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Justin Guarini's 'AWAKENING'


American Idol runner-up, Justin Guarini, will star in the industry only Equity staged reading of the new musical THE AWAKENING OF ANGEL DeLUNA - with book & lyrics by Judylynn Schmidt, and music & lyrics by Lee Ellis - produced by Kate Griffler on Monday, March 23rd at Theater 80. Tracy Bersley directs and Barbara Anselmi acts as music director.

Set in a Hoboken Circus during the Great Depression, THE AWAKENING OF ANGEL DeLUNA weaves the enchanting tale of Angelina "Angel" DeLuna, a fallen trapeze star whose faith is tested when a mystical stranger comes to dismantle her beloved carousel. As Angel's carousel world comes crashing down around her - the lives of the entire circus troupe are forever changed as together they learn what truly matters in life.

Justin took some time out of his very busy schedule to check in with about the production, his inspirations and what's ahead for this talented young artist.

BWW: How did you become part of the reading?

Justin Guarini: I've been very fortunate to be a part of this project from the ground floor. After completing the book and score, Judylyn Schmidt (a long time friend) and Lee Ellis (a wonderful new friend) came to me and asked me to be a part of their original demo recording. I've been with this project for about 2 years, and I'm excited for the next step we're taking this month.

BWW: With the current economic climate, the musical with its setting of the Great Depression must be an interesting and sadly timely world to exist in, tell us about the story.

JG: The Awakening of Angel DeLuna has great metaphors for our times. It's a story of love, hope and redemption after great loss. I don't want to give it all away - but there's a real magical quality to the story; it's reminiscent of It's A Wonderful Life. The song I sing - Heart of Gold has a line, "whatever fortuNe You may hold...all that matters is your Heart of Gold." I think that's a sentiment that will resonate with many facing loss in our times. Angel DeLuna is a circus star who had a fall from the trapeze in 1905...We next see her thirty years later and discover that she has become the ticket taker for The Center of the Universe Carousel. She lives in her own fantasy world -speaking to the her carousel animals and the angels on the roof of the carousel.. It's the 1930;s... the Great Depression era; money is tight; so the circus owner is selling off the carousel to make room for a penney arcade... The dismantling of Angel's carousel is the dismantling of her entire universe...the carousel is not just her fantasy world; it's her life - her job - her past. I play Fred, her nephew whom she has raised at the carousel... and I have the job of taking apart my aunt's dream world, so to speak. As Angel's carousel world dissolves, the entire cast learns what truly matters in life. One of the tag lines for the show is, "finding your heart, as your world falls apart."

It's a great story with modern themes, set in a difficult economic time-period that people today can easily relate to.

BWW: Who is your character "Fred," what is his journey within the story?

JG: Well, Fred's basically the guy with the shovel who follows the Elephant around. He's a good person, who lives right, and knows there's got to be more to life that cleaning out the Elephants cages. Pile that ( no pun intended) on top of the fact that he's about to be a Father...and you've got a guy who feels a bit stuck. His journey takes him from wanting to run away from it all, to a place where he accepts his own greatness and is given an opportunity to be everything he's ever dreamed of being.

BWW: How would you describe the music of the piece?

JG: Absolutely beautiful...I know I'm biased, but it's true. Lee Ellis has created a wonderfully complex and fluid score that meshes carnival themes, lullabies, and beautiful melodies for Judylynn's characters. Fred's songs span the very bottom and top of my range, and are a fun challenge for me. 

BWW: You've seemingly mastered many different mediums as a young artist, but your history is certainly connected to the stage, can you give us a bit of your past training, your road as an actor. 

JG: I don't know about 'mastered', but I find myself enjoying many different mediums. I have a love for performance, and the stage is actually where I feel most comfortable in life. I've grown up around the lights and cameras; my mother was an anchor for CNN, and my Father a politician. My formal training began at University of the Arts with vocal performance, then music theater. I was one of the "lost ones" in college who had a great deal of natural ability but not the focus to mold it to any specific standard. Although I regret not working harder in school, I've been fortunate to grab the opportunities given to me, and use them as my training grounds. I can proudly say that I've been a consistently working member of the professional entertainment community for the past 6 years, and I'm continuing to grow and learn as I go.

BWW: Vocally, how are you shaping the role, do you find you use different aspects of your technique for something like a more intimate reading?

JG: Fred takes a journey from being a boy to a man in this story. He's innocent, but not naive. So while I'm keeping him simple, and young at the start, I'm taking care to let his power and depth (vocally) grow as the show goes on.

BWW: You've done so many varied and interesting things so far as a singer and actor, did you always intend for your career to have such a wonderful bilateral focus from the start?

JG: I've always wanted to be an entertainer. There weren't really any places I wouldn't go in my mind as a child...which would later lead to difficulty focusing in school, but ultimately to my career path being varied and successful. I host TV shows, a radio show, sing, act, and do voiceovers. I feel like a vaudevillian player bouncing from town to town getting work where he can and making a good living doing it. In todays economic climate I feel fortunate that I can mesh into a bunch of different roles as an entertainer. 

BWW: What inspires you as an artist? Do you pick songs or do they "pick you"?

JG: Events from my own life inspire me the most. I write almost all of my music (at this point) so I pick the songs. I actually write a lot of melancholy songs, which always strikes me as odd because I'm a very jovial person. It's just my way of expressing my sadness in a constructive manner, and making room for the joy that is my day to day companion.

Justin is currently hosting two shows for the TVGuide network (Idol Tonight, and Reality Chat: Idol Wrap), he also has his own radio show on, the virtual host for Disney's American Idol Experience. You can also find him video blogging weekly for 

He currently stars in season three of CMT's highest-rated original series "Gone Country," alongside legendary artists such as Sheila E. and George Clinton, and hosts a twenty-minute pre-show video recorded exclusively for the new American Idol Experience attraction at Walt Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. Since starring on American Idol, Mr. Guarini participated in the national Idols Live! Tour and performed for sold out audiences across the country. Mr. Guarini completed two studio albums including "Justin Guarini" produced by RCA Records and Clive Davis, and "Stranger Things Have Happened," and is currently working on his third album. He also starred in the films "From Justin to Kelly" with Kelly Clarkson and "Fast Girl" with Mircea Monroe and Caroline Rhea.

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