Rock of Ages has been a continued success -- beyond being nominated for five Tonys -- because it was able to overcome one of the toughest things that faces any musical, according to one of its stars.
"Musical theater is not something that most dudes just flock to. Well, we created a dude musical, basically. And that's been a big part of our core audience," says former American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis, who was among those Tony award nominees last year for his performance as Drew in the show that will be at the Hobby Center later this month.
The irrepressible Maroulis who termed ROA "a big old hit record for me," told Art Attack he also thinks his casting in the show added to its "romanticism."
His character is "a sort of underdog," Maroulis said. "Most people think I play some kind of rock star. I don't. I play this wannabee barback who's just trying to write a song and make it in the business, and he meets this tremendous girl and she changes his life. I think there's been this sort of thing that people have been rooting for me. I didn't win [American Idol] but I'm winning."
The show is densely packed with songs from the '80s. Maroulis said he grew up with the music of Bon Jovi, Poison and Twisted Sister. He wasn't as well acquainted with the Journey, Styx and Foreigner songs - he'd heard them but didn't have them memorized before starting with Rock of Ages.
Asked for his favorite songs, he said it doesn't get much better than when two and a half hours into the show he gets to sing the Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." He also says it's a great moment when he gets to sing the Damn Yankees' "High Enough," and at the end of Act I "when I get to wail that high note" with "Here I Go Again."
Asked if there were any songs in the show he didn't like, Maroulis said there weren't any, but added that "None of the songs are very easy to sing. There are times when I'm like 'Oh boy, how am I going to get this one out?'"
In response to a question about how many former American Idol contestants have gone on to perform on Broadway, Maroulis made it clear that he has been involved in musical theater and acting since he was young, long before American Idol.
"I think it's not entirely fair to couple us all together," he said. "I graduated the Boston Conservatory with a BFA in musical theater long before American Idol, and I was in Rent touring the country long before American Idol. And the opportunity to create a role on Broadway for me which would have been my second show on Broadway after The Wedding Singer was always a dream of mine."
"I thought that a lot of the Idols have done great work on Broadway, some of us do grow up with theater," he said.
"When Diana [DeGarmo] went in and filled in at Hairspray. That was a cute role for her to do. When Taylor [Hicks] came in to sort of in a stunt cast to do the Teen Angel in Grease. Same with Fantasia [Barrino] and Clay [Aiken]. I don't know how many would create a role and have the success that I have been blessed with. I hope that they do."
And he said he's happy with Broadway, rather than crossing the country with a rock band.
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"This has been a part of my DNA.. I left the band many many years ago after American Idol to sort of pursue other endeavors. I did a long stint on a soap opera. I did plays off- Broadway and on Broadway."
He also credited the Rock of Ages production and creative teams with the show's success. "They just swung for the fences. No one was making a lot of money at first. They believed in this project. They approached me many years ago about this show. We always stayed in contact. They took a risk; in ways, there's a bit of stigma attached to American Idol at times. But knowing my background in theater and the classical acting and the training and my passion for that medium, it worked out and we partnered up."
But Maroulis is ready to move on, he said. "I'm going to hang up my leather jacket with Rock of Ages at the end of July. It's bittersweet, but I feel like I've accomplished everything I set out to do." Asked for his plans he deadpanned: "I'm going back to waiting tables," before adding no, he's got plans for more recordings. That and spend time with his daughter, Malena James Reed-Maroulis, who is "just four months and change."
Theatre Under the Stars presents Rock of Ages, running May 31 through June 12 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. Ticket information is available at 713-558-8887.