InDepth InterView UpDate: Constantine Maroulis Talks BACK TO THE EIGHTIES SHOW, JEKYLL & HYDE, Upcoming Plans & More
Today we are following up with a previous participant in this column who first made a name for himself on a national level with his appearances on long-running reality competition sensation AMERICAN IDOL before performing to much acclaim on Broadway, Off-Broadway and on tour in a number of varied and impressive roles - Broadway's favorite rocker himself, Constantine Maroulis. Offering up the full 411 on his new gig at the Canal Room, BACK TO THE EIGHTIES SHOW, with Jessie's Girl, as well as reflecting on the music, media and iconography of the era itself, Maroulis paints a vivid picture of why he is the reigning king of rock on the Great White Way and sheds some light on what we can expect from this exciting new series of raucous Saturday night shows. Also, Maroulis discusses his yearlong journey with JEKYLL & HYDE on tour and on Broadway and comments on the road versus the Street, as well as expresses his enthusiasm for a number of prior well-remembered stage appearances, as well - his Tony-nominated turn in ROCK OF AGES, in addition to THE WEDDING SINGER, RENT and beyond. Plus, Maroulis shares an update on his starring role in the ever-developing THE TOXIC AVENGER and also provides some insight into a few roles he would venture taking on in the future, near and far - JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and CHESS included. All of that, thoughts on his AMERICAN IDOL heyday, first news on his new solo album project and much, much more awaits in this brand new conversation with an old favorite.
More information on Constantine Maroulis in BACK TO THE EIGHTIES SHOW is available here. Follow Constantine on Twitter here. Also, check out my original 2012 InDepth InterView with Constantine Maroulis here.
PC: Tell me about the Canal Room where you will be performing the BACK TO THE EIGHTIES SHOW.
CM: Oh, it's one of my favorite rooms in all of New York City - it's a great space.
PC: A great atmosphere.
CM: Oh, yeah - and, it's a really fun group of people. Great musicians, great artists. I am excited to join them in the show for a nice stretch.
PC: What can you tell me about the BACK TO THE EIGHTIES SHOW itself?
CM: The Canal Room is celebrating its tenth anniversary - they are this long-running, live, late-night music venue down on Canal Street. For the last few years, Saturday nights have been a pretty big deal for them - they have been doing this show called BACK TO THE EIGHTIES and it has just been getting bigger and bigger every week and every year. So, this is the latest and best line-up that they have had since they started, especially now with Jessie's Girl - they used to have another band there. Basically, every Saturday night they do these midnight shows and the owner is the producer of the shows, Marcus, and he creates all the events. He and I have had a dialogue for a few years now - a relationship; ever since the ROCK OF AGES thing blew up.
PC: That's really where you made your name on Broadway.
CM: Yeah, he would let me come down to the Canal Room and sing after the show sometimes. But, you know, when you are doing eight shows a week and carrying a lot of the press load and all that stuff, it's not always easy to hit the midnight show after you just had two shows and have two shows the next day... [Laughs.]
PC: That would be a bit hard on your instrument, for sure.
CM: I think the first time I sang there was actually for a Miley Cyrus private event - they hired us to come in and perform for her birthday; she had this full-out '80s birthday theme. I guess she is a big ROCK OF AGES fan.
PC: Good to know!
CM: Yeah! That was the first time I performed down there and I was like, "Wow! This place is amazing!" I mean, when I was a kid, there were so many more live music venues to see live bands any night of the week - there are far less of them now; electronic music has really taken over. I think that is part of the evolution and everything, but the Canal Room is a real throwback - they have a great '90s party on Friday nights and they do this great '80s party on Saturday nights.
PC: How did your participation in the show come about finally?
CM: Well, Marcus and I have had this great dialogue going for a couple of years now, as I said, and, so, we've had all sorts of ideas - my idea was originally to take the BACK TO THE EIGHTIES SHOW more national and go out on the road with Jessie's Girl, playing bigger venues and turning it more of an arena show. There are all sorts of possibilities of where it could go. But, first, right now, we're just basically going to see what's going to happen with me jumping onstage and fronting the band for a nice residency.
PC: How long will you be staying with the show, as far as you know?
CM: I'll be there all Fall, basically - about six weeks. So, you know, the Saturday night show is always packed - it always sells well. It's quite a party - and the audience is young, as well. But, our goal is perhaps to bring in a bit of an older audience, too - maybe for the early show. We are going to be doing 8 o'clock shows, too.
