Constant craving

Constantine Maroulis is another kind of idol in ‘Rock of Ages’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

rock-of-ages-Constantine-DanLippitt
HAIR APPARENT | Like Jennifer Hudson, Constantine Maroulis turned ‘American Idol’ also-ran status into acting cred. (Photo courtesy Dan Lippitt)

Save for Charlie Sheen, sometimes it’s not all about winning — but placing in the top 10 never hurts.

Coming in sixth on season 4 of American Idol has only been a boon for Constantine Maroulis. Without the scrutiny of a No. 1 finish but with plenty of national exposure, he landed high profile stage work (snagging a Tony nomination) and an upcoming album. And he’s far from done.

“I’m looking forward to what’s next and I want to continue new roles and projects,” he says. “I plan to tour and get the material out there. I’m a live performer and I wanna get my band out on the road. I wanna gig.”

If he sounds antsy, perhaps that’s because he recently announced an end to his three-year gig as Drew Bowie, the wannabe rocker in the jukebox musical Rock of Ages, which opens at the Winspear this week. His last performance isn’t until July, but in the meantime, he’s still ready to rock it.

“It’s been huge for me on many levels as an actor and being acknowledged by my community,” he says. “I was a rock star wannabe growing up with these songs from Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and other songs in my wheelhouse. This is a true artistic achievement and for it to all work out in this time when so many shows come and go, we’re kicking a lot of ass.”

Confident much? Oh yes. At times, Maroulis doles out a precious combination of swagger and thespic brazenness. He takes his work seriously, but his language can be as blown out as his luxurious mane.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished what I need,” he says. “With the five Tony nominations and now we’re a worldwide brand, I ask myself, ‘How the fuck did this kid do this every day for this many years?’ I mean, it’s pretty freaking impossible to do.”

But in a moment, he softens when he talks about his daughter. The rock star is gone and the doting dad appears.

“Malena was born this past December and I’m just so very thrilled,” he says. “And she’s growing up so fast, it’s amazing! I only get to see [her and her mother] every few weeks so that’s why I am looking forward to the end of this tour.”

With a family and budding career, American Idol doesn’t linger as much. While he’ll always be associated with it, Maroulis has proven to be a hot commodity on his own.

“I am a competitive person and I try to be No. 1,” he says, “but I think it was fate for me to go home early as it was fate for Carrie [Underwood] to win. She is the American idol. I like to fly a little more under the radar and have a nice flow of steady work.”

Heavy metal may not seem like the biggest gay draw, but lest people forget, it’s really just one step removed from drag: With the long hair, eyeliner and glitzy outfits, Rock of Ages tells Drew Bowie’s story of busboy-turned-rock-god with both comedy and ‘80s throwback tunes. Think of it as a swirl of the films Footloose and Rock Star with a heavy dash of Glee and glam metal — and it’s just as fabulous as Mamma Mia. As for Maroulis, whatever the medium, it’s about the art.

Just don’t ask him if he’s ever forgotten the words to a song.

“Well no, but now you jinxed me,” he says.
My bad.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Tuna fresh

New sets, new costumes but same classic cast as ‘Tuna Christmas’ rings in the new year in North Texas. So what is life like there in a post-DADT world?

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  jones@dallasvoice.com

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FELIZ NAVIDAD, LUPE! | Vera Carp (Jaston Williams) will have a traditional, Christian Christmas if she has to kill for it. Welcome to Tuna, Texas.

A TUNA CHRISTMAS
Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. Dec. 28–Jan 2. $29–$59.
972-744-4650.
EisemannCenter.com

…………………..

It’s not that Jaston Williams dislikes Christmas — it’s that growing up, it wasn’t exactly The Brady Bunch Holiday Special.

“We always called Christmas ‘blood and holly’ around my house,” Williams cracks with his signature Texas twang. “My mother could really make it rough. When there was company or a party you’d go from this loose experience to Franco’s Spain in a second. I figured it out by the time I was a teenager that I wasn’t wild about this holiday at all. This whole nostalgic, let’s-go-home-for-Christmas thing? Nah. Give me a good hotel with an open restaurant and room service anytime.”

Still, the holiday has been pretty good to Williams. With his writing, acting and now producing partner Joe Sears, Williams is enjoying more than 20 years of steady winter employment with A Tuna Christmas, which returns to the Eisemann Center for a week-long run Tuesday. The first sequel to their hit play Greater Tuna (nearing its 30th anniversary), it’s the only one of the shows to have a run on Broadway (earning a Tony nomination) and has been a staple of the season.

If you haven’t seen it (what’s wrong with you?), it tracks life in a tiny Texas town on Christmas Eve as the quirky residents (all played by Williams and Sears) reinforce and undermine stereotypes about small-town attitudes. And even at its age, it still seems fresh.

