BWW Interviews: Constantine Maroulis Gives Inside Scoop on JEKYLL & HYDE
Anticipation for the revived and revised version Frank Wildhorn's acclaimed musical JEKYLL & HYDE is building in Houston, TX. The tour opened in La Mirada, California on September 7, 2012 and will be make a whirlwind stop in San Diego, California before coming home to Houston in October. To give me the inside scoop on this new Broadway-bound production, Constantine Maroulis, starring in the titular dual roles, chatted with me from La Mirada.
As a contestant on the 2005 American Idol season, you became a recognizable star in the making. How has your life changed since you were on Idol?
Constantine Maroulis (CM): Well, of course being a part of a huge show like that was such a great experience for myself. I grew up with a dream like everybody else in this business. I just always wanted to be a part of cool productions and do good work. I always wanted to be in a cool band, you know, and be in great shows on Broadway and television. So, it was like my dream coming true, and the opportunity that I got not many people get. You know, it's a tough business. It's a great platform for me to go up there and do what I love. As you probably know, I come from a sort of rock and roll background, but I have the training—the conservatory training—as well. I got to apply both of those in that setting, and it taught me a lot about myself and kind of prepared myself for what was ahead. I've been pretty blessed.
Touring can be rough, but this isn't your first time to hit the road with a show. What are some of your favorite aspects of touring?
CM: You know, I really enjoy the camaraderie. We have a great group—great cast, great crew, and we all get along very well. You know, getting to know everyone—whether we're in a big group or we break down into small groups—we go on little sort of tourist missions. This tour has just begun, so we haven't set out on any major excursions yet, but that's always fun. Because I'm familiar with a lot of the city's we're going to be going to, I have my suggestions, and it's fun to discover new things together as well. Also, I love feeding off the energy of the audiences in different cities and visiting the beautiful theatres because they get to know you over the years. You build a friendship with the people in the different cities as well—the house crews, the local press people, a restaurant owner or two, a church that we go to. That's what sort of keeps you living out there and helps to not miss home that much.
You've been on Broadway before, but opening JEKYLL & HYDE in April 2013 on the Great White Way is sure to be an amazing and exhilarating experience. What is the anticipation or expectations of that moment like?
CM: Of course I am very fortunate to have that opportunity with JEKYLL & HYDE. It's an epic show, a worldwide brand. It's been performed all over the world in different languages and by dozens of different stars. So, our hope is just to bring a completely new energy to the show. We've completely reinvented it form the ground up, you know, based on the strength of Frank Wildhorn's amazing score and Leslie Biscusse's great writing and his book, which has been completely revamped as well. There are brand new orchestrations and design. A great cast of amazing Broadway talent—some new comers, some veterans. We have all the tools. We have everything, and what's great is we have this time on the road to sort of work it all out. By the time we get back to New York, hopefully, we will be humming like a '64 Mustang and just ready to go.
You're no stranger to leading roles, notably playing Roger Davis on the Broadway tour of RENT, Jesus and Judas in productions of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, your Tony nominated role as Drew in ROCK OF AGES, and Melvin Ferd the Third in The Alley's production of THE TOXIC AVENGER. But, what are some unique challenges to tackling the dual roles of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde?
CM: It's a big part. I'm lucky I have a great ensemble supporting me, and my main objective is just to try to stay healthy, and go out there every night and perform for the fans the show and the story they have come to expect. There are fans all over the world of this show, and, for me, I just want to go out there and tell the story every night. I try not to get too caught up in the character work to be honest. You know, I just apply what the correct objective for myself is in each scene.
Dr. Jekyll is a very gifted and smart young man, very optimistic and idealistic, and his hope really is just to save his father from this terrible mental illness that's overcome him for a number of years now. But it's gone to the point, when we meet him in the show, where basically it's life or death. If he doesn't do something quick, and he knows that he is capable of doing this—making a change—now that he's come up with a component of the right kind of experiment to help his father. I can relate to that. I'm a young father and I've dealt with a lot of illness and sickness in my own family. So, I just try to relate the story to myself and just bring as much honesty as I can to it.
There are so many chill-inducing moments in the JEKYLL & HYDE score and book. Which moments really move you?
CM: Well, I'm so lucky to be part of this particular production. Jeff Calhoun's an amazing director, and he's put me in a great position to succeed. I feel like if I just go out there and do what I need to do, tell the story, and connect emotionally, then everything else will play out. It's hard to pick favorite moments in the show. For me, it's just the entire arc that really is a beautiful thing for me to go through. Of course there are stand out songs that fans have come to love, but I feel like we put even the brightest songs in the show in a position to succeed even more so because of the great direction by Jeff Calhoun.
Every actor leaves their own unique legacy on iconic roles. What do you hope or feel your legacy for the roles of Jekyll & Hyde will be?
CM: Well, you know, I think it's wonderful that so many talented people have gotten to perform the show all over the world—so many recognizable names and what not. But, for me, I've never gotten to see the show before, nor has Jeff [Calhoun]. So, I'm hoping to bring just a completely brand new perspective to the show. I'm taking it from a very, very honest place. I haven't seen much of the video. I've got to know Bob Cuccioli over the years, and he's a wonderful man. I've worked with him before and been honored to sort of step into his shoes in a part that he originated on Broadway first. For me, I don't think about legacy or anything like that. I just go out there and do my job.
Houston audiences have a great sense of ownership and pride in the success of Frank Wildhorn's JEKYLL & HYDE. The show had its World Premiere at The Alley in 1990. Then in 1995, The Alley Theatre, Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS), and Seattle's 5th Avenue Musical Theatre premiered another version of the show in Houston that would eventually tour the US and become the original Broadway production. What can Houston audiences expect from this new production?