PC: What can we expect from the show itself as far as concept is concerned?
CM: Well, I've sort of personalized the show myself along with Sky and the guys in the band and the bandleader, Eric. We've really built a great exploration of the era - a real songbook show. It's more than just a tribute show or a cover band night type of thing - it's got a really great beginning, middle and end. We are using the whole space, too. We're really excited for the show - and it all begins on September 21 at 8 PM.
PC: What is the make up of the band itself?
CM: We have a five-piece band. Four singers are featured, including myself. So, it's quite a line-up - it's not just me out there, man! I've got three really, really, really good singers up there with me. Real stars-in-the-making - we have an amazing impressionist and amazing performers. There's some fun, tongue-in-cheek tribute stuff, but, at the end of the day, you are hearing some real renditions of some of the best songs of the 1980s - it's really built off of the strength of ROCK OF AGES.
PC: Hopefully the fan-base will cross over, as well.
CM: I definitely think they would like this show. I mean, I have a knack for that particular era of music and it's really about people having a good time - a great f*cking time.
PC: So, in addition to this upcoming BACK TO THE EIGHTIES gig, do you have a solo show you perform these days from which you are perhaps pulling material from, too?
CM: Yes, I do. Actually, I have been building a solo show over the last couple of years called A NIGHT AT THE ROCK SHOW, which is basically my rock n roll songbook show - of course, I sneak in a few of my originals as well, but, basically I had a sold-out run at Joe's Pub and the Highline Ballroom and a lot of interest into turning into a TV event, but I've gotten busy with other shows and writing again and I've been busy with TOXIC AVENGER and JEKYLL & HYDE, too. Plus, I've got a three-year-old, so things just get crazy in my life sometimes. I used to do the solo shows a lot, but I haven't lately because I did JEKYLL & HYDE for a year.
PC: This is your first real rock engagement since then.
CM: Yeah, it is - so, I am really excited to get back to the club and back to an intimate setting; and, then, you know, cranking it up and letting it rock.
PC: We'd be disappointed if not!
CM: I mean, the arenas and the theaters across the country are great, but there's nothing really like a dirty rock n roll club, so I feel like that is the experience we are creating for people with this show - people really love it, man. Everyone is having a great time and we are really excited for the launch this week.
PC: What specifically do you sing in the show?
CM: I sing a lot of stuff, man - I'm covering some of the stuff that is really my strength; the more hard rock kind of stuff. Guns N Roses, Bon Jovi, Journey - all of that. There are some surprises, as well. There might even be a song or two that are from 1979 or early '90s - people might be a little surprised, but they fit so well into the story that it doesn't matter.
PC: Isn't that cheating?
CM: Yeah, I guess we will be doing a little cheating! But, it works - there's a big song that sort of brought me to the national eye on the TV show that might be featured in the show, as well.
PC: An AMERICAN IDOL favorite.
CM: You never know, man! We're really doing it real and acoustic for a section, too - where I jump up on the bar with the guitar player and we just jam. Some great people are coming to the opening night, too, so we are really stoked about that. Marcus is a really great producer and we have a lot of smart ideas for the down the road, as well, so I am excited about that, too.
PC: What about some Queen material? You really excel with that stuff, as we first saw on IDOL.
CM: Oh, I love Queen, too, man. Queen has always been a big inspiration to me - I think they are one of the greatest bands of all time. They are so unique - the way that they brought the theatrical and opera experience into rock n roll... it's a beautiful, beautiful thing, really.
PC: You can say that again!
CM: It was just Freddie Mercury's birthday, actually, too - so, happy birthday, Freddie!
PC: Have you considered singing any more Meat Loaf material? "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" would be a great fit for you.
CM: Well, we aren't in this show, but I have definitely been thinking about singing some more Meat Loaf stuff. We haven't been planning it just yet, though - I think that Jenna and I would smash that, though. Getting the chance to perform with Meat Loaf and induct Jim Steinman into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame last year was a real honor for me - I am a real fan of them both and I think those are some of the finest rock songs ever written. Maybe down the road I will get the chance to work with them again someday - I would love that.
PC: Laura Benanti recently did this column and spoke favorably of her experience in THE WEDDING SINGER. Did you enjoy it, too?
CM: Yeah, I did - Laura Benanti is amazing and a world-class talent. I am so happy for her and her new album. She's a great talent. THE WEDDING SINGER was an amazing opportunity for me, too. I was there opening night and I said, "This f*cking show rules!" I mean, I grew up in New Jersey and I knew those guys - I knew guys exactly like that. And, John Rando is a great director - I worked on TOXIC AVENGER with him, too.