“We wrote is as Reagan had just come into power — that’s how old we are,” Williams recalls of the original play. “It was in response to the Moral Majority and their idiotic notions” — and Tea Partiers aren’t far removed from that. And contrary to popular opinion, they do not update the script.

“People constantly say, ‘You’ve added so much!’” Williams says. “I don’t even deny it anymore. Especially with Tuna Christmas we’re trying not to change things — though God help you if your cell phone goes off with Dede onstage. It’ll be like being locked in a phone booth with Patti LuPone.

“The temptation to comment on what’s going on today is so strong that if we started we’d never stop. So it’s set in time. No one in Tuna has a computer; they still have cords on the phones. And no one tweets — they’ll fine you. Vera has banned the word. It sounds dirty enough to ban.”

None of which is to say the show doesn’t get a makeover every so often. The duo still rehearses regularly, tweaking bits and polishing moments, and the current production features all-new sets and costumes.

“Joe and I are producing it ourselves now,” says Williams. “All these people who produce theater and want people to think it’s really, really hard so they won’t do it. But it was kinda like being in the Mafia. You think, ‘I’ve been watching this jerk kill people for 15 years — why can’t I do it?’ We’ve scaled it down and made it better. I’m very proud of it.”

Williams himself is closer to living the Tuna experience than ever — though its different in many ways to the one imagined 30 years ago. He and his partner, Kevin, moved with their adopted teenaged son to the little burg of Lockhart, Texas, and are proud to see the culture developing.

“One thing I can say about small-town people is, they believe their lyin’ eyes: They see two men raising a child and taking out the trash and they are changing their attitudes [about gay people]. It’s pretty amazing.”

(Williams is tickled as most gays are “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, though, and thinks it was dumb to enact in the first place: “I was in the gay bars in the ‘70s. You get the right lesbian pissed off with weapons and they’re gonna take some territory. The ones who should really be afraid of gays in the military are our enemies.”)

The guys are off from performing Dec. 24 and 25, but will be doing a New Year’s Eve performance in Richardson, which Williams calls “one of the stranger nights of the year to perform, You really want to do a good show but it’s such a bizarre holiday. People feel obligated to have some transformative experience and they know they aren’t going to.” Though if they go to Tuna, they just might.
Merry Christmas, Jaston.

“And a Merry Tyler Moore to you, too,” he answers.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Stage star Gavin Creel to perform at Black Tie

2-time Tony nominee will join with TCC to headline 2010 fundraiser

From Staff Reports editor@dallasvoice.com

From Broadway, to London’s West End to Dallas, two-time Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel is coming to Texas in November to appear as the headlining entertainer for the 2010 Black Tie Dinner.

Creel will join Dallas’ own Turtle Creek Chorale in performing a special arrangement in honor of BTD beneficiaries to open the dinner, BTD officials said.

BTD Co-Chair Ron Guillard said organizers are “thrilled these two talents will unite on one stage.”

“Gavin brings an incomparable and raw sense of emotion to every performance. Combine that with the powerful voices of the Turtle Creek Chorale and we know our audience will experience a real treat,” Guillard said.

Creel first won Broadway acclaim for his leading role opposite Sutton Foster in the 2002 production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which earned him a Tony Award nomination as best actor. The show won the Tony for best musical.

Last year, Creel was in the revival of “Hair,” playing the hippie Claude. He earned his second Tony nomination with that effort.
He’s currently performing in London’s West End.

Off stage, Creel is one of the founders of Broadway Impact, an organization fighting for equality and LGBT civil liberties. He is a regular performer on R Family Cruises with Rosie O’Donnell and is planning the release of his second studio album. BTD Co-Chair Nan Arnold noted that the announcement of Creel’s performance with TCC at the dinner comes less than a week before table captain table sales begin for this year’s event.

Arnold said, “All of these organizations have been standing strong, providing valuable services and programs to our community — some of them for decades — and we look forward to celebrating them in this exciting manner this year.”

Black Tie officials announced earlier this year that the Rev. Carol West will receive the Kuchling Humanitarian Award at the 2010 dinner, and that this year’s Elizabeth Birch Equality Award will be presented to American Airlines. Officials said other announcements about the 2010 dinner are coming soon.

Dinner organizers have not yet announced the keynote speaker for the event in November, or this year’s Media Award winner.
Online table captain table sales begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 30 at BlackTie.org/tablecaptains. Sponsor level placements, which include premium table placement and other benefits, are already available at BlackTie.org/sponsors.

For more information about table captain sales, contact Mitzi Lemons by e-mail at mlemons@blacktie.org or by phone at 972-733-9200, ext. 7. For sponsor information, contact Maggie McQuown by e-mail at mmcquown@blacktie.org or by phone at 972-733-9200, ext. 8.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice