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InDepth InterView: Adam Pascal Talks Upcoming Concerts, UNBREAKABLE: THE MUSICAL, New Movies, New Music, Plus Reflects on RENT, AIDA & More

Today we are talking to the originator of leading roles in two iconic Tony Award-winning musicals of the 1990s and 2000s, RENT and AIDA, as well as a notable presence on the Great White Way in popular musicals such as CABARET, CHICAGO and MEMPHIS - the charismatic and steel-voiced Adam Pascal. Reflecting on career highlights as an elemental part of Jonathan Larson's seminal rock musical RENT and how it defined an entire generation, Pascal opens up about his participation in the early stages of the show as well as comments on the enduring legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning musical in its 20th anniversary year. Furthermore, Pascal sheds some light on his other originating role in a Broadway musical as part of Elton John and Tim Rice's Disney stage musical AIDA, sharing observations on headlining a new production of such epic proportions earlier this century. Most importantly, Pascal previews what audiences can expect from his forthcoming East Coast concerts coming up later this month and what sort of evening of story and song he has planned for his passionate fan-base of all ages attending the shows. Additionally, Pascal reflects on his runs in a handful of revivals ranging from Kander & Ebb's long-running CHICAGO to the last Roundabout Theatre Company revival of CABARET as well as starring in the Tony Award-winning Best Musical MEMPHIS. Plus, Pascal offers the 411 on his new self-penned stage adaptation of the unique M. Night Shyamalan superhero film UNBREAKABLE and what his upcoming plans are for the new project, currently in development. All of that, potential future roles he would like to take on someday soon, details on his upcoming feature films PUNK IS DEAD and THE DEVIL'S CARNIVAL: ALLELUIA as well as CHESS observations and much, much more with one of Broadway's most recognizable modern leading men.

More information on Adam Pascal in concert at the Fairfield Theatre Company on January 30 is available here and at Mohegan Sun Cabaret on January 31 is available here.

Elaborate Lives

PC: I remember growing up really enjoying your solo albums and having you sign them at the stage door after shows. Would you say rock n roll was your first love?

AP: Oh, yeah - and, whenever anybody at the stage door used to hand me one of my records to sign, I would be so thrilled. You know, growing up, before I ever got into theatre, I was in rock bands and played - for years and years and years - to empty clubs in Manhattan and Jersey and Long Island. [Laughs.]

PC: How frustrating that must have been.

AP: Anytime anybody paid any attention to the music that I did was always such a thrill for me, though. You must have been my best friend being a fan of my albums - I bet you made my week!

PC: Do you still regularly write songs?

AP: Yeah, yeah - I am actually writing a musical right now that I have been working on for a while that I have been pretty occupied with, so that has pretty much been occupying most of my creative energy lately, which has been great. But, yeah, it's something that I've always done and love to do - of course, sometimes I go through spells where I won't do it for a year, and, then, I'll have six months where I just vomit out all of this stuff.

PC: It goes in streaks.

AP: Definitely. I wouldn't say I am very prolific, though - as I said, I can go a year without writing anything.

PC: Do you write on guitar or piano?

AP: I am pretty much guitar- and bass-based, actually. I like to write and play on both of those instruments.

PC: An electric bass?

AP: Yeah, yeah - I have an electric bass and I have a little set-up here at my house with my instruments and my computer and I'll just sit down and record. You know, nowadays you can record an entire album on a Mac laptop in excellent quality. The days of having to go into a recording studio are long gone. So, when I write and record, I like to produce the songs to the best of my ability so that they are not just acoustic guitar and vocal demos - they are fully produced songs. I like to try to get the vibe across that I am trying to establish with the song - that is important to me.

PC: The sound is as important as the song itself.

AP: It is. I mean, I do everything - the drum track, the keyboard; you can do everything. It's amazing. Strings, horns - all of that stuff. If you have a basic knowledge of music and a good year, you are set.

PC: What were the most influential albums to you personally growing up?

AP: [Sighs.] So many! First of all, Pink Floyd's THE WALL...

PC: Weren't you involved in a workshop of a stage version of that at one point?

AP: There have been some, but I've never been involved with one. There has been talk for years and years and years of bringing it to the stage but I don't know where they are with it. I think it would be brilliant. You know, I was also a huge metal-head, too...

PC: Such as?

AP: Well, all of the Iron Maiden albums were a huge influence on me. The Beatles and Billy Joel were huge influences on me, too. I very much had a rock n roll background - that was my thing. Especially Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and those British new wave metal bands, though - I was obsessed with all of that stuff.

PC: Given your strikingly idiosyncratic vocal sound, they were a perfect fit for your instrument, no doubt.

AP: Growing up, that's what I used to sing along with - trying to sound like them; that's sort of what taught me how to sing. [Laughs.]

PC: Not a lot of Broadway performers cite Iron Maiden as their main vocal influence, after all.

AP: I bet not! And, as you know, a lot of these guys have very powerful, almost operatic voices - and a lot of times I would be playing in rock bands and the other guys would be like, "Stop singing with so much vibrato, man! What's wrong with you?!" [Laughs.]

PC: That's hilarious.

AP: They wanted Steven Tyler and I was giving them Bruce Dickinson. I was just like, "That's not what I do!"

PC: Were you a Meat Loaf fan?

AP: Oh, yeah! That was a huge, huge, huge influences on me, too - BAT OUT OF HELL. I loved that record - absolutely love it.

PC: Circling back to Billy Joel, your "New York State Of Mind" on the CAROLS FOR A CURE: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS album is one of my favorite recordings ever. How did that come about?

AP: Oh, wow - thank you for saying that. It's funny, because they just asked me to do it and the song had already been chosen, I think, for me - and, I agree, it did come together really great. I remember it being like they asked me if I would do the song and me being like, "Oh, yeah, that sounds really great," and then I went in and sang it. I didn't have much to do with the production of it or anything - I just kind of came in and sang it. It came together really well and people seem to love it. I love that song myself so much and I still play it when people come out to see me perform live.

PC: Are there other Billy Joel songs you do these days?

AP: No, that's really the only one I do anymore, but since you asked I will tell you that the song I sang when I auditioned for AIDA was "Vienna".

PC: What can we expect from your solo concerts coming up? "One Song Glory" is a given, of course.

AP: Yes, of course. I like to do re-arranged versions of Broadway stuff - I do a good amount of that. So, I usually sing and play bass and I have a piano player with me and we do re-arranged versions of a bunch of things. We do "One Song Glory" and we do some mash-ups of songs, too.

PC: Such as?

AP: For instance, I do "Not A Day Goes By" into an original song of mine. And, I do a mash-up of "I Don't Care Much" from CABARET into "Rocket Man".

PC: Speaking of CABARET, have you been contacted about returning to the show for the new revival? Would you do it?

AP: They haven't, but, listen, Alan [Cumming] has been there since they reopened so I haven't had a chance to ask! I do know that they are mounting a tour and I made sure to let them know that I definitely am interested in going out on the tour.

PC: You're ready to get back in the suspenders?

AP: Oh, sure! Definitely! I mean, that was one of the most fun jobs I've ever had! I just love that show so much. So, we'll see. To be honest, it's hard getting a job out there now - because it's so hard to sell tickets to anything, people want to cast actors in roles with a guarantee of ticket sales and I am just not one of those guys. I can sell tickets, but not to make enough of a serious impact on the box office. So, right now, I am unfortunately battling for jobs with TV actors and movie actors and stuff, so unfortunately I am up against that - it's an ugly situation out there for theatre actors who perhaps maybe in the past have had an easier time getting cast in things.

PC: HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH would fit you like a glove.

AP: Well, it's funny you should mention that: it's the same thing. I expressed interest to them that I would like to do it, but I am sure they have a list a mile long of TV and film people who could theoretically sell more tickets than me. You know, back in the day, the show was the star, so you could cast it with theatre people who were right for it and really talented. The shows aren't the stars anymore now - the stars are the stars. People aren't turning out to see composers' works, they are turning out for nontraditional reasons - not for the reasons they used to come to the theatre. So, producers are having to turn to different methods to sell tickets, particularly given the price of tickets. So, that affects people like me and it's not as easy to get those gigs that we used to be able to get because we are not the box office draws like the TV and film people are.

