Rocking through the Eighties With ‘Rock of Ages’


Big 80s tunes, big hair, and big egos will all rock the house in Rock of Ages,  the Playhouse’s outrageous and raucous summer jukebox musical. Audiences will be dancing in the aisles to such memorable songs as “Waiting For a Girl Like You,” “We’re Not Gonna’ Take It,” “Harden My Heart,” and “Don’t Stop Believin”” For Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, and Europe fans, this show is a slice of rock and roll heaven.

Director Kelly Grussendorf is an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at UMD. Playhouse audiences have seen her onstage as Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street; Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes; and Eva Peron in Evita. She also directed Guys and Dolls.


Photo from the Broadway production, Rock of Ages, via

This show’s music is a walk down memory lane for Grussendorf. “Rock of Ages is about 1987-89, just the time I was graduating from high school!  I love the humor–though pretty racy, it captures a time in history when hair bands and cross dressing poofy haired rockers ruled the world. Growing up in this time period helps me to understand the sentiment and humor of the 80s, no matter how ridiculous.”

She adds, “This pop-rock review is tied to the story of two young people who try their hand at the entertainment business in the rock district of LA. We meet some sordid, but in the end, lovable characters on the way to their destiny. Lots of fog, strobe lights, and off-color jokes go with the ride through the success of the Regan era and the bursting confidence of the youth to follow their dreams.”

Kelly also brings her own rock experience to the table. “I did actually tour with rock bands in the 90s and 2000s, ending up in a pretty large arena. One time we had Tina Turner’s bus. We played in many seedy clubs for the love of music. The scene is REALLY this raunchy.”

The Rock of Ages cast includes both Playhouse favorites and new faces, including some area college performers. Kelly notes, “I am absolutely impressed beyond belief with their talent  and amazed at their work ethic and commitment to excellence. I am thankful to work with people I’ve grown to know and love over the years since I came home.” [See the cast list.]

While Kelly encourages those who either grew up in 80s or recall it nostalgically to make the Rock of Ages scene, she cautions, “Viewer discretion is advised for children and those who can’t laugh at these crazy people’s jokes. For everyone else, come see a piece of big 80s musical history.”


Photo from the Broadway production, Rock of Ages, via

This article was written by Sheryl Jensen and originally appeared in the Duluth PLayhouse bi-monthly newsletter, The Callboard (Volume 57, Issue 6) in June 2016.


What: Rock of Ages
Where: The Duluth Playhouse
When: July 14-31, 2016
Showtimes: Wednesday-Saturday @ 7:30pm, Sunday @ 2:00pm
Ticket Prices: Adults – $30, Youth/Students – $25, Groups (15+) – $25
Purchase: Online at, call 218.733.7555, or stop by in person at our box office located inside the Depot

PARENTAL ADVISTORY: Rock of Ages is all about having a good time, and we want kids to rock out as hard as we know everyone will, but you should know some of the costumes, dancing and language might not be appropriate for kids under the age of 13. We think teenagers will totally think it’s awesome, too. The show IS kind of like a music video brought to life. You know the maturity of your children, so we suggest you use your best judgement whether or not the show is appropriate for them. Just remember…if you do bring them, they’ll get to see you rockin’ like you did back in the day!