Constantine Maroulis first wooed audiences with his rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" on American Idol — an ambitious start that hasn't disappointed.
After a best actor Tony nomination for Broadway's Rock of Ages, Maroulis is back in Houston, playing geek-turned-superhuman Melvin Ferd the Third in The Toxic Avenger, now running at the Alley Theater through Feb. 12.
It's also just come out that he'll also be returning to Broadway — for the lead role in the new Jekyll & Hyde.
CultureMap: This isn't your first stint in Houston. What do you like about working here?
Maroulis: I was recently here with Rock of Ages about six months ago at the Hobby Center. I love, love Houston — it's one of my favorite cities. I love that it's super laid back, but you have this high-end living as well.
Houston is a great theater town, and the Alley has a reputation for first-class work. It's great to be a part of that family. Houston has a very sophisticated theater audience and they know when something is good.
CM: In Rock of Ages, you played the same character for three years. How was it adjusting to the different pace of a new show, and how is this current role — as Melvin Ferd the Third and Toxie — different?
Maroulis: You know, I'm an actor, and I thrive on being able to do different things. At the core, the two characters I play have a lot of heart, and those are the characters I relate to and enjoy portraying.
I enjoy this sort of work so much, and I have the privilege of working with a great director, who is great with this brand of comedy . . . I have a tremendous cast — four of the best actors in New York — and to be here and really focus on the work is just great.
CM: Did you have to cut off your long hair to play Melvin? Or is it all under a wig?
Maroulis: I'm wearing a wig, a very expensive wig, to hide all of my long hair.
CM: How did your classical training at the Boston Conservatory prepare you for these rock-n-roll roles?
Maroulis: Classical training is the basis for everything in performing arts . . . At the core of it is breathing. It helps you get through a show, when you're on stage and wearing a 30-pound muscle suit that you can barely breathe, hear or see in — knowing it's all there.
But at the same time, you have to forget all of the training, too. If you go out on stage and act all precise, the audience won't relate. You have to leave that backstage.
So it's a little bit of both. You have to use it and you have to forget it. But it definitely sets you up for the long haul of an eight-show week.
CM: I've got to ask — what do you think about American Idol these days? It certainly has changed a lot since Season Four.
Maroulis: You know, I didn't even know I was going to be getting into the show, but it changed my life, without question. It gave me a fan base and exposure. I've had success and so many opportunities because of it.
American Idol is an amazing platform for young talent. A dozen years in, and it's still a great opportunity. Those are so few and far between, and there are so many people who want to be involved in the arts. Plus, it's a well-produced and compelling show. . .
It was an honor, and it's definitely a part of my life.