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INTERVIEW: Actor And Musician Constantine Maroulis On The Who, New Music, "Rock Of Ages," Why Broadway Will Come Back Bigger And Better Than Ever, And More

Nicole Barylski

Broadway star Constantine Maroulis. (Photo: Tyler Gustin)

The Who fans are in for a real treat on Friday, April 30 when Reflections of Who's Next debuts. Presented by The Rock Project, the spectacular will be available to stream via Bay Street through Sunday, May 2.

The tribute will pay homage to the 50th anniversary of the band's legendary triple-platinum album - which reached Number 1 on the UK's Top Ten chart and Number 4 on the US Billboard chart, as well as other iconic The Who hits, during a special performance featuring notable Broadway voices - including Constantine Maroulis (two-time Tony Award nominee, Jekyll and Hyde, Rock of Ages, American Idol), Lana Gordon (Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King), Justin Matthew Sargent (Bay Street's My Life Is A Musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ Superstar), and Michael Wartella (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tuck Everlasting, Wicked).

We caught up with Maroulis about The Who's fifth studio, Rock of Ages, the return of Broadway, and much more. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

You performed out here a few years ago, right?

CM: I have played out there a bunch. I'm from the city originally, but I grew up in New Jersey. So probably find myself down the shore a bit more than out east. But, you know, when duty calls - because I certainly have some fancy friends that have hosted. I've played some private events and played the Talkhouse.

You originated the role of Drew in Rock of Ages, which earned you a Tony nomination, so you're no stranger to bringing iconic rock songs to the stage. Why was this project something that interested you?

CM: Well, thank you. Yes - and we just actually had a massive streaming concert with Rock of Ages this past weekend. It was a great success. After nearly 15 months of really itching to get on stage, we had so much success with that. I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Look, I mean, The Who essentially created the rock opera, and that's just what I was born to do. I grew up as a musical theater geek, but also a real rock n' roller - and I was always able to kind of do both. To be able to do both in theater was always my dream, to be like the rock tenor of Broadway was something I actually thought about when I was a kid. I've been blessed with the opportunity to be that guy many a time. Certainly, The Who has an incredible catalog and the fact that we're able to celebrate it with this awesome concert is a blessing for sure.

I have to admit, I'm a huge Rock of Ages fan. I've seen it so many times.

CM: Oh, cool. It just is the perfect show. We were so lucky to have that opportunity to bring such a fun piece of theater to the world. And obviously the great songs and the fun, sexy MTV era time period, but really just underneath it these great characters, a show about dreams, a show about finding love, and have such a massive community of talent that I got to be a part of. Spending the last week in LA with all of these Rock of Ages maniacs was pretty fun, for sure.

But you know what's interesting about Reflections and this concert, it's not a show that we got to rehearse for months and months. For the Rock of Ages concert, we didn't perform the whole show, we performed highlights of the show, it was incredibly well rehearsed and prepared. There's a raw element to this concert that we're streaming this weekend. We met the band like the day before we filmed. Some of the other actors I had never met before. You quickly get familiar with each other, we didn't spend weeks in a rehearsal room. We basically staged it in one day and shot it the next. I think that's what's gonna be cool about this because it's a massive production. We're talking a dozen cameras, crane shots, jibs, steady cams, little GoPro shots, handhelds, everything, it's gonna sound amazing. Costume changes, a big LED screen, an awesome band from Long Island, Wonderous Stories, and four actors, really, that represent the modern Broadway performer - someone that is also a songwriter, a performer and artist, not just an actor or whatnot. We're used to standing in front of a band and playing as well. I think they really captured something here. And I can't wait to get it back into a rehearsal room to really discover what it is and what it can be when we go out and tour this thing, hopefully in let's say '22.

Are there any concrete plans? Or is it just in the early stages of development?

CM: Absolutely, there's plans to tour the show and presenters across the country are so excited to have it be a part of their season. To be able to shoot it at the Tilles Center, really a gem of a performing arts center, right there at Long Island University. I just can't say enough about the space. I had a Broadway show that toured called Rocktopia, which was a show that sort of melded classical music and rock n' roll together. One of our first tour dates was actually at the Tilles Center. That was basically where we launched a tour of it - myself, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, a bunch of opera singers, and amazing performers. So, I've seen that place packed with 2,000/3,000 people. It was a different vibe shooting a big rock concert there in front of no people, because of everything going on, but it still just felt so good to be back on stage with a mic in my hand and the great band behind me and singing great tunes.

