Six nights a week, Justin Sargent slips into a pair of leather pants and a ripped denim jacket, lays on black eyeliner and gears up for a night of glam metal and retro rock.
His new gig, “Rock of Ages,” a comedic musical built around classic hair band hits, is a far cry from his stage work at the Orlando Repertory Theatre or Universal Studios. But Sargent wouldn’t have it any other way.
After graduating in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UCF’s Musical Theatre program, Sargent worked for several theatre companies throughout Central Florida and then moved to New York.
He makes his Broadway debut this month in the glam rock show, “Rock of Ages,” which celebrates big hair and leather jackets, along with songs from Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake and Journey.
In between rehearsals, we caught up with Sargent to get the 411 from this child of the ‘80s.
So what drew you to the Broadway show?
My parents raised me listening to classic rock. My favorite bands are mostly from before 1990, like The Who, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, The Beatles. They are all my top favorites. The first musical I ever listened to was “The Who’s Tommy.” My parents took me to see The Who in two different concerts before I could even drive. And my Mom and I went to an Alice Cooper concert when I was 14. It was awesome.
Why did you choose to study at UCF?
I grew up in New Port Richey, and I chose UCF because it was relatively close to home, and it offered a BFA degree for Musical Theatre. Also, when I came with my parents for a visit, I really loved the campus and the Orlando atmosphere.
What were some of the roles you played in UCF Theatre?
I played Joey Biltmore in “Guys and Dolls,” Pippin in “Pippin” and Sasha and a part of the ensemble in “Fiddler on the Roof.” But my absolute favorite was Riff Raff in “The Rocky Horror Show.”
Did you feel prepared for a career on stage after you graduated?
The professors in the Theatre department have a real passion for art and professionalism, which I admired from my very first day in the program. I learned to have a real respect for working in the theatre. Learning the process and relevance of performance has been extremely helpful.
We hear you’ve been cast as a swing in “Rock of Ages,” what exactly is that?
It means that I am responsible for knowing four roles in the show — two principal roles and two ensemble roles. I am backstage every night in case something happens to be able to cover whatever needs to be covered. Also, if a performer calls in sick or takes a personal day, I might have to go on for their specific role.
“Rock of Ages” is known for its over-the-top costumes. What are you wearing?
Just think of any outlandish ‘80s rock band — a lot of leather, spandex and ripped denim. Every character that I cover wears a wig. They range from conservative comb over to wild crazy rocker hair. But my favorite accessories are the fake tattoos. They have a huge assortment so we can change them every show.
Do you have a favorite song or dance in the show?
I love all of them, but I’m really looking forward to singing “High Enough” by Damn Yankees in front of a live audience. I’m also very excited about dancing in the show because it has always been my weakest area. This show has really pushed me to love dancing and improved my dance skills.
Which song really gets the chicks?
“Heaven” by Warrant. The ladies in the audience swoon every night when they hear it.
And lastly, Bret Michaels vs. Vince Neil. Who wins in a fistfight?
Bret Michaels! That guy took a set piece to the head last year at the Tonys while performing with “Rock of Ages.” Plus-50 toughness points.
To see Sargent rock out at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City or learn more about the show, visit www.rockofagesmusical.com.