourite. There is so much to get your teeth into, and you get to swan in, mess everything up and sing a Bon Jovi song straight away. It’s all about him, then he just leaves as if to say, 'I’m done!'.”
Stacee gets to sing (Wanted) Dead or Alive, I Want to Know What Love Is, Heat of the Moment and the perfect rock song for Wolverhampton, Slade’s Cum on Feel the Noize, which will undoubtedly bring the house down. Not 1980’s power rock as we know it, but it was covered by an American rock band in that era, and so has snook in.
Cam is known as a musical theatre singer, but does he have a specific rock singer’s voice which he uses to sing in Rock of Ages? The two styles are very different after all.
He said: “As a singer, I do switch around between styles quite a lot, but for this, I try to sound authentically like a rock singer. There does have to be a certain amount of vocal technique in place though. We are performing up to eight times a week so there is a difference in what you can give. You can’t go full on rock star, because you have to do it again an hour later some days.”
“Also, there needs to be clarity because the songs are story driven in a show, so it’s about clarity of speech, but keeping an authentic rock sound so it feels right for the style.
“This show is insanely demanding vocally. The songs sit so high because the original bands were just sensational vocalists, but the rock voices in this cast are also exceptionally strong.”.
Although advertised as a UK tour, the show is in fact going to Ostend in Belgium for just one week from May 29th.
“It’s in a huge theatre,” said Cam. “I think Europe has a big rock fan base and so I am interested to see if they really go for it.
“Audiences are so different across the UK too. The further north you go, the audiences for this kind of show get better and better. It is so funny and so self-aware as a show; it is saying 'this is it; we are making jokes at our own expense'. Rock of Ages is very raucous, very silly, and very in your face and audiences seem to just buy into it and have a great night.
“This is the show that started my whole career back in 2013. “So, it feels like a full circle moment to come back to the Grand and perform there. “
Does Cam have a dream role? “I have lots and it changes depending on what is available, so Christian in Moulin Rouge, Galileo in We Will Rock You, Judas in JCS and of course, Jean Valjean from Les Misérables.”
And could he be tempted across the pond to Broadway? “I would love to, but I’m not sure if the opportunity will ever present itself,” he said. If it does, I will grab it.”
Similarly, Cam would love to take on a straight dramatic role but admits that it is difficult to sidestep in the industry and to get people to see you as someone other than who you already are. Never say never though.
Cam is aware that theatre is still recovering post-Covid, adding: “It is easy to slip into a false sense of security and think that everything is back to normal post pandemic, but the risk that producers are willing to take has massively minimised because of how hard they were hit."
But with a host of auditions in place, the future looks rosy, and for now, Cameron is more than happy to keep rocking out night after night.
Catch Rock of Ages at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this week, ending Saturday.