PC: With GLEE and GALAVANT and the live musicals on TV, there are many new opportunities, too. Would you be open to participating in any those types of projects?

AP: Oh, sure! Sure! Of course I would. I am not a traditionalist when it comes to those things like some people are - I certainly appreciate the new avenues that musical theatre is exploring with things like that. So, yeah - I am open to anything like that, really. I love the idea of doing something like that, actually.

PC: What can you tell me about the movie you have coming out later this year, PUNK IS DEAD?

AP: PUNK IS DEAD is a sequel to a movie I did called SLC PUNK a number of years ago. I am not sure when it is coming out just yet. It's the same director, too - James Merendino.

PC: What about the movie musical THE DEVIL'S CARNIVAL: ALLELUIA?

AP: THE DEVIL'S CARNIVAL: ALLELUIA is with Darren Lynn Bousman, who did the first one - he is amazing and he and I have become really good friends. He's such a musical theatre fan and he called me and asked me to be a part of this project and I was just like, "Yeah, sounds great!" I didn't know anything about him and I had never seen any of the stuff that he had done - I had never seen REPO! or anything. But, I heard the music and it was just so interesting and cool that I had to do it. I actually just did a little cameo in a Halloween short that he was doing, maybe three weeks ago. But, THE DEVIL'S CARNIVAL has a really cool musical theatre-y cast - Ted Neeley and Barry Bostwick and David Hasselhoff. It's really, really cool and the music is really great. It comes out soon, too - it should be out in the next couple of months.

PC: So, this is an official sequel, then?

AP: Yes. And, THE DEVIL'S CARNIVAL wasn't a full-length - it was a little less than an hour - but this one is a full feature.

PC: Did you work one-on-one with Paul Sorvino on it?

AP: Yes, I did, actually - most of my scenes are with Paul. He plays God and I play his sort of right hand man... [Laughs.] I had such a great time working with him; he is quite a character. I must say, though, I learned a lot from him - as an actor, I learned a lot from him. The greatest thing is when you are surrounded by people who are better than you and you can sort of absorb their wisdom and their creative methods - getting to work with him was a real treat because I got to learn a lot about, you know, preparing for a scene and things like that. You know, a lot of people don't like to rehearse scenes and stuff and he was just like, "Let's rehearse! Let's rehearse!" I was so glad that he was like that because it really made a difference. So often on films or TV you get your sides when you are in the make-up chair and then you just show up on set and you do it; and you don't even necessarily see the other person you are in the scene with until you are on camera. He was like, "No, no, no - let's find a quiet corner and rehearse these scenes for a half an hour." I was so honored to get to work with him.

PC: Your first movie musical since RENT.

AP: Yes, it is - and it's so cool; really avant garde. I can't wait for people to see it.

PC: Josh Groban told me when he did this column (available here) that CHESS is a passion project for him and he would ideally like to bring it to Broadway someday. Would you want to reprise your role from the Royal Albert Hall concert production, as well?

AP: First of all, I love Josh - he's my buddy - but he's so full of sh*t! [Big Laugh.]

PC: Why so?

AP: Well, I've been the one trying to get CHESS done and he's been the one on the fence about it for so long! But, yes, to answer your question: of course I would! Whenever I see Josh, it's the first thing we talk about, too. I don't want to speak for him, so I won't, but I think there might be something holding him back from doing it - but, I don't know what it is. I could speculate that it is that there is an inherent problem with the book for that show and I don't think Josh wants to go to Broadway in a show that has consistently been lambasted for its book. Look, musically it is amazing - it is perfect for him and it is perfect for me - but I think he wants to make sure that if he goes to Broadway with CHESS that whatever problems that exist in the book are fixed, and, you know what, I don't know if they can be fixed. I mean, Tim [Rice] has been trying to fix the book for years and whatever issues there are may just be too deeply ingrained in the story - maybe it's the fact it is about chess or maybe because it takes place during the Cold War and a time that people aren't necessarily that connected to anymore; I don't know what it is. So, I understand his reluctance.

PC: All valid points.

AP: Plus, he goes out and he tours and he makes records and he has an incredible career - it would be a huge commitment for him to commit to do that kind of production; it would be a year of his life.

