BWW EXCLUSIVE: Josh Strickland Talks Disney, HOLLY'S WORLD, PEEP SHOW & New Album
Broadway leading man and AMERICAN IDOL season 2 contestant Josh Strickland spoke to me yesterday about his career so far - on a trip from the Broadway stage in TARZAN, to the burlesque stage in Jerry Mitchell's PEEP SHOW in Las Vegas, right to the concert stage in NYC on Friday night in SIR Tim Rice & FRIENDS - all in just a handful of years. All of that is without even mentioning season two of the smash hit reality series HOLLY'S WORLD that he co-stars on, which will be following KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS: KARDASHIANS TAKE NEW YORK on Sunday nights starting January 23 on E!. Also, Josh shared with me the first news about his new dance album coming out later this year, as well, which is the centerpiece of his storyline on the show this season!
Go-Going The Distance
PC: I just interviewed your TARZAN co-star Rob Evan.
JS: Oh, that's so awesome! I was just going through some pictures with some people and Rob was in there. Ah, the memories...
PC: What was working with him like?
JS: He was so committed to the role and he just did the role perfectly. Working with him was really fun.
PC: Do you look back fondly at your TARZAN tenure?
JS: Absolutely! I can't really complain about it. I mean, it was my first real big gig and for it to be a lead, title character role in a Disney show on Broadway - I'm not gonna complain any! (Laughs.)
PC: How could you, right?
JS: It was so much fun and I met friends for life. You know, it all comes full circle because here I am, now, in New York City, doing The New York Times event for Disney.
PC: Was Phil Collins very involved in the rehearsal process of TARZAN?
JS: Absolutely. During rehearsals, it was all pretty hands-on. He didn't miss one step. Then, he pretty much was there all through every preview and worked out every kink that needed to be worked out and did it all on the fly. You know, it was really, really interesting to see how someone of his stature works and how he brought in all his home studio stuff and moved into our rehearsal space and just worked everyday just like we were working. And, it was really cool to see what he would come up with and how it would all pan out.
PC: Did you have a favorite moment of that process?
JS: Oh, so many.
PC: Maybe a particular song? Maybe one especially for you? Or, especially quickly written?
JS: Well, I don't know if it was for me, but one of the duets in the show - between Kala and Kerchak - he wrote, basically, in one day. It was just like, you know, we needed a song for them to sing together in Act One. And, it was just crazy because he went upstairs and by the end of the afternoon he had it all ready for us to try out in the piano room. So, it's just amazing to me how someone like that can work. We were all astounded by him - and, it's one of my favorite songs in the show.
JS: I really think that everybody has to change with the times and that's what Broadway is and what shows are doing now: to make music a little bit more ear-friendly for the teenagers and young people coming up - but, I always think that there will be room for that classic style musical. That's what I'm waiting for somebody to do - to make up a new something that just blows your socks away, like MISS SAIGON and PHANTOM and those shows did for me. It's time to get one of those kind of shows back and just have a blast doing it. (Pause.) It's definitely cool to have pop music being integrated because that's kind of what my voice is best suited to, too.
PC: What do you think of Bono and the Edge writing SPIDER-MAN? Have you seen it?
JS: No, I haven't seen it, but I am going to see it tomorrow.
JS: Yeah, I had to grab my tickets quick because I'm really interested to see it while I'm here. I think that I'm interested to see it, but I'm saddened with what has been going on and I'm lucky that nothing like that happened with our show [TARZAN]. A lot goes into putting on a musical - especially one of that stature - and I can only hope they are making the right decisions.
PC: What do you think about Chris Tierney falling and everything?
JS: It's interesting, because I have a lot of friends who are actually in SPIDER-MAN who were in our aerial show for TARZAN and now that they are there - it's scary, you know. It's kind of like one of those things where you hope to God that it isn't one of your friends when you hear what happened. You know, it sucks, because you only want someone to go into something one hundred and fifty percent ready. We - and, I hope, they - rehearsed everything nonstop and I hope this wasn't something that could have been prevented. (Pause. Sighs.) It's daunting and I really hope - like I said - that they are making all the right steps and decisions to making it better. I really hope nothing else happens to anyone else.
PC: You did all this aerial stuff first on Broadway, really. You were swinging out over the audience on the rope in a loincloth - with no harness.
JS: (Laughs.) Right. It's scary. It's scary. There were several times when I was stuck over the audience and things had to be reworked and rebooted - and, luckily, no one was hurt. But, obviously, there are flight patterns that have to be strategically planned out and worked out and rehearsed so that no one will get hurt.
