Constantine Maroulis is an actor, producer, singer and songwriter best known for his Tony-nominated performance in Rock of Ages and as a finalist on American Idol. His upcoming album will be released in 2018 and he is now starring in a new, original show off-Broadway called BULLDOZER: The Ballad of Robert Moses.
What drew you to the role of Robert Moses?
I think every actor is always curious when an opportunity comes their way, particularly with a new work, so it always piques your interest. New work, starring role, let’s take a look at it. Then I got to meet Peter [Galperin] and we quickly became very good friends. He is a hyper-intellectual fellow, very talented, and although this is really his first musical, I think it’s excellent. I love the music, it spoke to me.
I am a true New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, New York and I know Robert Moses’ work from the 20th century, just having grown up here, and of course, his relationship with Nelson Rockefeller– the innovations, the infrastructure he built and envisioned, but also the divide that he created among minorities in our beautiful city as well is something quite historical that happened in the 20th century in New York. I mean, he created the government housing concept, “ghettos.” He is sort of a polarizing individual and I thought I could bring something interesting to the role. If we could bring the audience in in a genuine way from the beginning and maybe get them to even like him and understand where he is coming from at first and then see a tragic downfall– I thought it could be an interesting show.
What do you think audiences are going to take away from this show?
Well, it’s a wonderful space. The theater at St. Clemens is a great theater and a desirable one for lots of shows that want to start off‑Broadway, so we have the luxury of having an amazing space to work in, an old Gothic church turned into a theater. We really turned it almost a construction site in ways. Scaffolding makes up most of the set. It’s crude and simple.
There are five actors in the show only so some of the actors play multiple characters. It’s going to play 90 minutes straight without an intermission and that’s exciting for all these actors to keep pounding away.
I think audiences are going to be surprised at how cool the music is, it’s original and unique. I don’t think there is really a basis for comparison. I think the dialogue plays really well. It’s a tight little show. Everyone gets a nice showcase for themselves. It’s certainly not just about me. Kacie Sheik is wonderful. Molly Pope is wonderful. Ryan Knowles plays several parts which is very cool, shows his flexibility. And it’s a super tall cast because Wayne Wilcox and I and Ryan are all over 6’3″ so you don’t normally see three tall guys in the same cast, so it’s kind of fun.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time on American Idol? What was the most challenging part of being on that show?
God, I can’t believe how many years it’s been– probably 12 years or so but I remember everything so fondly. Really. I remember the day I went down to Washington D.C. with an old girlfriend of mine at auditions. We sat in line – well, to be honest, we cut the line and I remember those few days like they were yesterday. I remember Hollywood Week. Although I had training and I had been on tour with Rent and I had played in bands and I was a little older, I remember being very, very stressed during Hollywood Week. I was waking up sick every morning kind of almost having to throw up to feel a little better. I was overwhelmed by all of it. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Even though I had far more experience than anyone there, nobody could truly prepare you for that. It was just such a great feeling being on stage in front of literally tens of millions of people every night live on television. David Cassidy passed away today – I remember fondly singing his song “I Think I Love You” and it being a big hit on the show. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a great moment for me, and the big finale and the amazing summer tour with Carrie Underwood and everyone. We were selling out arenas all over the country, so it was a really great couple of years.
So many fun opportunities have come to me since then and I think I am very excited for the show to come back to ABC now. It was wonderful to be a part of this huge series finale last year and to come back and mentor on the show. I love working with younger performers and hopefuls, and I feel like I have a lot I can pass onto them. I had an interesting sort of path to success. In a way, Rock of Ages was kind of my hit song or hit record and I wish them all the best and I hope they all can find a project or an opportunity that they become synonymous with as well.
Speaking of Rock of Ages, it was a show that combined your love of rock music with theater. Can you tell us what that experience was like?
Rock of Ages was one of my lifelong highlights and something I am just so proud of. To be in the room with such amazing people from the beginning and to create something from the ground up was something I will never forget. To see it now be a global icon, a show that’s done all over the world in different languages and even in high schools and different versions, and for it to have become a huge film with Tom Cruise, I think that’s an indication of the work that we put in in the rehearsal room prepping for off‑Broadway. I met my daughter’s mother through Rock of Ages and my daughter is the greatest thing in my life. The best actor Tony nomination was all gravy because I was already so, so blessed and I just think that was really about the cast holding me up.
It really played into my underdog story, coming off American Idol a little too early and free‑falling off the show one week, big controversy. I think people just wanted more from me and they got Rock of Ages, in which they could really root for Drew. Not a 20‑year‑old. Not a 25‑year‑old. Maybe a 30‑year‑old pushing a broom around, still trying to make it. We can all relate to that and in a way I think everyone can relate to our story in Bulldozer because everyone has a dream and a vision.
I like to see people succeed. I don’t play or hate. Everyone is on their own path, so I think everyone can relate to this guy and his vision, but again, you have to be good to the people around you. You can’t let ego consume you or power, and that’s what happened to Roberts Moses and he divided people rather than bringing them together. I think a lot of that is happening in the White House right now and in this country politically and it’s a shame. I don’t know how we fix that because some people just have such hateful points of view and it’s hard to change them for sure.
There are so many iconic songs in Rock of Ages. Which was your favorite to perform?
The fun thing about Rock of Ages was that there were some cool mash‑ups. We would tease you with some songs. You know, we would start with one song and then would break into another. I used to love hearing the intro– it would be like Joel Hoekstra’s Guitar God would be shredding over David Lee Roth’s “Just Like Paradise” and then that would break into “Nothin’ But A Good Time” and then the whole show would open up the and the club would open up and the girls were dancing and we were partying. So there was never a dull moment. I used to love the Heaven medley. That’s “Heaven Isn’t Too Far Away,” and it would be mashed up with other great songs of that era. I always, of course, loved the ending, singing “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I mean, when the song wasn’t yet eliciting vomitous reactions to people just from over-usage, but it’s unreal how people would feel when they would hear that piano intro of that great song.
