Teens take the stage in ‘Rock of Ages’

VINTAGE FASHION South Valley Civic Theatre’s production of “Rock of Ages” opens Feb. 21. Photo: Chris Foster

The cast of the jukebox musical Rock of Ages was born literally in a different century from the music they’ll sing in South Valley Civic Theatre’s teen production. 

But they are thrilled at the chance to sing such glam-band hits as “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “We Built This City.” Hits by Starship, Foreigner, Journey, Bon Jovi, Joan Jett and Poison are sprinkled throughout this story of a small-town girl trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles, who meets an aspiring musician working as a busboy in the Bourbon Room on Sunset Strip.

“For me, it was really about the music,” said Andy Gonzalez, a 19-year-old sophomore at Gavilan College, who plays budding rocker Drew Boley. 

Although he was familiar with the band names and the hard-driving rock of the 1980s, “We didn’t know how iconic it was in the ‘80s; how influential it was to carry on in music,” he said.

“All these songs tell stories; it’s not like that now,” said Emily Pember, who plays Sherrie Christian, the star-struck newcomer to L.A.

“The lyrics are like a poem,” said Gannon Janisch, who plays the sexy rock star Stacee Jaxx, citing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison and “Heaven” by Warren, among others.

Janisch and Pember are both 17 and high school seniors, Pember at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill and Janisch at St. Francis Catholic High School in Watsonville. Both were born more than a quarter-century after “Rock of Ages” made its debut in Los Angeles in 1985. It moved to New York in 2008 and ran on Broadway from 2009-2015. 

“My parents are really excited,” Pember said.

The teenagers are equally excited by the costumes they’ll be wearing, designed by Michelle Griffin, from crazy glam-rock wigs to vintage ‘80s fashion, “everything shredded.”

“The look of it is crazy,” said Gonzalez, whose last role at SVCT was as Jesus in Godspell. “Once you see everybody else’s costumes—it’s a time travel! Why would you throw away that fashion?”

Pember, whose bio at SVCT includes roles in Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Little Mermaid, Shrek and Seussical, has more of a classically musical theater voice, she said. 

“I have to find a good balance with picking your battles vocally,” she said. “The vocals are rough but so much fun. It’s really cool to get to know a different style of theater.”

The show is being directed by Megan Griffin, with Michael Rubino as vocal/music director. A live band will bring a true rock feel to the show. 

South Valley Civic Theatre’s teen production of “Rock of Ages” opens Feb. 21 and continues through March 14 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill. Tickets are $18-$28. For information, visit www.svct.org.

Susan Rife
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About Susan Rife
Lover of arts & books; ukulele learner; therapeutic knitter; long-distance runner. Former Arts and Books Editor at Herald-Tribune.