PC: Minimum.

AP: Exactly. So, I don't know if he would want to give up a year of his life in the prime of his career to commit to something that may or may not be successful. So, I get it. But, the short answer to your question is that I would be there in a second and I would love to do it. I love Josh and we had a great time working on both of those productions.

PC: The Actor's Fund was first, before the Royal Albert Hall.

AP: Exactly. Every time I see him we always have a great time together. He's a really wonderful guy and I really dig him.

PC: AIDA seems like another show destined for a big revival someday, whether onstage or onscreen. Did you work with Tim, Elton or Disney on any other projects during that time? You did the first TARZAN reading, did you not?

AP: Yes, I did. Matthew Morrison and I actually did the first reading of TARZAN. Matthew was Tarzan and it was this sort of weird version of it - they were still sussing out how they were going to portray Tarzan, so in this particular incarnation Tarzan didn't sing, so they had me as, for lack of a better term, this guardian angel-type character who sang all of the songs.

PC: How interesting.

AP: Yes, it was... interesting. [Laughs.] Like I said, they didn't quite know what they wanted to do yet. It was a lot of fun to do, though! But, ultimately, I think they made the right choice with what they did with it - if you have apes sing, Tarzan should sing, too! So, they ultimately went down that road with giving the songs to Tarzan to sing. And, I got to work with Phil Collins on it, too, which was great. Other than these various incarnations of CHESS that I have done, I haven't really worked with Tim on anything else since AIDA. Since you asked, I will tell you that I was talking to Tim for a while about FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, but it just never worked out...

PC: For the UK production?

AP: Yes, for the London production.

PC: What role?

AP: The guy who kisses the girl on the beach - Warden.

PC: What fabulous casting that could be!

AP: Yeah, Tim and I actually talked about it for a while and we Skyped with the director a few times, too. And, I actually auditioned for it, too. But, ultimately, it was a huge commitment for me to pack up and relocate my family to do it - I just had to pull out of it because I wasn't at a point in my life where I was ready to do something like that. If I was on site it would have been different, but to relocate to London for a huge chunk of time like that just wasn't the thing for me.

PC: RENT is your only West End show?

AP: Yes, the entire original cast did RENT in London.

PC: It was not as favorably received there and did not run nearly as long, so was that a strange experience for you?

AP: It was a weird experience. I think it ultimately ran for a year and a half - back in 1997.

PC: Did you ever see RENT: REMIXED over there?

AP: No. I'm actually very unfamiliar with it, so I can't really say anything about it.

PC: Have you seen the final performance Blu-ray?

AP: No, I haven't seen that either.

PC: Have you ever seen the show when you weren't in it yourself?

AP: Yes, I have seen the show a few times - most recently, in Cape Cod this summer.

PC: What do you think of the revolutionary new Cuban production currently underway?

AP: I think it's f*cking amazing! And, Andy Senor is a really close friend of mine, so to see his career blossom and see him grow as a director like he has and then go over there to do this now, I am just so happy for him and I am so honored that this show is being done there. What an incredible experience for all of these kids to have - and just another iconic moment for the life of RENT, especially to be done in a place like that at a time when these relationships are just finally normalizing with Cuba. It's fantastic and I am so happy for everybody involved.

PC: The times have caught up to RENT at last, it seems, 20 years later. I am curious to know: what is your first memory of meeting Jonathan Larson?

AP: Well, he was a little reserved and kind of shy - sort of tall and lanky. He was incredibly sweet and incredibly passionate about this project and he was incredibly excited to have all of us involved. He was very confidant in his own abilities, too - he had really lofty ideas about what he wanted to do and what he thought the show was capable of doing; and, he was right. Everything that the show has accomplished in terms of its message, in terms of its place in the lexicon of musical theatre, in terms of its iconic status - he wanted all that and, in a way, envisioned all that, you know? Were he still to be around today, I can imagine him saying, "See? I told you!"

PC: He had a prescient sense about it all.

AP: Yeah, its success wouldn't have come as a surprise to him.

PC: Given Sondheim was his biggest influence, I'm curious if it is true that you yourself are looking to explore some Sondheim soon. You apparently want to do SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE?