Over the past year, there haven't been many chances to perform live. What did it mean to you to be back on stage?

CM: You know, it makes you feel alive. We've all been through so much. This last year and a half I lost one of my dearest friends, Nick Cordero, a Broadway actor, a brother of mine, part of my Rock of Ages family. On my trip to LA, I got to meet his son and I saw Amanda, his wife, and you know, we're all just worn out. We've been through so much - and there's something about rock n' roll that just makes you feel alive again. No matter what age you are, everybody loves The Who. You start hearing those guitars come in, and it's just like, whoa, there's just such a sense memory. It almost brings you right back to where you were the first time you heard that record. I just remember thinking to myself, how is this band this good? There's three musicians and a singer, how are they playing all of this? The psychedelic element of it, the power, the vulnerability, the sophistication, the storytelling, the fullness, the abstract elements of it, there's just everything that I dig in there. It just felt amazing.

I got to meet Pete Townshend a couple of years ago at this big event we do every year called Rockers on Broadway, which is a benefit for The Actors Fund, who our community has leaned on them heavily during this time. They've helped so many, so many people in need, and I got to meet Pete because Donnie Kerr, who runs Rockers on Broadway, did Tommy with him in the '90s on Broadway. They're dear friends. We honored Pete and Pete was just hanging out backstage with us, just like strumming on his acoustic and I was just like, holy shit, this is cool.

All the worlds are colliding and coming together, and I feel like this is exactly what we need. It's not your typical Zoom concert. It's going to be beautiful. And it's going to sound awesome and raw. I think it's exactly what people need. And by the way, pretty cheap ticket. We're doing that because we know what everyone's been through. We want everyone to have an escape, and it's the perfect weekend to do so.

This may be a hard one to answer, but do you have a favorite The Who song - or one from Who's Next?

CM: To be honest, Who's Next was a record I wasn't as familiar with. I know the tunes, but I just love "The song is over. It's all behind me." That's what I start the show with, because there's so much symbolism in it. Not to get too actory, but there's a lot of repetitiveness, but in the repetitiveness you have to make each one of those phrases different for yourself as far as storytelling. When I work with younger actors, musical theater hopefuls, when you have repetition there's a reason it's written that way. Like in Shakespeare when there's repetition, you have to keep heightening and heightening and heightening. That tune is really cool because the song is not over, it's never over. There's so much going on in that, so that tune I just love. And then it's got that big chorus: "I'll sing my song to the wide open spaces." And the band is just rocking behind me and it keeps climbing and climbing and climbing and it gets up there. It's got some really big levels to it. That song, to me, I cannot get it out of my head since this concert.

Obviously the big classics from Quadrophenia and Tommy as well that we'll feature. Pinball Wizard, Acid Queen, Long Live Rock - so many great tunes. And Lana is just total diva. She's just gonna smash it. I don't know if anyone's gotten to see the Tina Turner documentary that is so brilliant on HBO Max, but she sort of elicits this kind of Tina Turner energy that's just sick. She's got her cool dresses, her rock star hair, and she just comes out in spades, for sure. Justin and I go way, way back. Justin looks like he's chiseled out of stone. It's just like let me paint the perfect leading man, pretty boy front man - and that is Justin Sargent, for sure. His voice is just godly. And Mike is just awesome. Mike can do anything, he's sort of a character actor, but then you see him grab the guitar and you push the camera in on him, and he's just the star. He's got this vulnerability. He's got this insane, powerful rock tenor voice. But he's just like bouncing around the stage. We've all kind of been through so much, like I said, so I think you're gonna see that emotion explode in the concert.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

CM: Yeah, you know me, I just think I have that Greek blood in me, that Jersey, blue collar, born in Brooklyn attitude, and I am always doing new stuff. I put out a new album over the pandemic, probably not a great idea, but I was sitting on it, and we debated whether to hold it and whatnot. So, I put it out and it's been doing great. My single, All About You that I co-wrote with Sam Hollander, one of the biggest writers in music today, a dear friend. You know him from Panic! At The Disco and Fitz and The Tantrums and all kinds of tunes. Our song, All About You, has been on heavy rotation at Sirius XM for six months. It's just been streaming really well. So, it's called Until I'm Wanted and it's a collection of sort of rock n' roll love letter tunes. It's a short setlist, but we already are working on the next record. I actually hope to maybe even put it out before the end of the year, which would be insane for me because it has been a decade, a strong decade plus since I put out an original record, because of my work on Broadway and stuff.

