BWW Interviews: ROCK OF AGES' Dan Domenech Talks Being a ‘90s Grunge Kid and Bud Frump
New York, July 22, 2011 -- Similarity is attractive: Bryne's law of attraction points out that the attraction towards an individual (or a stage role) is positively related to the proportion of similar attitudes shared by two or more persons. It's no wonder smash Broadway musical Rock of Ages' new leading man, Dan Domenech (who shares similar attitudes toward his new stage role), has been having the time of his life since he made his Broadway debut five months ago -- playing the part of Drew, a rocker wannabe from Detroit.
"I really love singing the show's kind of music. It's loud and high. And I love singing loud and high. The thing that I also like about Drew is that he's a big nerd. In high school, I was a big nerd. When I grew up -- Oh yeah, I'm still a big nerd. I kind of relate to him at lot. Drew wanted to be a rock star. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Broadway star. And it worked out," Domenech told BroadwayWorld.com in a recent interview held at the Helen Hayes Theatre.
Chris D'Arienzo writes the book and borrows classic rock hits from the '80s in the Tony Award-nominated musical Rock of Ages. The story follows the flimsy premise of boy meets girl (Domenech meets Rebecca Faulkenberry - who plays Sherrie) who are abruptly separated because of their Hollywood dreams. However, to see the cast breaking out into songs from the crazy '80s, for example, "We Built this City," "Cum On Feel the Noize," "Can't Fight this Feeling," and "Don't Stop Believing," which bring the house down at every performance, is absurdly fun.
Rock of Ages celebrates its first 1,000 performances on Broadway in the summer. It's on its way to the big screen -- in a big way too (Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta Jones and Russell Brand lead the cast)
Although Puerto Rican stage actor Domenech is a self-confessed geek, he's not the type who would burn the midnight oil studying for the final exam for Calculus II. He'd rather free up his academic coursework and digress to back-to-back musical productions at the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Long Island, where he practically grew up.
"I got into theater when I was 11 or 12 years old. My course teacher at that time got me involved in it and I instantly fell in love with it -- became obsessed with it -- to the point where that was the only thing that I look forward to doing every year at school," he said. "As soon as I got out of high school, I started doing back-to-back shows. Well, I also tried to go back to school, but the thing is theater was the only thing that kept me focused."
Like some of the big names on Broadway today -- Adam Pascal, Idina Menzel et al. -- Domenech's first professional theater experience was in a national tour and an international tour of Rent. He was able to play the minor role of Paul, the character in charge of the life support group, and the major role of Angel Dumott Schunard, a young drag queen infected with AIDS, at some of the performances.
"My first professional theater audition was for Rent in 1999. It all started from there when I got cast in that show in 2001. I didn't have an agent then. I got audition notices through Backstage magazine," he recalled.
For the past five years, Domenech has been shuttling back and forth between assignments in New York and Los Angeles.
He pointed out, "My television and film credits come from choreography. And that was a whole another chapter I discovered in Los Angeles. I was working with choreographer Marguerite Derricks from Sister Act and Wonderland. And it was great to see a whole different kind of creative process and to see the different kinds of energy that were flowing around."
"I started as swing for Rock of Ages' first national tour. I played the role of Drew once." He recalled, "On my first month with the tour, we're all hanging out at this great little place across from the stage door in Boston. My stage manager walked up to me; and I looked up to him; and he looked down at me; and I said, 'Should I go home and go for my stuff?' And he said, 'Yeah.' The next day I went on. My director was there. The producers were there. The show went really great because the rehearsal process that we had before couldn't have been any more perfect."
"I only stayed with the tour for three months because I had to leave for Wonderland in Tampa."
Broadway Beckons and Constantine Maroulis
The high probability of Domenech to eventually play more performances as Drew in Rock of Ages became more certain when he got a call of from Carl Levin, the show's producer, while he and a pal were driving out from "Harry Potter Adventure" in Florida some months ago.
Levin to Domenech: As you know, we're moving in to the Helen Hayes Theatre and we'd like you to play Drew in Rock of Ages.
Domenech to Levin: Yes. (I've been waiting for this for over a decade. It's been a long time.)
"Rock of Ages' writing is extremely clever. It's really funny. Chris does an amazing job on the book. It doesn't take itself so seriously. So, when you come in, right from the get go, you know what you're getting into. The show is like: this is what we are; so get ready for a fun ride," he said. The character of Drew also gets to sing some of the famous songs from the '80s, for example, "Waiting for a Girl Like You," and "The Search is Over." He explained, "That was really the generation behind me. I was more really a '90s grunge kid. I was really into Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Green Day and Aerosmith. Those were my bands. But I knew '80s music because it's famous. Everybody knows it."
American Idol finalist and Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis originated the role of Drew on Broadway and has recently starred in over sixty national tour venues of Rock of Ages.
"Constantine and I did Rent together in 2003 or 2004 -- way before he did American Idol. There's no pressure to replace Constantine. When you come in as a performer, you really want to go into a role and make it your own," he said, "Constantine does his thing and I do mine."
Looking Back and Looking Forward
At tender age of 12, Domenech knew that he wanted to be a Broadway star. That glam job means a lot of fun; and entails a lot of frustrations and hard work too. The passion for the craft; dedication to training; and the right attitude all paved the way for him to realize his childhood dream.
"When I was younger, seeing web sites such as BroadwayWorld.com and all these media outlets for theater, you'd think: 'Oh my God, I'd love to do an interview for them.' The coolest thing is getting to do that and telling people my experience because I had such a different way of how I got here than your conventional way. I think it's important for people to realize that if some things are not working for you, you can still have the dream and make it. You don't have to go any certain way that people say you should. You should do it your way. It's all about persistence and take it very seriously," he said.
"Training is also important. I see my voIce Teacher, Matt Farnsworth, every week. He was the first person I went to when I auditioned for Rent in 1999. He's known me for over 10 years now. He makes singing in Rock of Ages every week easy. And be open to constructive criticism especially when you're starting out. It's hard to better yourself if you're not," he added.
At present, Domenech is keen on playing his alter ego: the nerdy rock star, Drew, on Broadway for as long as possible.
Apart from Drew, his other dream roles on Broadway also include the embittered young genius, Tommy, in The Who's Tommy and the villainous geek, Bud Frump, in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Do we sense a pattern here? Blame it on Bryne's attraction theory.
Tickets for Rock of Ages at the Helen Hayes Theatre can be purchased via Telecharge.com, by calling (212) 239-6200 (outside the NY metro area (800) 432-7250) or in person at the Helen Hayes Theatre Box Office. The performance schedule is Monday at 8 p.m., Tuesday at 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. From July 11th- September 4th, the performance schedule is Monday at 8 p.m., Tuesday at 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 3 p.m. & 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Dan Domenech poses for BroadwayWorld.com
The cast of ROCK OF AGES on Broadway