BWW Review: CONSTANTINE MAROULIS Thrills at Birdland
Yesterday was a two-show day for this writer. Fortunately, both shows were in the same building: I was set to review the Natalie Douglas Tributes Nancy Wilson show at 7 pm at Birdland and the Constantine Maroulis show at 8:30 in the Birdland Theater (Everyone DOES know that there are two rooms at Birdland, now, right?), so it was destined to time out just perfectly. Arriving at Birdland at 6:45, a line of people out front could be observed. Not wishing to cut the line, I asked: "What are you guys in line for?"
An hour and forty-five minutes early. Not bad, Constantine. And who knew how long they had been there before I arrived? Not bad, indeed, Constantine.
Just as Ms. Douglas took her final bow, I ducked out of the big room and skipped down the stairs into the Birdland Theater, there to be met by a room filled with people. No, like FILLED. Gee, I thought, I hope they saved me a seat. Happily, the stellar staff at Birdland (no, really, STELLAR) did save me a seat, and a good one, too, one where I could see the show and even snap off some photos for this story - and, as luck would have it, a great seat for sitting back and watching the crowd, eight of which were men. Ok, maybe ten of them were men. The Birdland Theater was packed to the rafters with women of varying ages, demographics, types, and interests. They and everyone in the room had one thing in common: Constantine.
It cannot be denied that Constantine Maroulis has one of the great voices, one so rare and unbelievable that it could make an atheist believe in god, by simple virtue of the idea that the only way a man could have a voice like this would be divine intervention. Or maybe just a lot of study, practice, and training, but it's probably easier and definitely more dramatic to believe in a man with vocal cords touched by god. Nevertheless, when Maroulis entered the Birdland Theater and took to the stage, the throng of people were ecstatic to see him if a bit confused by his opening number, a medley of songs from West Side Story. It isn't that people aren't used to seeing a man in his 40's sing Tony's songs from West Side Story - anyone who has seen a stage production of the famed musical has already seen that - it was that this rock and roll singer chose this quiet, soulful, tender way to begin what people, no doubt, expected would be an evening of vocal pyrotechnics. There was, it turned out, a reason for the choice, as Maroulis charmingly recounted stories from his youth when he first became interested in performing and longed to play Tony in West Side Story. It never happened but the training he got during those young years set him up for a life filled with a love of the arts and the art of performing.
Wonderfully at home on the stage and with his audience, Maroulis shared many a tale about his time in show business, with vague references to the show that made him famous (vague because the audience doesn't need to be held by the hand, they know what he's talking about, like it's an inside joke that we are all in on) and an enormous catalogue of music to share, some of it musical theater-based, some of it from his American Idol days, and some of it brand new self-penned music. The evening was a well-rounded look at Constantine's life in the limelight, including chat about some movies upon which he has been working, the difficulties of the life of an artist and a refreshingly honest story about the depression an actor feels when they don't get a job they really wanted... including the process of getting out of that depression and getting on with it. The man is witty and pokes fun at himself, referring to himself as a 60-year-old wannabe rocker, and when he sings songs by Frank Wildhorn it is impossible to not acknowledge that he and the Jekyll and Hyde composer are tailor-made for each others' gifts. He socialized with the audience, letting them in and giving them a bit of who he is in real life, speaking of his search for true love and his life as a father to an eight-year-old daughter. It was, simply, an extremely enjoyable night.
Made confusing by one thing...
The audience gave him nothing.
Throughout much of the show, the audience response was polite, with applause after each song but little more. In fact, a few times Mr. Maroulis had to ask the crowd how they were doing, if they were having a good time, how they were feeling. They responded politely, but without the kind of outburst one would expect from a crowd of people willing to wait two hours to get into the venue. Baffled by the lack of response, I did the unthinkable: I took my eyes off of Constantine Maroulis to observe the crowd - and that is when I learned the reason why they were so quiet.
They were mesmerized.
The audience at the Constantine Maroulis concert at the Birdland Theater was not screaming and cheering for him because they were either completely enthralled by the man (elbows on tables, chins on hands, gazing lovingly), eyes closed and singing along (especially during "I Can't Make You Love Me") or they were concentrating on filming him with their phones and unable to either clap or scream. It wasn't that they weren't having a good time - these people, each and every one of them, were in their own private reverie, one created by the mere presence of Constantine Maroulis. It was like being at a Beatles or an Elvis concert, especially as Maroulis drew the evening to its close.
Having run the gamut from show music (thank heaven for the "Heaven on Their Minds/Pity the Child" mashup) to his own personal compositions from his forthcoming cd Until I'm Wanted (turns out Maroulis is quite the songwriter), Constantine ended the evening by turning playful with the audience. Well, more playful. In preparation for his final song, all he had to do was say
"The opportunity to create a leading role on Broadway..." and the audience went wild. The Tony Award nominee for Rock of Ages was about to give them what they came for. When the opening notes of "Don't Stop Believing" started, all were on their feet and many rushed the stage, arms in the air, dancing, singing along as their rock star sang with them, played with them, danced with them and then sent them home feeling like they had been to a rock concert.
And, honestly, who says they hadn't?
Follow Constantine Maroulis on Twitter @constantineM and Instagram @constantinemaroulis and Facebook @ConstantineMOfficial
And at his Website
Photos by Stephen Mosher