Robert Cuccioli understands the demands of a dual role, having achieved Broadway stardom in 1997 with a Tony-nominated performance in Frank Wildhorn's good vs. evil musical Jekyll & Hyde. Now the strong-voiced leading man is playing another man of science whose experiments take a dark turn: Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin in Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark. Cuccioli will have a busy fall, juggling his Broadway role with the release of his first solo CD, The Look of Love. After his first week in Spidey land, the fan favorite chatted with Broadway.com about his new gig, the forthcoming Main Stem return of Jekyll & Hyde and more.
How is your run in Spider-Man going so far?
It’s been great. The cast has been so welcoming, and the directorial team was open to my ideas. Sometimes you’re shoehorned into a character when you’re replacing somebody, but they are allowing me to bring my personality and persona to both of these roles. The transition couldn’t have been easier. The entire cast is top notch, and the ensemble works their butts off, god love them!
What did you think when you first saw the show?
I was overwhelmed. I sat up close, and it’s an enormous spectacle. I saw lots of things in my role that you can dig into. It’s not two-dimensional at all—there are many layers to the character. I am having a great time, and I can see that I will continue to have a good time for a ways to come.
Were you a fan of Spider-Man before this role came along?
I’m an enormous superhero and sci-fi fan, and Spider-Man was one of my favorites. I knew the original story behind the characters, so I was looking forward to playing this interesting creature.
What about the extreme makeup you have to wear as the Green Goblin —were you wary of that?
No. I wish there was more awareness that I am playing another character in the first act [Norman Osborn] who is the same person. I’d love for people to acknowledge both roles. But no, I’m not wary of it. I think it’s a great, fun character, and wearing the makeup and the costume is not a big deal.
Have you met [Spider-Man composer] Bono yet?
I haven’t met him or The Edge, but they did have a hand in the casting. My audition was videotaped and sent to London for them to have approval. I’m sure I will get to meet them at some point, and I look forward to that!
After all the angst surrounding Spider-Man's journey to Broadway, Bono and The Edge got the last laugh. The show is hugely successful.
It’s an enormous, sold-out hit, and audiences love it. Unfortunately, it still carries a little of the stigma with all the issues they dealt with in the beginning. [After being cast] I got so many complimentary e-mails from friends and fans saying, “Break a leg—but don’t really!” And I’m like, “You know, guys, actually this is the safest show on Broadway.” With the amount of oversight and the double checks and the triple checks that they do, I have no fears about what’s going on around me. I think that people should take a second gander at this show because it’s worthwhile family entertainment.
Jekyll & Hyde is headed back to Broadway with Constantine Maroulis, your former co-star in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Is it a bit of a relief that someone else is doing a role you've been so strongly identified with?
It’s a mixed blessing. It’s great to be associated with such a famous role in a famous show, and to have a hit song [“This Is the Moment”] attached to me. I don’t dislike that, though it’s nice to have people talk to me about other things, as well. I’m happy for him, and I’m curious to see what they do with the show.
Constantine came to your Spider-Man opening celebration. Did he ask your advice about Jekyll & Hyde?
No. He said, “If I have any questions, can we talk?” And I said, “Absolutely.” But he’s an accomplished singer and actor and he knows what he is doing.
It’s interesting that you’ve directed Jekyll & Hyde, too.
I’ve directed a number of productions of it. I’ve always been interested in directing, and I had my own ideas about the show that I wanted to incorporate since I had done three different versions of it. I actually came up with my own version, and I enjoyed being part of the entire process—the design, the casting and working with actors. It’s something I would like to do more of.
After the quick closing of Frank Wildhorn’s last two shows [Wonderland and Bonnie & Clyde], people may forget that Jekyll ran for more than three years on Broadway.
Yeah, and Frank is getting a bad rap. I think his work has gotten better and better; Bonnie & Clyde was a really wonderful show. I didn’t feel it deserved the lambasting that both he and the show got. Hopefully people will start seeing his worth.
Your new solo CD [The Look of Love, due October 8] was financed by fans through the web site Kickstarter. How did you decide to do that?
I had been involved with the Sundance Institute, and told me about a collaboration they had with Kickstarter. The same week, a friend told me about someone else who raised money for a project that way. I thought it was serendipitous, so I went to their offices, learned about it, and thought, “This is a viable way to get the album done.” It worked really, really well for me.
You offered fans some great perks for their investment, including a personal concert and access to the recording session. Did they take you up on it?
I have to figure out a way to schedule two [home concerts], but it’s going to happen. A number of people spent the entire day in the recording session; they loved seeing how these things happen.
How did you decide to concentrate on standards [such as “Love Is Here to Stay,” “Witchcraft” and “Prisoner of Love”]?
I was trying to come up with a theme for a concert, and I had the idea of a journey through past loves—the trials and tribulations, the successes and failures—and when I started listening to standards, the lyrics really spoke to me and told my story. I’ve been able to connect songs one after the other to tell an entire scenario of the beginning, the middle and the end of a relationship. From there, I developed an even deeper love for these songs.
Well, it seems like your real-life relationship with [actress] Laila Robins is going strong.
We’re trying! [Laughs.] She’s had a fantastic year [in off-Broadway’s Sweet and Sad and The Lady from Dubuque]. She’s been doing great work, and I’m very proud of her.
See Robert Cuccioli in Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark at the Foxwoods Theatre.