JS: I mean, we never flew without somebody having a check-off with a check-off with a check-off. So, I think that that is what they are doing over there, but, from the sounds of it, there is a lot going on. I just hope they focus and that they have everyone's best interests at heart.
PC: Did you have any doubles in TARZAN?
JS: No, I didn't. I did all the flying and all the rope stuff and acrobatics and all the tricks myself. (Pause.) I definitely know what they are going through [on SPIDER-MAN] - the body can get hurt in many ways. (Pause.)
PC: What about the lyrics of the songs of Tim Rice? How did you get involved in this event?
JS: His lyrics... I'm such a fan. It's hard to compare him to anyone else, really. He's done so many things - there's not just Disney!
PC: Not at all.
JS: There's all the Andrew Lloyd Webber stuff...
PC: And a lot more.
JS: He's such a great musician, too. He has such an ear for it. He gets the music from the music guys and then he just goes to work himself - and he can.
PC: He feels the music. It comes through in his words.
JS: Yeah. I mean, I'm just privileged that I got asked to work with him. There's so many songs that I've never gotten to sing that he's helped write.
PC: And reunite with your TARZAN co-stars, too!
JS: I'm excited. To be with Merle and Ashley again - I couldn't be more excited to be back with my Disney family again.
PC: Are you singing anything new?
JS: Yeah! There are a couple new things I'm going to be doing that I've never done before. I'm doing stuff from THE LITTLE MERMAID and AIDA.
PC: What are you doing from AIDA?
JS: (Laughs.) I'm actually singing Amneris's Song - "My Strongest Suit".
PC: Oh, wow!
JS: Yeah, that's going to be fun to play around with!
JS: I'm also singing a couple songs from TARZAN and then some LITTLE MERMAID and even some LION KING and BEAUTY & THE BEAST. It's just great, fun music that I grew up with as a kid and I think will be fun to sing as an adult.
PC: For people in their twenties, this is the music of our childhood! ALADDIN and THE LION KING, especially.
JS: Oh, yeah, yeah - of course! They were groundbreaking. To go and sing those scores and that music with the guy who wrote the words for them is just fantastic.
PC: Have you worked together with Tim before?
JS: I haven't, no! I think we're going to be rehearsing together on Thursday so I'm really excited about that.
PC: Do you know CHESS?
JS: Oh, yeah! Absolutely.
PC: Would you ever play Freddie?
JS: Oh, absolutely - that music is just incredible!
PC: What roles do you want to play in the future?
JS: Oh, goodness... I think one of my biggest things was to get to do RENT, and I got to do that on tour. So, I'm happy as can be right now. Like I said, I'm hopeful for some new stuff coming up in the future - you never know!
PC: Tell me about working with Jerry Mitchell on PEEP SHOW.
JS: He's an amazing, fantastic director. Ugh, it's so much fun!
PC: Tell me about the show.
JS: Well, a lot of people are a little daunted by the name - since, you know, it is called PEEP SHOW - but, it's basically bringing it back to the old-school burlesque. It's like a fun Broadway Bares every single night. It's the art of the tease and how a person takes off a piece of clothing - and I just happen to be the lead male vocalist, so I am happy as can be to lead the way through Bo Peep's sexual innuendos. (Laughs.)
PC: Sounds wild! Have you found the worldwide success of the film BURLESQUE has brought more people to the show?
JS: Yeah! It definitely has. Also, though, with Holly Madison being in the show and it being on E!, I think they took the right amount of time off to kind of reconfigure the show and do something people are really gonna love. It's so nice to do something people really like. And, seeing a full house out there every night - that can't hurt at all!
PC: Do you find the Vegas audience is receptive?
JS: (Laughs.) Everybody who comes to Vegas wants to come and have a good time! So, of course, since a topless show definitely does involve that...(Laughs.)... they are all for it.
PC: I bet! What do you think of nudity onstage?
JS: I think that PEEP SHOW is special for Vegas. It's a really classy topless show - I love to put it that way. And, it's true. People come out of our show just being blown away by what they've seen. I mean, they don't understand or expect PEEP SHOW to be what it is and they walk away with a great, great vision from Jerry Mitchell.
PC: He's a genius. And, a visionary.
JS: Yes, he is.
PC: I can't wait for CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Are you eyeing any roles in that show?
JS: I'm not involved, but they are actually already in rehearsals in New York and I'm out in Vegas. Aaron [Tveit] is doing the lead, though, of course, and he is so, so amazing.
PC: You can say that again. What a star in that role.
JS: We did the tour of RENT together so long ago and it's great to see how we both have just done our thing all this time.
PC: And you are on one of the top shows on E! - HOLLY'S WORLD - which has caught everyone a bit by surprise.
JS: (Big Laugh.) Yeah, it's so, so fun.
PC: It's huge.
JS: It's kind of crazy - like, we weren't supposed to film the second season until the Spring but the network really, definitely wanted to push it up a lot. So, now, we have got one of the best timeslots: behind the KARDASHIANS new season.
PC: Wow! They have a lot of faith! That's prime real estate behind the Kardashians (Laughs.)...
JS: (Laughs.) It's just great to feel that connectivity with the network because they are the ones that you want to keep happy. Also, it's wonderful to see so many people enjoying it. You know, it's not just about Holly! It's HOLLY'S WORLD, but I'm glad that she incorporated her friends as much with it.
PC: You are integral to the show, really.
JS: Yeah, but it came unexpectedly - I wasn't really supposed to be part of the pilot. Holly and I just became such great friends that it just sort of happened. So, here we go with season two!
PC: And now you have the ideal location on all of cable, after the Kardashians.
JS: Oh, yeah! Absolutely. They get bigger and bigger every season, it seems - and this is the brand new show for the Kardashians, the New York one. So, I feel like a lot of people are going to be tuning in and wanting to see something different from them - and that's what they're gonna get. And, then, they can watch us get wild for the next thirty minutes!
PC: How do you trace the trajectory of reality TV from when you were on IDOL almost ten years ago to HOLLY'S WORLD now?
JS: Well, it's crazy. JERSEY SHORE - it's nuts. Then, there are some other things that are crazy and wild, too. But, I think that what's so wonderful about the E! Network shows is that - I mean, there is drama and there always will be - but, I feel like at the end of the day everything comes together. It's a family - that's especially how I feel about our show. Any friendship, any relationship you are in, you are going to argue - but, at the end of the day, we really do care about each other and it really is all about our friendship and having a life together in Vegas.
PC: What was your first meeting with Holly like?
JS: Well, we saw her when she came in and saw the show a few times. But, the first meeting was when she came and she met us when they told us that she was joining the cast - she could not have been smarter, business-wise. She's such a sweetheart, too. That's what you've gotta do - you can't just be pretty looks. I think a lot of people have a misconception about her - she really does know what she is doing and she is very smart about her career and what she gets involved in. It's very cool to see her as a successful businesswoman.
PC: And how would you place her celebrity versus Broadway talent?
JS: Well, listen, people are coming to see her because she is a celebrity. She is a name. A lot of people saw her on DANCING WITH THE STARS, and was she the best? Heck, no. But, is she one of those who challenges herself and keeps pushing herself until she gets better at it? Absolutely. Ever since she started, she does get better - I think that's how we all are. You know, I can only get better at singing and dancing if I practice and do it even more.
PC: Totally. Practice makes perfect. So, what's next?
JS: Well, season two we are still filming so I am flying back and forth and back and forth.
PC: Is it a full season?
JS: Oh, yeah - they ordered twelve. And, we're hoping to film season three - maybe - by the end of the year!
PC: Wow! Film two full seasons in one year?
JS: We'll see! We'll see.
PC: When does season two kick off on E!?
JS: Season two starts in three weeks, on January 23.
PC: Fantastic. Where's the premiere? What can we expect this year?
JS: The premiere is in Vegas and this season you are going to see me working in the recording studio with Damon Elliot, whose mom is Dionne Warwick and he is this huge hit-maker who has written for Pink. We have a lot of songs up our sleeve!
PC: Great! HOLLY'S WORLD: THE MUSICAL!
JS: (Laughs.) We have a lot of songs! We're excited!
PC: What will your album be like?
JS: It's going to be just an EP first. It's more towards my audience - you know, dance-heavy, Vegas club stuff. That's part of what's so great about being in Vegas [the clubs]. And, we got this beat-maker from Europe named Accident who is just awesome.
PC: So, a Gaga-ish vibe? A little world music influence?
JS: Yeah. It will be really fun, dance-heavy stuff that people can jam to in their cars when they are feeling down.
PC: What's on your iPod right now?
JS: It's been all Tim Rice music for the last few weeks! (Laughs. Long Pause.) I've had tons of Mariah Carey Christmas stuff the last few weeks, too, but now I'm so sick of it. My Pandora picks a lot of stuff and I love discovering new music - I end up going on iTunes and buying so many songs.
PC: This was wonderful. Thanks so much, Josh, and break a leg on Friday!
JS: Fantastic! This was amazing, Pat. Congrats on the great site, you guys are great! Bye bye.
Photos by Walter McBride / WM Photos / Corbis
From This Author Pat Cerasaro