The 1980s have been very good to Constantine Maroulis: After making his Broadway debut in The Wedding Singer, the American Idol finalist received a 2009 Tony nomination (and Broadway.com Star of the Year honors!) for his performance as Drew in Rock of Ages. Now he’s getting back in touch with his inner headbanger in a six-week engagement headlining Back to the Eighties at the Canal Room. Maroulis recently talked about his new gig, plus the short-lived revival of Jekyll & Hyde, a possible Broadway return, and the joys of fathering Malena, his daughter with former Rock co-star Angel Reed.
Give us a preview of what’s happening downtown at the Canal Room. How did you get involved with Back to the Eighties?
Everybody associates me with the ’80s because of the Broadway shows I’ve done, and [Canal Room owner] Marcus [Linial] asked me to help expand the long running party he has on Saturday nights. The late show gets pretty crazy, so we’ve added an 8 o’clock show for all ages. We do songs from Rock of Ages and a Bon Jovi medley; I talk about how all the rock ballads of the ’80s were written in the key of G, and go through everything from Guns N’ Roses to Skid Row to U2. I’m having a great time.
Is it freeing to sing in a club rather than play a character on stage?
I’ve always had this duality: I grew up fronting garage bands and writing original music, but I was also a theater geek who did shows in high school and at Boston Conservatory. Right now, it’s great to be back in a club. I love the energy and I love showcasing the other musicians. I see a lot of potential with this as a national act. There are a lot of ’80s tribute band out there, but they don’t have me!
You got some good reviews last season in Jekyll & Hyde, but the revival did not. What’s your feeling about that experience now?
I knew what I was getting into from day one. I had been working on The Toxic Avenger out of town and we planned to bring it to Broadway, but when the Nederlanders offer you the title role in an iconic show like [Jekyll & Hyde], how do you pass it up? The team was amazing: [director] Jeff Calhoun was going to strip down the show; Deborah Cox was on board [as Lucy]. We did tremendous business on the road, but I knew there would be challenges coming in [to Broadway]. The season was filled with upbeat, family-friendly shows, and we had this dark, over-the-top rock piece with people singing their faces off.
Frank Wildhorn has a tough time with the critics.
I love Frank. He’s a tremendous writer—a guy who grew up playing in bands, like me, and kind of fell into musical theater. I think Frank has a big target on his head because he’s had a lot of success. The community had their claws out for us a little bit, but I’m very proud of my work on the show.
You mentioned The Toxic Avenger, and you’ve done readings of a musical set to Air Supply songs [Lost in Love] and one called Pump Up the Volume. What’s next for you on the New York stage?
I’m very much focused on The Toxic Avenger, helping to put the right people together. We have a lot of money committed for the show to come to Broadway, and I would love to see it happen as early as this spring! It’s got great songs and a very funny script; if a few things fall into place, we could really surprise people.
If I may be blunt, what would it take for you to cut your hair?
If someone wanted me to cut my hair for, let’s say, Cliff in Cabaret, I would do it tomorrow. No one would recognize me, which would be awesome—and sort of frightening, as well. I might need a wig stylist on call for auditions. I actually had a short-hair wig in Toxic Avenger that everyone thought was real. There’s a stigma involved in being the guy with the hair from American Idol, but I wouldn’t trade my experience on that for anything.
Now it seems like every Idol alum wants to do Broadway—and you’re the one with the Tony nomination.
It’s not a surprise to me that people who have been on singing shows end up on Broadway. A lot of us grew up with big voices and then got involved in theater. For me, theater is not a last resort, it’s the ultimate art form.
We ran an adorable photo of you and your two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Malena, at a recent Little Mermaid screening. What’s she like?
She took to that red carpet like she was Madonna’s daughter! [Laughs.] She’s a very bright little girl, very tall for her age. I grew up 20 miles outside the city in New Jersey, so she gets to spend a lot of time with her Greek grandparents, her Yaya and her Papu. She’s amazing. I think we have a future ballerina or musical theater actress on our hands.