What kind of vocal training or vocal warmups do you do to prepare for each show?
I never was much of a trained performer until I got to the Boston Conservatory and I was taking classes at Berkeley and really honing my craft. I had a great voice teacher, James Javore. Unfortunately, he passed away a year or two ago and we miss him very much but he really taught me how to sing the right way. Of course, I had the chops, I had the talent, but he was able to sort of hone it and he taught me classically. He wanted me to be an opera singer (I can sing opera) but it’s just hard for me to not want to belt in straight tone, something with a little rock‑and‑roll cry in there as well. So I have tried to sort of do a hybrid of all of the styles. You know, rock meets classical, and that’s what keeps it pretty healthy for me. You are not going to hear me wailing too much in this show. It’s a bit more intimate and there are some moments that work emotionally and that lend themselves to some belting, but I think we really draw the audience in more than anything.
The songs in Bulldozer are all original?
These are all original songs by Peter Galperin. He also wrote the book and is playing in the band and conducting the band, so he is doing a bit of everything. Not bad for your first effort as a rookie composer of musicals at 60 years old. He is killing it. He is an incredibly smart and successful. West Coast guy. Grew up in Seattle. His parents were both classical musicians, so he has been playing and writing music forever. He plays in bands and he is a bit of an entrepreneur, so he thought up this great concept. Robert Moses is somebody that elicits very, very strong reactions from people that know exactly who he is and was. What I like about it is we don’t really have an image of who Robert Moses is or was. So it’s really kind of an open palette for me. I can paint it however I like.
You are listed as a producer for Deaf West’s Spring Awakening – what made you want to get involved with that show?
Michael Arden, whom I love very much and respect– we were both at Williamstown as apprentices in the early 2000s, and as a singer, actor, writer and director, he is the best. His production of one of my favorite shows is what really drew me into being involved. He is an incredible talent and it was a beautiful production and Deaf West, they are just an incredible company. What they do for kids with some challenges and these incredibly talented deaf actors, it’s just wonderful how they keep it going. They are so consistent in putting out wonderful, wonderful work and it just goes to show, you could do anything in this life. You just have to work hard. Certainly the music of Duncan Sheik, whose sister is in my show, Kacie Sheik.
I remember seeing the original Spring Awakening days after I came off American Idol and I just was just blown away. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I remembered reading the Wedekind play of Spring Awakening in college and I couldn’t believe it was adapted in this way. Michael Mayer (who directed the original Spring Awakening in Broadway in 2007) is an incredible director who I worked with on some things, but I think our production even surpassed the original and that’s all you can hope for.
I think the sign language added a whole different level to the show.
Yes. I mean, it’s almost the perfect show for that because these children are having a hard time communicating with their parents and clearly the parents are having a hard time communicating with them, so when you create that kind of wall between them, that’s so literal to the audience. I thought it was just stunning, so wonderful to be a part of the team. Obviously, I was a very, very small part of it, although a lead producer, but the actors and Michael did all the work.
You’re releasing an album in early 2018. What should people expect from this album?
It’s been awhile since I put out any records and I previewed the record over the last year and a half by putting out three singles. “All About You” is the most recent one which I am very excited about. It’s been getting some radio play at XM and it’s been getting shared and people seem to really dig it. I co‑wrote it with Sam Hollander who is an incredible writer/producer. He wrote “HandClap” by Fitz and the Tantrums. He has got a new hit with Zac Brown coming out. I mean, the guy is just sick. We are good friends and we wrote this song, kind of a throwback power ballad in the sort of Steve Perry kind of vein about my first love in Boston, going to school there and meeting this girl that changed my life. He loves New England so much and we touched upon our passion for Cape Cod – it just made for a good setting for the song. “Here I Come” and “She Is Just Rock and Roll” were just like rock‑and‑roll bangers, like “hey, what’s up, I am still here, we are going to rock and roll, we are going to be sexy, we are going to have a great time tonight.” That’s what these songs are about, a little preview of what the record is going to be.
I grew up with classic rock and that’s what really speaks to me and I think rock is starting to come back. You have some exciting young bands like Greta Van Fleet and The Struts that are doing really cool stuff, honoring the past, but making it original again. I am a little older than those guys, but I want to make a sexy rock‑and‑roll record and that’s what I hope to do. I have just been a little busy. And these days it’s so hard to make records and to find partnership making records because you don’t really sell them anymore and there is not a lot of money to be made there. So you could do them for a lot cheaper which is good, but I thought it interesting because I still have a great fan base and they are so supportive and this way I can do things on my terms.
What is your favorite thing about performing in NYC?
There is no place in the world like New York City. The energy is electric. The audiences are intellectual and just willing to really invest in the experience, in the suspended belief, in the magic of theater.
I think there is more you can do in an experimental fashion off‑Broadway that’s really exciting for audiences. It forces you to be even more creative and I think Karen Carpenter, our director, has done a wonderful job on this piece with her vision and the designers that she has chosen. I am very proud of it and I think it’s going to be be a great showcase for myself and for the writers and for the other actors in the show.
What’s next for you after this show?
I’m very excited about 2018. We have some fun things we are going to be announcing, including me revising a great role. You will hear about that shortly. I am very excited to be doing that again and can’t say just yet. We are going to get the record done right in the beginning of the year and I am going to Asia for New Year’s. I am taking the weekend off from Bulldozer for New Year’s Eve and flying to Guam, knocking out a show, rock the New Year’s and then fly back and finishing up my run in Bulldozer. So it’s going to be