PC: Any updates on TOXIC AVENGER, by the way?
CM: He is really championing it - we all are - in bringing it to Broadway. And, we have a great team in place for that. But, like anything, it's all about timing - you know, there's a lot of luck and a lot of other stuff involved, too, obviously. But, back to THE WEDDING SINGER, I have to say that was a great opportunity for me - especially the part I played...
PC: More of a featured role.
CM: Yeah, I didn't have to carry the show right out of the gate - I got to have more of a supporting role. I got a great introduction into the Broadway community, too - I sort of earned my stripes by doing that show and people realized I was serious about the work. I got to know the training and get the background that I have now, too, and, from there, I started to accumulate more leading roles and whatever and it was great to have THE WEDDING SINGER be my first Broadway experience - I learned a lot, especially from Rando. I had been in RENT on the road, but my Broadway debut was THE WEDDING SINGER. I mean, who would have thought that two of the Broadway shows I have done would be set in the '80s?
PC: It's a running theme of your career, apparently.
CM: I know! And, now, I am back to the '80s, literally, at the Canal Room with BACK TO THE EIGHTIES.
PC: Will you be keeping your time in BACK TO THE EIGHTIES a limited engagement or is an extension possible?
CM: Well, we are seeing how it goes but I do have some other dates lined up and I am back in the studio right now writing original music again and it feels really great. I am feeling particularly inspired with where I am at right now - some great stuff has happened to me over the last few years, so I feel pretty good. Right now, I am really just focusing on this show and on my writing and championing THE TOXIC AVENGER.
PC: Let's hope TOXIC AVENGER happens soon.
CM: Oh, yeah, man - it could be on Broadway right now! It is one of the most amazingly clever and innovative shows ever. We revamped the sh*t out of it since Houston, too, and we've built up a lot of steam, but we put it all on pause so I could work for the Nederlanders with JEKYLL & HYDE.
PC: What a sacrifice!
CM: JEKYLL & HYDE was one of the greatest opportunities of my life. I am very proud of the work that we did. I mean, we killed it on the road for nine months and then had a nice little run in New York.
PC: Did the short run disappoint you?
CM: Like anything, man, as I was telling you before, it's all about luck and about timing. There were some beautiful parts to the experience, but I definitely think we were overlooked. I mean, it's a difficult piece and I think that I knew the challenge that was ahead of me getting involved in it. And, I know that there were some negative sort of things that some people had to say about the title from the past and other stuff like that, but I looked at it as a great opportunity and the Nederlanders took amazing care of me. We had an awesome time and I met some of my favorite people in the world working on that - Deborah Cox is a goddess and it was a true pleasure to be onstage with her every night. Again, I don't think that we got the opportunity that we wanted to get here in New York, but we knew the uphill climb that we had going against us - and, it's tough; show business is tough.
PC: Broadway has changed in the last decade or two, as well. Were your own personal good reviews a positive, at least? Do you even read reviews?
CM: Yeah, I read some reviews. I was appreciative that some people said some nice stuff about my work and all. And, of course, I originated ROCK OF AGES on Broadway and then took it out on the road, so it was interesting with that show to get reviewed over and over again - nearly two years after I had already opened the show on Broadway, I was getting reviewed again on tour. So, that was a pretty consistently great experience for me - they usually liked the show, which is nice. But, you know, of course it's weird when people talk about you and people write about you - it's never something one gets used to. It's not something that bothers me or effects my performance - I mean, in the case of JEKYLL & HYDE, I worked with a great director, Jeff Calhoun, and we had an awesome relationship. And, we had a great producing team. So, I learned a lot about myself as an artist doing the show, too - I really tried to make choices that were not the obvious way to go and I had a really supportive cast around me. Look, I took some bullets along the way, too, but I am a big boy and I have big shoulders and I can take it.
PC: It was not a warm reception in New York, unfortunately.
CM: Yeah, I was a little disappointed in my fellow actors and theatrical community - I feel like they could have supported us a little bit better along the way. I do wish our actual community of actors and artists were more accepting of it. They have all been in tough situations before, too, but instead I feel like they had their claws out and wanted to pounce. They wanted to hate it. It's all good, though. It's just something that you feel sometimes. I feel like it's just such a waste of time to shred something.
PC: You've been prepared well for a few bumps in the road!
CM: Hey, if you can go through the Boston Conservatory experience and get shredded and then get on AMERICAN IDOL and get shredded by Simon Cowell and types like that, then you can pretty much take anything! [Laughs.]
PC: Speaking of Simon, what do you think of the upcoming stage adaptation of THE X FACTOR?
CM: Oh, I think it's great! That's a great idea. You know, when I was on AMERICAN IDOL I don't think that they were quite ready to say Broadway was cool - I mean, I knew it was and you knew it was and a lot of people knew it was, but I don't think they were ready to say that on the judges panel. I remember them saying a couple of times to me, actually, "Oh, that's too Broadway," and I would just be like, "Whatever." Now, a few years later, look at Broadway - Green Day did AMERICAN IDIOT; a Jeff Buckley musical is coming; Sting wrote THE LAST SHIP coming out this year; U2 did SPIDER-MAN; so many cool music people are involved now.
PC: It's an ever-changing landscape, to say the least.
CM: The biggest directors and the biggest actors do Broadway! I mean, guys like Jeremy Jordan and Aaron Tveit, who are good friends of mine, they understudied me doing shows back in the day! I am so happy for them for having transitioned so well into film and TV. Broadway is just not what people think it is. I mean, who would have ever thought the South Park guys would do BOOK OF MORMON and it might end up being one of the biggest hits of all time? It's just an unpredictable and wonderful place. I am so lucky to be a part of this community. But, I feel like I have been doing eight shows a week for five or six years straight, so I am just taking a little pause right now and enjoying it with just doing these BACK TO THE EIGHTIES shows. And, I get to be a dad and work on my own music a little bit, too.
PC: How do you view the way that the recording industry is changing? Particularly given that you are working on a new album.
CM: Well, you have to remember that I came on IDOL right when the change was right there on the horizon - it was the end of the era of selling real hard content records and the beginning of the digital age of selling everything online. Boom! It happened. Music has changed - ever since the mid-2000s. So, I've seen a lot of people adjust and acclimate - everybody is trying to just figure it out. I run a small shop and I have a nice, loyal following, so I just try to do good work and good projects. I have a nice studio in Brooklyn and I work there with some great people and there is no time-line - I am a performer and I just go where the good work is, basically. Right now I am having a great time writing with some really talented people, so we will play it by ear. I can't wait to get back to Broadway, though.
PC: Are there any revival roles you are particularly interested in, looking ahead to the future?
CM: Well, [JESUS CHRIST] SUPERSTAR has been one of my all-time favorite shows for a long time - it's beyond being just my all-time favorite show, really, since it's basically my all-time favorite record; the brown concept album is so well-produced and so raw and so many great guitar sounds and such great vocals. It's a really interesting, eclectic group of performers, too. I've always wanted to do Jesus or Judas in SUPERSTAR. I sort of missed it recently with the new one.
PC: The new UK arena tour is absolutely incredible, though - and, that is coming to the US soon.
CM: Yeah, someone actually reached out to me about the arena show they are bringing to the States and all of that coming up. It'd be interesting to see if there would be interest in an arena show of it here in the States - clearly, it's on a different level over in Europe; it's as big as PHANTOM or LES MIZ there. But, hey, nobody sings that sh*t like me, baby! [Laughs.]
PC: You are ready and waiting, then!
CM: Yeah, for sure, man. It's the ultimate piece to me. But, it's a very difficult show to stage and pull off from a directing point of view.
PC: Any other roles you are dying to take on someday?
CM: CHESS is another great rock show like that. I am a good friend with Eric Schaeffer down at Signature and he reached out to me to do a production of it down there a couple of years ago but I couldn't do it so Jeremy Kushnier ended up doing it. He was great in it. It was an awesome production and it got a lot of great buzz. So, I think that that would be the right production were it to ever come back to Broadway again. It's like JEKYLL & HYDE, though - an amazing score, a huge following, a cool concept, but a flawed show in a way. I think that Jeff did a great job in revamping it and I think Eric did with CHESS, too - some of them are just tough to pull off, though. But, yeah, to answer your question I would love taking a chance on CHESS or something like that. Of course, I'd love to have a crack at Freddy, the American, but I think I could bring something interesting to the Russian, Anatoly, as well.
PC: This was a fantastic update and we all can't wait for whatever you do next, Constantine! My best with BACK TO THE EIGHTIES.
CM: Thanks, Pat - I really appreciate it. This was a blast. Bye, bud.
Photo Credits: Walter McBride, The Canal Room, etc.