Constantine Maroulis | Interview
From “American Idol" auditions to the Tony Awards stage—Constantine Maroulis has been no stranger to success since his stint on the reality TV show eight years ago. With a leading actor Tony Award nomination for his performance in Rock of Ages under his studded belt, he’s taking on his next Broadway role in Jekyll & Hyde, the musical. Maroulis and the show are in the midst of a national tour before settling at the Marquis Theatre in New York. Now, Maroulis and his castmates are preparing for a two-week run here in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theater, March 12–24, and Maroulis spent a few minutes chatting with TOC about his upcoming run in the Windy City.
How did you get involved with this production of Jekyll & Hyde?
I think coming off the strength of Rock of Ages [and] having been with that production for about three years all in, seeing it come from a small, Off Broadway show to a big, Broadway show in such a short time, it was a whirlwind experience—just a tremendous journey, no pun intended.… This was a great opportunity for me to dig into a real dramatic role after the strength of Rock of Ages, so it’s just good math all around, really.
What aspects of your role as both title characters are most daunting and exciting?
For me it’s quite a personal journey. I have had a complex relationship with my father over the years. He’s a sick man now—he’s been bed-ridden a long time, but he’s hangin’ in there. I think the story begins with Henry and his relationship with his father, and it’s quite personal. To really go there on a nightly basis and to be so personally in tune with the storytelling and what’s going on—[that] can be very scary, you know? Henry [Jekyll] has a bit of a more of a reserved, quiet strength, but Hyde just wears it all right out in front of you. I think playing someone so outwardly confident and sexual and bold can be very daunting, do you know? I think people have come to know me from television and things like that, but really, at the end of the day, I’m kind of just a dorky theater guy that played quite a character on television and has had a good run with it.
Is there any intimidation for you with playing a character that is so well known and about whom so many people have preconceptions?
You know, I try not to get any of that onto my radar, if you know what I mean. Any of that even remotely negative sort of energy. I’ve never seen the show before; I don’t really have a preconception of how it should or would be or could be. For me it’s been a totally organic experience. Any time, whether it’s a small feature or a giant, dramatic role, I think you go about scoring the role as an actor probably the same way, really. You try to create a backstory, figure out what the moment before is, what the objective is, what do I want, how am I gonna get it, do you know? [I] really just try to bring it into a very believable and conversational and real place. There’s definitely an entertainment factor involved as well. I think that, you put me in the show, you know, [I] got the hair, got the big voice, and all of that stuff, and there’s some of that stuff that people are just going to expect, and we try to give them a little of that as well. A little of the entertainment, rock 'n' roll flare as well.
You play a more rock 'n’ roll Jekyll/Hyde than what has been seen before. Was this portrayal of Jekyll/Hyde a conscious decision while casting you, or was this personality created in the rehearsal process?
It was sort of something that came together in the original preproduction process. Any time you’re gonna do a work that’s so iconic, there’s no sense in doing it unless you’re going to bring a completely fresh and re-imagined vibe to it. I think for me, I’m pretty much a big, power tenor, so the orchestrations have been catered to me and my strengths and I think that we’ve utilized my ability to sing rock & roll music—we’ve justified it very much into the storytelling. I grew up as a classical tenor and so I get to show off a lot of that legit sound in the beginning parts of the show, but with a little edge to it, clearly.
You’ve had such a prolific musical theater career and you’re such a pro—do you ever have any fears of, “How am I gonna do this?” before taking your next roles?
Yeah! There’s a certain quality that I bring to this world of script and score storytelling, but I’ve also managed to show a bit of range with it as well. I look forward to doing completely different roles [and] potentially taking all the hair off and just becoming a blank-slate actor again.
Do you have any advice for all the hopeful musical-theater actors out there who dream of filling your shoes?
Run! Run the other way! [laughs] No, you know, I couldn’t have been a bigger fan of Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story, all of these great, otherworldly type shows when I was a kid, but I also listened to the greatest records of rock and roll on a daily basis, so that really helped shape me, and I did every play I could. Every community theater show, school production, I read every book there is to read, I went and studied properly at a conservatory after high school. But I floated around a while auditioning professionally and trying to find my place. I think I’ve had a lot of great life experiences that I can put into my work, and not everyone has that. I think it’s important to have survival techniques. I always had to work a job—I was always at a bar or restaurant or baking bagels at 3am or working a late shift at a place in the city, and that always helped shape me.
I remember watching you on the fourth season of American Idol and thinking you were a goth, rocker guy, when really you’d just been touring in the cast of Rent. What do you think about the way you were portrayed on AI?
Well I think, um [laughs], I have a bit of character about myself, and I’m a smart businessman. I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur, so I played along as well. I think what was part of my success on the show—I had all of that, but then you could see that I was a good guy underneath it all, too. I sometimes wish that I showed more of my theatrical side. I think I was very committed to being the rocker, and I think it would have been interesting to see some different songs on television. [But] I wouldn’t trade anything for my experience on the show. It was just so huge for me and just totally invaluable. It made me who I am today.
Why should people come and see this production of Jekyll & Hyde?
I just think it’s time. It's time for a beautifully romantic, sexual piece. It’s got a lot of heart, a lot of humanity, tremendous singing, a great cast, incredible design team. I mean, it’s very fuckin’ powerful, you know? It’s got this great artistic integrity and it’s got this cool, steampunk edge to it. I think we got a great show on our hands.