AP: Oh, yeah! Yeah, I do. I love that score so, so much - it's such a beautiful score. I am a big, big fan of his and I would love to play any part that I am appropriate for in any of his shows, actually.

PC: Have you ever met Sondheim yourself?

AP: Yes, I did meet him later on - after Jonathan [had died]. But, with something like SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, it's an iconic part from an iconic composer, so anyone who does musical theatre would be sort of insane to not want to explore it. And, also, as a musician, working on Stephen Sondheim music makes you better - it makes you see things in ways that are outside of the box. And, as a writer, it makes you a better songwriter just listening to his music and how he creates and how he phrases things, too - it's like a lesson in musical theatre and songwriting.

PC: Since you do "Not A Day Goes By" in your concerts, I'd also venture to say you'd be an excellent Franklin Shepard in MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.

AP: I choose the songs that we do not for any other reason than I hear them and I think that there is something that I can do with them. I mean, we do a very different version of "Not A Day Goes By" and we also do another Sondheim song, "Maria" from WEST SIDE STORY - also in a very different arrangement. I didn't choose them because of their iconic status, I chose them because I heard something in the orchestration that I thought I could exploit and rearrange to bring something new to the song. Again, I don't set out when I am listening to a song with the intention that I am going to figure out a way to rearrange it, I will just sort of accidentally hear a song and go, "Wait a minute, I think I could do something with that." So, they fall in my lap like that. I just want to give people a different take on the songs than they have ever heard before.

PC: Has your unique vocal sound held you back from certain roles that you otherwise may have been well-suited for, do you think, or has it been more advantageous than not?

AP: Well, it's funny that you should say that because I think it's both. I was actually just in New York auditioning - probably for the tenth time - for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and I didn't get it for that reason. Ultimately, they just didn't want my sound - they wanted to stick with a more traditional, operatic-type sound. So, my sound wasn't the sound that they wanted for it. I mean, I can get legit, but I can only get so legit... [Laughs.]

PC: It only goes so far!

AP: I can only go so far. So, I think that my sound has helped in certain respects and hurt me in others. I wouldn't change anything, though - it's just who I am. I have a broad range of spectrums that I can fit into, but if Hal Prince doesn't see me as the Phantom, I can't force him to, you know?

PC: They either see you or they don't.

AP: I have auditioned so many times - for Broadway and for the tour. Laurence Connor, the director of the tour, was much more open to my sound. This was the first time I had ever sang for Cameron and for Hal, but they just weren't feeling it.

PC: Are you familiar with LOVE NEVER DIES at all?

AP: I auditioned for it, but I am not too familiar with it.

PC: Did you sing "The Beauty Underneath", the heavy metal song?

AP: Yes! That's the song I sang for my audition. I completely forgot about that until just now when you reminded me. I auditioned for it back when it was going to open multiple places simultaneously, but that ended up not happening.

PC: Having made a major mark in the SCHOOL OF ROCK film, would you be interested in participating in the stage version coming up shepherded by Andrew Lloyd Webber - perhaps in the Jack Black role?

AP: I don't think that I am right for that character, so I don't think that is something I would really pursue - I'm just not the right guy for that, you know? But, I think that it's a great story and the movie was awesome - I loved being a part of it. So, I have only the highest hopes for it and I guess we will see what happens. I would never think that that is something that he would want to write and bring to Broadway, but, who knows, stranger things have happened. I hope for the best.

PC: Having worked with Richard Linklater on that film, what are your memories of him? BOYHOOD has the biggest buzz of any movie this year, of course.

AP: He's an amazing guy and extremely, extremely normal. He's unique in his creativity, but he's not like an eccentric dude to sit and talk with - he's a really unassuming type of guy that you can sit and have a drink with. He's not like Tim Burton or anything - he's just a really regular dude with a sweet family and a house with chickens and everything who happens to make these interesting, creative films. I loved working with him and we really got along great. Actually, when we were on the RENT tour, Anthony [Rapp] and I hooked up with him again when we came through Austin and he is just a really sweet, cool guy.

PC: Do you ever perform any of Jonathan Larson's more obscure material in concert, perhaps something from one of his other scores? "Hosing The Furniture" or "Love Heals"?