CM: Well, as I understand those were beautiful productions. I have worked at The Alley, and it's an incredible place. Their work there is top notch and first class. The audiences in Houston are very sophisticated and know their theatre from Chekov to [begins laughing as he says this], you know, Lloyd Kaufmann's THE TOXIC AVENGER. For us, we're confident that we have, well, first, let me say that technology has come a long way since 1990. We have the ability to, from the design standpoint, do things that are just far more advanced and really helpful in the storytelling. But also, we've come to learn that some shows have really over budgeted things over the last few years and spent way too much money, and for us it's always about the characters, the great songs, and the storytelling. Jeff [Calhoun] has a knack for a more minimalist aesthetic, which I think is beautiful, and not for any other reason than to just utilize the bare bones of design and set that we need to tell the best story possible. And, for me, everything I learned studying directing in drama school years ago and the sort of Peter Brook mentality of the empty space built on the strength of that. And I know that they do wonderful work at the 5th Avenue Theatre as well. I've never been there, and I'm sure the show was beautiful, but, for us, we're marrying the youthful darkness of the Victorian 1880s with the modern industrial steampunk edge. Steampunk is this sort of style that has been growing over the last few years in the sort of comic-con world where ladies and gentlemen sort of dress in a Victorian way but will have some sort of cyber arm or mechanical arm built with household pieces painted in a sort of brushed kind of coppers and metals look. So, the show has very much of that, and Tobin [Ost] has been amazing. Tobin is not only designing the set, but all of the wardrobe, which is very unusual for Broadway. Generally, there are two separate people that do that, so I think it's great that he had the opportunity to do that on JELYLL. And, I think he's done a wonderful job in giving us what we need.
As this is not your first time to perform in Houston, what are you most looking forward to about being back in this city?
CM: Well, Houston's a great town. I really have grown to love it. It's unusual that an artist like myself has gotten to come through there so much in just the last couple of years. First with ROCK OF AGES, and we had great success there at the The Hobby Center. Then back the following winter, with TOXIC AVENGER at the The Alley and the buzz sounding that. Of course, TOXIC will come to Broadway in the near future, but I have my hands full right now with JEKYLL & HYDE. And now again, with JEKYLL & HYDE, and it's all sort of come full circle. I hope the community embraces the show like they have the last few shows. It is a beautiful and epic dark, sexy tale, and the music's amazing. Also, I love being in Houston. When you get to know it, you realize what a great town it is. I love the high-end living and the sort of cool scenester spots along Washington, and all of that as well. I love the culture there. There's a lot of Greeks, and the Pappas family has always been very good to me as well.
When it comes to performing or life in general, what inspires you?
CM: My family, really. They've always been the biggest inspiration, definitely. I'm the youngest of three, and my older brother and sister were always involved in music and the shows in school and stuff like that. I always wanted to be just like them, you know. We'd watch movie musicals together when we were young—WEST SIDE STORY and all the great films. For me, they're sort of comedy, the sort of dark comedy family. And, growing up as Greek-Americans that was always the biggest influence on me.
Your journey to becoming a full-time performer has had its fair share of ups and downs. What advice can you offer to other people hoping for successful careers on the stage?
CM: Well, the only reason to do it is because you love it. You just need to do it because there is not other way you can express yourself on that level, and everything else will just fall into place. You know, practice, practice, practice, of course. I definitely believe in higher education, and I think that not everyone is meant to go to drama school or conservatories and what not. Some people like to go to big colleges and maybe take some theatre courses and music courses. I recommend everyone trying to play in a band, whether it's a cover band or a garage band. Do the shows at school, and just try to better yourself, first as a human being and as an artist. Get yourself into a position to succeed. Sure, I was very fortunate to have a big opportunity on television, but, for me, I think I'm doing what I would have been doing ten years ago anyhow. So, work hard and be good to the people around you because you never know who they're going to be.
Do you have any idea what the future may have in store for you and your fans after JEKYLL & HYDE?
CM: For me, the most important thing is what's in front of me right now, and JEKYLL & HYDE is a massive undertaking. The new concept album that I recorded with Deborah Cox and some of the other cast members is available right now, actually, on Amazon.com. It's called the JEKYLL & HYDE 2012 CONCEPT RECORDING. [The digital version available for purchase now, can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009E2YCF4/ref=mu_dm_alb_dp. The hard CD will be released on September 25, 2012.] So, I'll be doing a little promotional work for that along the way. I'm very proud of it. It's a totally new way to hear these songs and the new perspective, and it'll give you a little glimpse of what we have in store for the show. Down the road we will do an original cast recording. I have a few shows lined up, really, from TOXIC AVENGER to LOST IN LOVE, the Air Supply show I was working on, and a few other titles. I have my recording studio, been developing some new material for myself as a solo artist and my guys back home, and my "Night at the Rock Show" concert—all sorts of fun things coming up. But, for me, it's hard to even get out of bed after a night of doing JEKYLL & HYDE. So, for now, I'm very focused on this and making this a new and magical experience for theatregoers everywhere.
Frank Wildhorn's JEKYLL & HYDE is currently transfixing and transforming audiences in California. It will be doing the same in Houston from October 10 to October 21, 2012. For more information and tickets please visit http://www.jekyllandhydemusical.com/ and http://www.tuts.com/ or call (713) 558 – 8887.
Headshot courtesy of http://www.jekyllandhydemusical.com/. Photos by Smallz & Raskind.
Headshot of Constantine Maroulis.