BWW Review: CONSTANTINE MAROULIS Plays the Last 'Broadway at Birdland' Before Broadway Goes Dark (Temporarily)
Birdland Jazz Club, NYC, March 9th, 2020
In the midst of all that has been canceled or postponed in the last few days, week, and weeks, it's hard not to take a moment and pull back the curtain. Maybe we took the shows for granted, with the emphatic-now proverbial-line of theatrical resilience, "the show must go on;" I certainly expected a different close to the end of March 2020 and looking forward to April. And so, too, was Constantine Maroulis, whose show did go on (before most of the closure announcements) and whose album, Until I'm Wanted, is due to come out shortly. It's a timely release, no doubt, for what is the subject of his album but a pithy exploration and self-critique into what has come and gone, love lost, and loves found, singing at one point, "for once in your life stop deceiving yourself."
Maroulis seems to hover between two contrasting styles and ideas, resembling perhaps his concrete past and the fluid, in-process future, each of which played out in his show as he followed the highlights of his career by sharing some of his favorite performances alongside songs from his upcoming album. Starting with "Cryin'" by Aerosmith (a song from Maroulis's appearance on American Idol), Maroulis showcased the pretty boy frontman he has always been, turning the corner of the jazz world into a rock hall with the frothy lines, "Love is sweet misery/I was cryin' just to get you/now I'm dying 'cause I let you/do what you do." Maroulis took us back to the beginning with new insights into the various performers who have impacted his career, some of which led to him playing iconic dream roles, such as Rent's Roger, and singing the song "One Song Glory." This song, in many ways, mirrors the effort that Maroulis seemed to convey with the songs on his album, "find Glory in a song that rings true."
Tony nominee Maroulis always focused on the "silver lining" and the opportunity for change in his music; even when choosing a song from Chess, he appeared to emphasize, "When I was 9 I learned survival" and from Jesus Christ Superstar, he sang, "Believe me my admiration for you hasn't died," before ultimately capping off his show with the singular 80's rock ballad of eternal hope, "Don't Stop Believin'." For most of his show, he was assisted on stage by Joshua Stephen Kartes at the piano, and at times he was backed up by childhood friend and guitarist, STATIC.
Maroulis also had special guest, Frank Wildhorn, behind the keys to showcase some of Wildhorn's newer musical projects. The best and most memorable of these was "Only She Alone/Never to Love" from Artus-Excalibur, which Maroulis seemed to fit well into the style of the Maroulis musical vibe. Premiering in St. Gallen, Switzerland around the same time I was there in 2014, it's mainly in German. However, from the English lyrics and nature of the music, a listener can infer correctly that it's a song by Lancelot about his sordid infatuation with Guinevere. Maroulis' rocker style seemed to fit well with the tone of the music, and the sentiment of his show matched the words, especially in lines like, "I hear her voice, and I'm cursed; Never to know, Never to Love." Maroulis also reminded us to cherish the moment, singing Wildhorn's classic song, "This is the Moment." Throughout the songs, the lyrics remind us to cherish the moment, including my favorite verse, "give me this moment, this precious chance/ I'll gather up my past, and make some sense at last!"
Photo Credits: Kevin Alvey.