AP: I don't, but, you know, "One Song Glory" is kind of my song.

PC: You can say that again! One of the most iconic Broadway songs of all time.

AP: Yeah, so, if I am doing an hour-long set, I just try not to overload it with RENT stuff - I do "One Song Glory" and then I do the other stuff. I like to do some things I have done in other shows, too - I do "Memphis Lives In Me" from MEMPHIS and "I Don't Care Much" from CABARET and "Pity The Child" from CHESS. It becomes too RENT-heavy if I do too much Jonathan Larson stuff, I think. Of course, if I am doing a show with Anthony or I am doing a show with Daphne [Rubin-Vega], then we break out some of the other RENT stuff and do it then.

PC: Can you give me an idea of what you and Daphne recently did in your show together?

AP: We did "Light My Candle" and "Another Day" and "Without You" and "Seasons Of Love". Then, we did separate sets - I did "One Song Glory" and she did "Out Tonight". People definitely got their RENT fix.

PC: Are any preliminary plans in place yet for the twentieth anniversary of the Broadway opening next year?

AP: I don't know. I'm sure we'll do something. But, you know, people are scattered all over the place and I don't know what people's relationships are and if they are capable of being in the same room anymore, so we'll see....

PC: What are your thoughts on your three-time costar Idina Menzel reaching global mega-stardom like she has recently?

AP: Oh, I think it's great! It's wonderful to see somebody that you know and that you are friends with reach that kind of success. It's so great and I am really happy for her.

PC: You two have done three different shows together. What was your AIDA camaraderie like?

AP: As a matter of fact, our first show together at AIDA was the first performance when we came back after 9/11. I always love working with Idina.

PC: How have you seen New York City change since that time? It feels like a different place than it did during RENT's heyday.

AP: I agree. It's a much different place now. I think it's become more extreme in its extremes, in terms of the fact that it is really hard to be a sort of middle-class person living in New York City - you are either scratching and clawing to pay your bills or you are making a lot of money. You know, when I was in my 20s, you could afford to live in New York City - and it was fun; and you didn't need to be rich, but you weren't necessarily dirt-poor all the time either. It seems much harder to do that now. And, the landscape of Broadway has changed dramatically and ticket prices are extremely expensive and the audience that is coming to Broadway is getting smaller, too, in a way, I think. Certainly in my career, which is 20 years now, I've never seen as drastic a gutting of Broadway shows as is going on right now - all the shows closing this month. There are going to be, like, 8 empty houses. That's f*cking crazy - thousands of people not working. It's pretty harsh.

PC: The Nederlander Theatre wasn't even a theater anymore prior to RENT!

AP: I know! They refurbished the theater just for us, which was so great. You know, I remember having such reluctant feelings at the time about what they were going to do with RENT and where they were going to move us and if they would maintain the integrity of the show - and, as it turned out, it couldn't have been a better place than where they ended up putting us. Everything sort of just fit in to the story of how that show evolved - I mean, they couldn't have found a better spot for us than that. Everything about the rise and initial success of RENT, you couldn't write a better scenario.

PC: Bringing it back to your upcoming original musical - UNBREAKABLE?

AP: Yes, it's based on the M. Night Shyamalan movie UNBREAKABLE.

PC: Is he involved in any capacity?

AP: No, he is not involved. I'll tell you how it all happened: I saw the movie when it came out in 2000 and I left the theater having enjoyed the movie but not thinking, "I'm going to make this into a musical!" or anything. Then, a couple days after I saw the movie, I had a dream that it had been turned into a musical. And, I couldn't shake that idea - it was such a cool dream and it seemed like such an interesting thing. The more I thought about the dream, the more I was like, "Hmm. This could be a really interesting musical." So, I kept thinking about it and thinking about it and around that time I produced FULLY COMMITTED Off-Broadway and I sort of fancied myself a producer at the time, so I thought, "Let's see if I can't make this thing happen." So, I got in touch with M. Night's agent or whoever he was and they contacted him and he wasn't interested in giving me any kind of rights to pursue it. So, then, the idea fell by the wayside. Five years later, I went back to him again - again, same response: he wasn't interested - and then it fell by the wayside again. I couldn't shake the idea, though, so, about three or four years ago, I went to them again and I actually managed to personally get him on the phone this time - I don't know how I did it.

