What was it like growing up in Brooklyn?
Well technically I was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey. I was quite young when we moved but my grandparents settled in Brooklyn in the early 1900's. My entire family grew up in BK and we have very strong ties to the borough. There is a large Greek American population and community there of course and I was raised in a traditional Greek Orthodox household. Growing up in the church was a huge influence on me artistically. I have very fond memories of riding the sidewalks of Bay Ridge on my Big Wheel and playing ball with all my cousins. I often wonder how I would have turned out if I stayed there rather than moving to NJ. Being the youngest of three (my brother Athanasios and my sister Anastasia are quite a bit older) I was the least affected by the move to the suburbs. They had more of the Brooklyn experience than I did but I was able to start school fresh and come up with my Wyckoff, NJ Kindergarten class. Most of them I am still very close with to this day.
Upon moving to NJ It was not the Brooklyn it is today. The Brooklyn neighborhood was transitioning and my parents wanted more for our education. Wyckoff is a very affluent suburb about 25 miles from the heart Manhattan. My parents did not have much and both worked full time but they provided everything we needed and more. We drove old cars and didn't ski or vacation but this I believe built a great deal of character within us and perhaps was what lead me to the arts. I love Brooklyn and very much identify with my roots there but certainly grew up very Jersey. Bergen County is so different than what most people think of NJ. We had such close access to the city, the mountains and the beach as well as the best schools in the country. I was very fortunate to grow up in a community that was also very supportive of the arts and I always had amazing teachers who I am very thankful for. I actually left Manhattan after nearly twenty years myself and moved back to Wyckoff a year ago with my daughter.
Where did you develop your love of music? What kind of music inspired you?
Certainly my family upbringing and lifestyle were huge influences on me in every way. My mother always sang in the house and at church. My father not so much. He was more the strong silent type and he worked so much. We would enjoy films together as a family on Sunday nights and tons of Yankee games. Athan and Anastasia were very into the arts and I idolized them. They were well out of the house by the time I really got into the music but were huge influences on me. Handing me down Led Zeppelin records all the way to Echo and The Bunnymen, King Cole, Sam Cooke to U2 and The Cure. They did plays and musicals growing up as well and I followed them there. My brother is still a professional performing artist and you can google him. My sister is a school principal in NJ. "West Side Story" was my favorite film and also the first show I ever did when I reached high school. My life and career is somewhere between that film and "Jesus Christ Superstar", both hugely influential on me. Watching the Tonys was something I always looked forward to with my family and I knew that one day I would be there. My childhood was all about sports and music and still is.
Tell me about being a voice-over artist. How did this come about?
I have done a few but I would love to do more. We have to be versatile as performers and willing to apply our training and passions to many things to survive. From vo's to corporate gigs and everything in between. I have been very fortunate and have had the pleasure of doing a myriad of jobs from hosting to producing. ( currently "Spring Awakening" on Broadway). We can't always be starring on Broadway ya know.
Talk about American Idol, how it served you both negatively and positively.
To be honest I went into the experience wide open. Never having seen the earlier seasons because I was in drama school and on tour with RENT leading up to my experience there. From day one they had cameras on me and I rolled with it. It truly was an incredible journey for a young artist to take. 30-40 million plus watching you three nights a week is not something you can articulate but it was thrilling. I discovered early on I had to create a brand for myself and that I did. I got back to work shortly after and found my place on Broadway which is what I always wanted. The only negative I would say is that some in the industry may think you didn't earn your popularity or that people are stunt casting you in things. Last time I checked they don't give Tony Noms for that and yes that was a nice validation.
What was most exciting about Rock of Ages?
I knew early on that it was a special project. Meeting the creatives shortly after my Idol exit I could feel their energy and saw the potential. When it was set to open first off broadway I wanted in for sure. They assembled the perfect cast and allowed us the freedom to discover the show in the room together as a collaborative effort. Being a part of something totally original is every actors dream and I wish everyone could have that experience. Our iconic run was a testament to the original cast and the creatives amazing work. I think we broke the mold of what people thought Broadway was. ROA opened the door for shows like Mormon and Rotten for sure.
You did a concept album for Jekyll & Hyde. Why and how did you change the way the show was presented onstage?
Oddly enough we started on that album long before rehearsals began and neither Deborah or I were very familiar with the material. We learned on the run and in the studio with Frank and Jason Howland. The songs evolved as our experiences with them grew and once we applied them into the story. JH was an awesome experience for me and what tenor actor would not want a crack at that? Frank and Leslie are incredible writers and I am so glad to call them friends. I hope to work with them and Jeff Calhoun again soon.
I think it would be easy to play Scorpio as the typical a**hole rockstar but my challenge is to make him likeable and caring. The show is a metaphor for the whole state of the music industry. Behind these characters we see on TV and in online videos lie real people we want to know but never get to. Scorpio despite a lengthy career and huge success is very alone and scared. Even the top artists are always one flop away from being irrelevant and he is very aware of his mortality.Talk the new show Breaking Through. Does the role you play stretch you? How is it challenging or how does it suit you?
Talk about your co-star Allson Luff and the director and composers of the show.
Alison is so very lovely in every way. I'm excited for the world to see her in an original role that she builds from the ground up. Of course she has been in tons of shows and iconic ones like Wicked and Mamma Mia where she steps into roles many other women have done and she killed those, but this role could potentially define her. Katie and Cliff are an interesting pairing as our composers. Katie young, hip, distinctively NY and an artist that Alison's character is sort of based off of if you will. Cliff a pro who has been in the game a long time and produced/written with everybody. The songs are great and are very now. They represent the current trends in music and that is exciting for us actors. Sheldon our director has been wonderful in allowing us to find our own characters. He listens to everything we have to say and often implements our ideas into his vision. This may be the most contemporary piece he's worked on in sometime so that is very cool for all of us. Bringing Tyce and his team into the fold as choreographer has been huge for us. Tyce is the hottest there is in the business having just worked with Taylor Swift. That's about as current Music Industry as it gets. The show is starting to really come together.
Is there some musical role you are yearning to play?
The new works are really what speak to me these days, there are so many great new writers and styles out there. I love the classics as well and getting away from rock someday would be okay too.
Anything you care to add?
It's been a great experience not having to do all the heavy lifting this time around… I play more of a supporting lead role here in Breaking Through and I can't wait for the world to see this awesome cast tear it up… It's always exciting to see a show in its early stages and this is a perfect opportunity for my fans and the Southern California theatergoing audience to check out a Broadway bound musical before anyone else in the world gets to see it. @constantinem