If you haven’t been keeping up with rocker Dee Snider in recent years, you might see him as a relic of the metal era. But you’d be wrong. Sure, he’s the frontman of Twisted Sister, the 1980s metal band behind rock anthems like “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and “I Wanna Rock,” but Snider is more renaissance man than rock star: He’s a radio host. He’s a published author. He’s written a movie. He starred in a movie. He is the national spokesperson for Bikers for Babies, part of March of Dimes. He also stars, with his family, in his own A&E reality show, Growing Up Twisted. The latest feather in this man’s ever-growing cap? Broadway star. Snider recently made his Broadway debut in metal musical Rock of Ages as club owner Dennis. Broadway.com managed to snag the busy Snider, to find out how a rock star feels under the footlights.
We have to know: how does Dee Snider, rock star become Dee Snider, Broadway star?
Let me just say, I didn’t ever plan anything in my life. When I first saw Rock of Ages off-Broadway I thought, I’d like to play the part of that club owner. It started almost as a joke, like "Hey, wouldn’t it be great to have Dee up there?" Over the past two years I kept saying sure, absolutely, I’d love to. And then in September I came home from safari with my family, and my manager says, "You’re in the show!"
Is this your first time on stage as an actor?
Well, I have some experience. I was in William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life in the 12th grade. Being on Broadway is much better, because after the show you don’t have to take down the set.
Now that you’re a bona fide Broadway performer, what are the biggest differences between the theater world and the rock world?
The camaraderie and support from the cast blows my mind. I’m used to the rock 'n' roll world where support is a dirty look. On opening night cast members came up and were giving me cards and gifts; in my world you’d get the middle finger. I’m really, dare I say, moved by the spirit and the enthusiasm. I’m having feelings I haven’t had in years, I thought all sensitivity was burned out of my system!
Any other feelings?
A big thing was butterflies. I woke up the day of my put-in, and my stomach felt weird. My wife said, "Those are butterflies, Dee," and I said, "What? I don’t get butterflies! I’m Dee Snider, dammit, I go on stage in front of 50,000 people and I feel nothing!"
Are the butterflies still with you?
Not at all. They got one day, then I said get the hell out of here.
Not even on opening night?
Nope, just for my put-in. A lot of the producers were there, the director, the choreographer, the lead actors—all of the key people. So there I was in my full costume, which feels like the equivalent of being nude when everyone else is standing there in their street duds. That’s when I was the most nervous.
How did it go?
When producers bring in someone like me, I guess there are low expectations. Maybe that’s why everyone is so impressed. Everyone’s saying I’m amazing, and I’m going, "I’m not really amazing. What were you expecting, total dog shit?" But they’ve been happy, and I’ve really attacked this like it’s important to me, because it is. I want to do it well.
You were a part of the real Rock of Ages era and two of your songs are in the show. Is it weird seeing this part of your life on a Broadway stage?
I describe me being in Rock of Ages like having an actual Tyrannosaurus on the set of Jurassic Park. People look at me and say, "He was there during the metallazoic era!" It’s weird because there are people acting this era and then there’s me, who is old enough to have been there and been a part of it. And they’re singing my songs! It’s surreal for everyone.
Is it just this show, or is being on Broadway surreal?
For a complete outcast, it’s amazing that people approve of and like me. I had this conversation with Alice Cooper recently where I said, "What the hell man, you and me, we were the scourge of society and now people seem to like us!" Alice, who is 10 years older, said "yeah, they get used to you." It’s like if you hang around long enough you’re like Norm on Cheers, you become part of the fabric of Americana. I guess I refused to leave and now everyone’s used to me.
You’ve done just about everything. How do you have time for it all?
When you sit out for a decade, you really embrace activity. The '80s were like YEAH! and then the '90s arrived, and I was sitting in my basement waiting for the phone to ring. I reinvented myself, found new places in radio, TV and writing and I am not letting go of this. You’ve just gotta keep going and be glad that people are interested in you.