PC: What did you say?

AP: Well, I talked to him like I am talking to you right now - I told him about the dream and everything and he was just in a different place in his life or his career or whatever and it intrigued him now. He was like, "OK. What's the next step?" And, at that point, my idea was just to produce it and potentially be in it as the David Dunn character, who is played by Bruce Willis in the movie - not to write it. So, I thought I would try to get Radiohead to do the music - at that time SPIDER-MAN was in its throes of whatever it was going through; and I only bring that up because that had a score by U2 and you would think with U2 behind it the score would be brilliant, but that didn't necessarily happen. So, I told him and he said, "Oh, I love Radiohead! They are my favorite band!" So, between him and I we were able to get a hold of Thom Yorke, but he wasn't interested in pursuing it. Then, I had a couple more ideas of who I wanted to approach - a band called The Decemberists and a few other ideas. But, at the same time, I started having my own musical ideas of what could be done with it. So, in two days, I wrote and demoed the first 8 minutes of the show - more as just a demonstration of how it could be done more than anything else.

PC: And that's how you became the composer and lyricist.

AP: Right. So, he invited me down to his compound down near Philly, so I drove down there from New York and I played the demo for him and his partner - and they loved it. They said, "This is amazing! You should write this - keep doing it." So, I went home and I realized I had nothing - I was like, "I'm completely dried up!" and the thing sat around for like a year. I would occasionally go back to it, but every time I did I would be like, "I don't know what the f*ck I'm going to do." But, then, I got sober - I stopped doing drugs and I stopped drinking - and then it all started pouring out.

PC: The stopgap was cleared.

AP: It just poured out - yeah. So, I've been working with Danny Goldstein on it - who is an amazing director who did GODSPELL on Broadway. Rights-wise, M. Night owns his portion and Disney owns their portion and they both have been incredibly supportive of the project and of me - Tom Schumacher is a very good friend of mine and has always been very supportive of the idea all along. It's not something that they would ever produce anyway because it's not in their, you know, wheelhouse. He's been incredibly supportive and helpful in getting me where I am with the project.

PC: What a wonderful trip for the show to take - so far.

AP: What's really funny is that I am in a place now where I am not looking to be in it anymore because I am writing it - but I certainly have ideas of who I would like to see in it. I am pretty much done with the score, I am doing a rewrite of the script and then we are hopefully going to be ready to do a reading of it this Spring. I can't believe I am actually at the point where we are ready to do a reading of it.

PC: How about releasing a song or two to whet our appetites?

AP: Well, most of the demos have me singing the songs. I do have actors on some stuff doing it, but it's mostly me - even the female parts and everything. It's actually been really cool since one of the characters is a 12-year-old kid I actually had my son sing on the demo for that part - it's been really fun. I am really super excited about it. If nothing else, I think I've written a pretty great score and if nothing ends up happening with it I can always put it out as a record or something. We'll see.

PC: Is it sung through?

AP: It's not. It's sort of a combination of recitative, full-on songs and dialogue.

PC: In any event, it's a fascinating concept for a musical.

AP: I think so, too. One of the things that so intrigues me about it is that it is this superhero story but that is almost a backdrop to this story of this guy who is trying to hold his life together and reconcile his marriage and have his relationship with his son - it's really a story about a family with the backdrop of this guy discovering this incredible thing about himself. It's so intriguing to me.

PC: On the topic of great Disney composers, Stephen Schwartz and I recently discussed his song with Alan Menken for the movie NOEL, "Winter Light". Do you have any memories of recording it?

AP: Yes, I do - it's actually a really funny story. Stephen wasn't there when we recorded it, I don't think, though. But, they called me and they asked me to record this song for the soundtrack and I went up to Alan Menken's huge, huge farm and compound - and, this is so embarrassing - and I somehow left my house without my wallet. So, I get to his place and I do the song and as I am ready to leave I realize I don't have my wallet and my car is going to run out of gas on my way home. So, I say to Alan, "This is really embarrassing, man, but I forgot my wallet and I am going to run out of gas on my way home, so do you think I can borrow like $20 from you?!" [Big Laugh.]

PC: Mortifying!

AP: It was! But, Alan, since it is such a huge property with this huge farm, tells me he has his own gas station. His own gas station! He was like, "Oh, just go down there and tell so-and-so to fill it up," and so I went down to his own private little gas station and filled up my car.

PC: Was it a privilege to work with them on that song?

AP: Oh, of course - of course. Alan is such a nice guy, too. Listen, I am always so honored when people of that caliber ask me to be involved in anything that they are doing. You never know who's going to ask you to do what. I mean, last year my friend called me who is this big agent who also reps LL Cool J and he was recording this song down the street from my house with Eddie Van Halen and they needed a singer to come in and do a background part. So, my friend calls me up and says, "They are recording this song, would you come down to do a back-up part?" and I was like, "Are you f*cking kidding me?! Of course I will!" And, the next thing I know, I am in the recording studio with one of my all-time heroes, Eddie Van Halen, recording this song. I was like, "Holy f*cking sh*t!" You just never know where life is going to take you. I've gotten to work with my rock idols like Eddie Van Halen and Brian May and Elton John and Phil Collins, and then I've gotten to work with these amazing musical theatre people like Alan Menken and Jonathan Larson and Tim Rice. I've had an incredible career so far and I've been incredibly fortunate.

PC: Elton John and Tim Rice essentially wrote "Fortune Favors The Brave" in AIDA just for you, did they not?

AP: Yeah, it was a different song before me - I prefer to say that they wrote it for the show and they catered it to my vocal stylings, though, if you will. [Laughs.]

PC: That works, too.

AP: Since you mentioned it, I think that score is such an underrated score.

PC: It did win the Tony for Best Score, at least.

AP: It did win the Tony - you're right. But, some of those songs are among the best ever written for musical theatre, I think - you know, "Dance Of The Robe" and "Elaborate Lives".

PC: Do you still sing that in concert?

AP: I do still sing "Elaborate Lives", although I find that it's better when I have a female singer to do it with me. I've been doing this show called SEASONS OF BROADWAY with Telly Leung and Marcus Paul James and Mandy Gonzalez - we are doing it at BB King's on March 30, actually. We just did a few of the shows last year, actually - they were really fun. But, anyway, as part of that show, Mandy and I do "Elaborate Lives" together.

PC: Will your solo shows coming up be somewhat similar at both venues?

AP: Yes. I work with this piano player named Larry Edoff and we have worked together for several years - of course, we swap things out and do different songs, but the basic format is the same - we've been doing it for quite a while now. I tell some funny stories from my life and career and we sing some re-arranged versions of musical theatre songs and I do some rock songs, as well - some U2 songs and some other things. My last album, BLINDING LIGHT, was done with Larry, too.

PC: Will we hear a new solo album from you in 2015?

AP: Well, a lot of these songs that we have been doing in concert we have been recording and we are planning on releasing them this year - probably not as a full album or CD or anything, but just some individual songs on iTunes. Hopefully, we will have them out by this Summer.

PC: You are in LA predominately now, but will you come back to New York for the right show?

AP: Oh, yeah - probably. Obviously, I've come back twice - once for CHICAGO and once for MEMPHIS. And, I think that if I got a permanent gig, we all would probably move back - my kids are getting to the age where long separation really isn't healthy and we are all really close. I wouldn't want to be gone for too long - it's not good for a marriage and it's not good for a family to live apart for too long; it's just not healthy. So, you know, if I got the right gig, I think we would all move back together.

PC: Before then, how about a holiday album? It's working out pretty well for Idina, after all, isnt't it?!

AP: I know! I know! Seriously. I see how Idina's album is doing and I'm like, "Holy sh*t!" You know, she and I are just these two Long Island Jews, so it's like "Wait, why are you doing a Christmas album?" [Laughs.] But, it's really popular, man - so, you never know.

PC: This was absolutely spectacular, Adam. Thank you so much for this today.

AP: It was my pleasure, Pat. Take care of yourself. Bye.

Photo Credits: Walter McBride, Jennifer Broski, etc.


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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)