By Susan Nolan
After a 33-month pandemic-induced hiatus, Annapolis Summer Garden Theater is back—and opened their 2022 season with Rock of Ages, the Broadway jukebox musical featuring the music of 1980s classic rock bands like Journey, Styx, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and more.
Set in a fictional bar called the Bourbon Room on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, Rock of Ages takes us back to a time when big haired groupies and drunken musicians engaged in sex, drugs, rock-n-roll—and an occasional poop joke—most nights of the week.
The story centers around small-town girl Sherrie (Holly Blondheim) and would-be rocker Drew (Sean Garcia). Upon arriving in Hollywood to pursue her dream of stardom, Sherrie is mugged. Drew rescues her and finds her a job as a waitress at the Bourbon Club where he cleans toilets, empties ashtrays, and sweeps floors. They are drawn to each other from the start, but notorious bad-boy rock star Stacee Jaxx comes between them.
Meanwhile German businessmen Hertz Klinemann and his son Franz (DJ Wojciehowski and Matthew Walter) plot to buy Sunset Strip, tear down the Bourbon Club and replace it with a shopping mall. First, however, they will have to get past community activist Regina Koontz (Caitlyn Ruth McClellen).
Will Sherrie and Drew find fame, fortune, and love, or will they take the midnight train to anywhere? Can protestors defeat foreign interests to save a city built on rock and roll? The mayor is bribed. Picketers rally. Strippers gyrate—all to a familiar score of high-voltage rock.
The spandex, fishnets, and Aqua Net are pure ‘80s, but the nod to Pride Month gives this production an edgy, modern feel.
Under the direction of Shane Jensen, ASGT newcomers Blondheim and Garcia deliver strong vocal performances and lead the ensemble cast in an energetic show filled with nostalgia, suspense, and laughs. Seasoned Summer Garden performers McClellen and Walter are paired perfectly in some of the production’s finest and funniest moments. Cameron Walker gives a lively, powerhouse performance as lovable Lonnie, the narrator and assistant club manager. Kaya Harrison shines as strip-club owner Justice “Mama” Charlier.
On Sunday night, the role of cocky rock star and trouble-maker Stacee Jaxx was played by understudy DJ Wojciehowski who pulled double duty starring as both Jaxx and Hertz. A master of quick costume changes, he is outstanding in both roles.
Risqué costumes, innovative set design and an on-stage rock band add to the excitement, making this production a must-see for theatergoers eager to stroll down memory lane with an air guitar in hand. Run time is about 2 hours including a 15-minute intermission.
ASGT has dedicated this season to the memory of longtime vice-president Sharon Cimaglia who died unexpectedly in November 2019. Cimaglia was active in choosing the productions for the 2022 season and her memory lives on through her many theater family and friends.
Take note: All Summer Garden Theater ticket sales are now online and the theater no longer offers a waiting list/standby list at sold-out performances
Rock of Ages, 8:30pm ThFSaSu, through June 18, Annapolis Summer Garden Theater, $27, RSVP: summergarden.com.