A couple of movies. Dark State is hitting video on demand May 4, May the Fourth Be With You. And Either Side of Midnight, directed by Roger Spottiswoode - an amazing director of James Bond in the '90s and whatnot. It's a cool independent film about all these New York stories coming together over the course of the night with like a real strong ethnic kind of vibe about it. I'm a part of this very eclectic Greek storyline. And that's hitting the festivals now.

So lots of fun stuff. I'll be playing some shows this summer. I'm always playing, I've got shows in New Hope in May on the 22nd and 23rd at the Bucks County Playhouse, sort of my Broadway cabaret show and playing some rock shows with my band The Frequency all summer long.

We're starting to chip away, we're starting to open up a little bit. We want to do it safely, we want everyone to feel safe. I've been vaccinated, double vaxxed, since early March. l I feel like it's time to get back to some work. We'll play some outdoor shows this summer. It's interesting, the sky definitely felt like it was falling March of 2020. And you pivot and you try to figure things out. I got back to teaching and just really taking care of my daughter, I have an elderly surviving mother and my daughter is so resilient. We live in this great community in North Jersey. They've done just an incredible job making it normal for the kids. We've kept them in school all this year. She's been in person, we do a little remote in the afternoon. She's on the travel soccer team and tennis, with protocols, but they've kept it going year-round. My sister's a principal in Allendale, New Jersey, and if you guys only knew what kind of work... They're putting in 20 hours a day it feels like eight days a week, just to keep this all rolling for these kids. So, you get back to basics. It's like circle the wagons, take care of your family and start chipping away at work. But you know, it's starting to feel normal.

I hope people tune in. There's something for everyone in it. I hope that the summer out east, it looks a little better than it did last summer. And then next summer, it will be even a little better than that. And slowly, we'll get back to where we were. Or maybe we'll just get to a new better place. I think that's part of it, too. I think we're going to experience some sort of Renaissance, for sure, really, the new roaring '20s.

Our "new normal." Everyone's favorite phrase. Is there anything else you would like to add?

CM: It's always great if people want to keep the conversation going. Follow me on the socials: @ConstantineMaroulis on Instagram @ConstantineM on Twitter, www.constantinemaroulis.com, the website has all the dates.

Just excited to present the show, and hopeful that we can get Broadway back up and running again. There's been some cool film and television opps. I think they can just do things a little bit more safe with a controlled set. But it's just hard with the theaters because there's just so many bodies and getting people in and out of facilities and loading them in and out of theaters. Hopefully this fall we can start to see shows start to open up again. We've survived so much, our community, just in the last 20 years, since 9/11. No one thought Broadway could ever come back. And it did. No one thought we could survive the market crash of 2008. We did. And we came back bigger and better than ever - shows like Rock of Ages, Book of Mormon. Obviously, Hamilton. Shows that we never could have ever imagined being on Broadway, breaking every rule - and we'll do it again.

I know I personally look forward to seeing a Broadway show when it's safe.

CM: I mean, come on, right? And think of all the young writers out there too, that are working on the next thing. I just think there's going to be so much to say and such originality. And we were there too. We were building so much great momentum into a new phase of Broadway, finally, two decades into this millennium, creeping out of the 20th century way of thinking with things. Kind of finding out what this new medium is with social media. We used to think it would hurt the theater, but it only makes it better.

And if you see this show, you're not going to be like, oh, it's in Columbus this weekend. But I saw it online. No, you're gonna now want to go see it in person, meet the actors, and feel the energy. Same with any other touring show. I think we're finally understanding that, which is cool. Paula Abdul did say I would make Broadway cool.

Reflections of Who's Next premieres on Friday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $25.

For tickets, or more information, visit www.baystreet.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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