BWW Q&A w/ ROCK OF AGES' Phil Peterson
Get ready to rock out with the 80s, Omaha! The Tony nominated, smash hit musical, Rock of Ages, is headed to the Orpheum this week to bring audiences back to the glorious 80s with its power ballads and classic rock songs that are sure to keep your toes tapping and a smile on every face. With a score that includes 80s hits such as Dont Stop Believing, The Final Countdown, I Wanna Rock, Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Sister Christian, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, and many other crowd favorites, it's safe to say that Rock of Ages is the can't miss party of the year at the Orpheum.
This week, BroadwayWorld in Omaha columnist, Analisa Swerczek, had the chance to speak with the talented Phil Peterson, who plays the tough real estate mogul, Hertz, in this tour of Rock of Ages, and ask him a little more about himself, as well as about this fantastic show.
First off, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with BroadwayWorld in Omaha today!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your involvement in the theatre growing up?
I grew up in a town just a couple hours north of New York City. I’ve lived in New York all of my life. I now live in New York City with my wife and cats.
You know, I’ve been in this profession for over 20 years now. I knew I was hooked when I started doing the community theatre when I was younger. I was involved in all the high school musical stuff. I was the guy that you saw on the football field in the afternoon, and in choir practice during the day. I remember walking to the center of the football field to sing the national anthem in my uniform. I got a lot of my friends interested in doing the high school musicals along with me. You know, the choir always needed guys. So I got guys from the football team to do musicals with me by telling them about the cast parties and the girls in the chorus. They ended up loving it just as much as I did.
So, you were like the Finn (from Glee) of your high school?
*laughs* Pretty much. Yeah, if you want to put it in modern times. Yes, that was me.
Did you continue to study performance art in college?
Oh yes, I certainly did go to college to study performing. I went to a classical conservatory in Connecticut that was part of the University of Hartford. I majored in opera. I loved opera, and really wanted to pursue that as a career. But as I was going through college for my undergrad, I wanted to perform right then. I had friends that were continuing to study opera in graduate school, but I didn’t want to continue with school – I wanted to get out there. Community theatre, which was always there for me, was my avenue to do so. Right out of college I got my first professional job at a theatre in upstate New York.
I think it’s so fascinating to hear that many of the people on the various Broadway tours today studied classical music in college. Do you think that your training in opera has been beneficial to you in a show like Rock of Ages?
Being classically trained and having been doing this for quite a while now, I knew exactly how to approach the music in a safe way vocally. It definitely does help to know how to approach the music so I don’t blow my voice out every night. But also, the music in this show is music that I grew up with. All these hair band songs are the music of my teenage years, so I knew what was in store.
Looking at your resume, I see that you have played a wide variety of roles in your career, ranging from Hertz in Rock of Ages, to Old Deuteronomy in Cats. What has been your favorite role so far?
I always try to look back on the roles that I could continue to do. One of my favorite roles that comes to mind is Billy Flynn in Chicago. Not only is he a charismatic character, but that is a great role that I could, as a performer, continue to do for a few more years to come. With that being said, Old Deuteronomy will always be a favorite of mine. I toured with Cats for four years, and performed that role in 49 of 50 states, as well as internationally. That one definitely does rank up there as one of my favorite roles, which again, I could always return to. I look forward to returning to either of those in the future.
Rock of Ages seems to be such a change of pace (especially musically) from many of the shows you have been a part of. What is it about this show that made you want to audition?
Honestly, I just knew that it was going to be a lot of fun. Really. I needed that – I just wanted a fun show. I really wanted to be a part of this show at this point in my life. That’s it.
What (in your own words) is a good and short synopsis for Rock of Ages?
Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl falls in love with boy. Girl falls back out of love with boy. Boy ends up using the rest of the show to win her back. It’s really a fun, yet classic love story.
Can you tell me a little about your character in this show?
Sure. Basically, my character (Hertz) is just a real estate giant who wants to come in to town with his son and essentially take over the beloved Hollywood Sunset Strip. He wants to take and turn it into a moneymaking strip mall. As soon as I step on stage as Hertz, you know that it is my goal to come and destroy what is normal and what is right for these people. Throughout the show I’m working to take and destroy the strip, but I end up destroying the relationship I have with my son, Franz.
What is something that you think audiences can take away from Rock of Ages?
To quote the finale of the show, which is a classic Journey song, is “don’t stop believing.” That really is the basic message of this show.
Any last thoughts for our readers today?
You know, just throw caution to the wind and come see this show. Leave all your inhibitions at the door and just have a great time with us. That’s all we ask of the audiences when they come see the show. Come have a blast watching a bunch of kids just rocking out and having a great time on stage.
Tickets for ROCK OF AGES start at just $25 and are available online at www.TicketOmaha.com; by phone at 402.345.0606 or at the Ticket Omaha office in the Holland Performing Arts Center, 13th and Douglas streets, Omaha, NE. Performances of ROCK OF AGES at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater, 409 South 16th Street, will be:
Tuesday, March 6; Wednesday, March 7 and Thursday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 9 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 10 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 11 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.