Constantine Maroulis may be most famous as a former "American Idol" contestant, but he feels more like a Broadway showman.
The singer and actor who earned a Tony nomination for "Rock of Ages" in 2009 is heading back to the Great White Way this season with "Jekyll & Hyde," a musical that is stopping in West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center Tuesday through Sunday before opening in previews the following Friday at the Marquis Theatre in the heart of Times Square.
But as we talk, Maroulis is cruising down the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in a convertible with the top down, heading to the apartment he occupied during the show's run at the Pantages Theatre, which is not too far from where he patented his smoldering stare on "American Idol" in 2005.
QUESTION: I don’t think people know that you did "Rent" and "Hamlet" before you were on "American Idol." And since then, you’ve done so many shows (SEE BELOW). That's not really a question, but...
ANSWER: "Yeah, people know me from "American Idol." I always say that people in time will know that was one of my greatest roles. It was a bit of good branding on my part. And some luck. And hard work. It led me back to what I grew up wanting to be."
Q: Having graduated from the Boston Conservatory, you are trained for the musical stage. But your co-star Deborah Cox is known as a pop and R&B singer. What is that like working with her in "Jekyll & Hyde"?
A: Deborah Cox has such incredible artistry. She's such a successful recording artist that she hasn't had the opportunity to do as much stage work as I have, even though that is something that she has always been passionate about. I think that is what is amazing about this score and Frank Wildhorn's composition: They are written like pop songs you would hear on the charts, and they have great storytelling built in. And a great singer-songstress or recording artist like Deborah is a great storyteller first and foremost. She's very gifted with that naturally, and not everyone can say that. Sure, she and I are so close. We've bonded so much over this show, and I love her so much. It's hard for both of us to be away from our families with the whole process and before we get to Broadway.
Q: "Jekyll & Hyde" has been around for a while. It premiered in 1990 and had a Broadway run for four years starting in 1997. What changes have you guys made for this version?
A: "I think more than anything, Jeff Calhoun, our director - who is a superhot director right now with "Newsies" and "Bonnie and Clyde" - focused on the storytelling and finding the humanity in these characters, which allows us to tell the most-specific story we can, because it's such a heavy subject and such an iconic title. I mean, it's Robert Louis Stevenson, so it's so much poetry and so much going on with it being such a period piece. I think Frank [Wildhorn] as the composer and Leslie Bricusse as the writer let Jeff go in and really dissect this piece and edit it and put things back in to make it leaner and meaner and really make it harder. And then, they found singers for the show who can sing the hell out of it. Now, it has this steampunk thing going on that gives an edge to the whole thing. And we have brand-new orchestrations ... by Jason Howland, the all-star of this group. He's really the unsung hero. He doesn't get any of the credit. There was such a dark realness to it now. And then, there's Teal Wicks. We are so lucky to have her as Emma. She's going to be a star. She's just beautiful: porcelain skin, redhead, piercing blue eyes.
Q: Tell me about doing "The Wedding Singer" back in 2006.
A: " 'Wedding Singer' was the first show I saw after 'American Idol.' I was there opening night. I loved the show. Of course growing up in Jersey I loved the movie and wanted to be a part of that show. They were having problems getting word out about the show. All I knew was that it was a great opportunity that role. I had a nice five or six month stretch with that."
Q. The next year you did a show I really wish I had seen, "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris."
A: "That show reunited me with an old friend who first helped me get an Equity card, Gordon Greenberg. He directed the revival of 'Jacque Brel' and brought me in . It was in the Zipper Theater in New York, which is this small artsy off-Broadway space. The thing about that show was I got to work with Robert Cuccioli who originated the [lead] role of 'Jekyll & Hyde.' It was interesting to learn from him. And now I'm reinventing or revising his legendary role in 'Jekyll & Hyde.' "
Q: I know getting nominated for a Tony with "Rock of Ages" in 2008/2009 must have been thrill, but what else do you think of when you think about that show?
A: "That was a great team. As someone who grew up loving sports, it’s all about the team. 'Rock of Ages' was just an amazing team from great director Kristin [Hanggi] who really hit it out of the park with 'Rock of Ages' and the intellectual perspective she took with the whole thing. It could have easily gotten out of control. And then working with this unknown cast, just 'Saturday Night Live' caliber comedic actors with incredible voices."
Q: Around the same time you also did "Jesus Christ Superstar" with The Premier Theatre Company in New Jersey, right
A: "I was in so many productions over the year in 2008. I was doing 'American Idol Extra,' where I kind of did the exit interviews of singers coming off of 'American Idol.' I knew the work ['Jesus Christ Superstar'] already so I knew it would work out. So when the opportunity came up I jumped on board. 'Superstar' is my favorite show of all time. I would still love to do a production in New York sometime."
Q: And last year you did "The Toxic Avenger" in Houston's Alley Theatre, which I read the producers are thinking about bringing to Broadway with you in the lead role. Is that true?
A: "If it all works out that will be my next show. It's been revamped and the producers have put a lot of money into it. There was a production we did at The Alley Theatre [in Houston, Texas] with a great cast. It's such a beautiful show. It just ended there. Now they just need to find the right place and time in New York. I'm super excited about it. I think it will have a long, long life. It's a comic book love story. There are like five actors in the show and they all play different characters. It's just not what people expect."
IF YOU GO
"Jekyll & Hyde"
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday
Where: Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach
Cost: Tickets start at $25
Contact: 561-832-7569 or Kravis.org