July 28, 2013

Clay Aiken's not just any Joe

Instead of 'Idol'-ing along, the pop star rises to the challenges of theater in 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Clay Aiken is not afraid of acting, and the whole world knows singing comes naturally to one of the most popular stars to ever emerge from the "American Idol" TV show.

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Clay Aiken says he likes “working with a group of peers” in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Courtesy photos

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Aiken says it’s easier to perform in pop concerts than to “morph into” a character on stage.


WHEN: Previews at 8 p.m. Wednesday and 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Opens at 8 p.m. Thursday and continues through Aug. 25.

WHERE: Ogunquit Playhouse, 10 Main St.

HOW MUCH: $39 to $78

INFO: 646-5511; ogunquitplayhouse.org

But dancing? No way.

He's as clumsy as can be, he says.

"I like this role because it doesn't make me dance," he said with a laugh by phone last week from New York, where he and the rest of the cast of the Ogunquit Playhouse production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" were rehearsing.

"Rehearsals are going quite well," he added. "Right now, I'm standing here looking in the window (of the rehearsal room) while they're learning their difficult dance moves that I don't have to do."

Aiken, 34, plays the title role in the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, which opens Wednesday and runs through Aug. 31.

He said he chose to do the show because he knew the reputation of the Ogunquit Playhouse, and is interested in doing more theater.

"Ogunquit is a storied and respected theater throughout the country, even in Manhattan, but really throughout the theater world. The opportunity to do a show like this in a place that is so well-respected was hard to turn down," he said.

"Joseph" marks the third time Aiken has worked in theater. He made his theatrical debut in a big way, with two stints as Sir Robin in "Spamalot" on Broadway in 2008. Later, he kept a longtime promise to his hometown theater in Raleigh, N.C., by returning there to sing in "The Drowsy Chaperone."

He's looking forward to playing Joseph.

"This is a show that I have known for years," he said. "I grew up as a teenager listening to this music. I remember listening to it on a CD Walkman, so there's a little history for me with it."

"Joseph" is very much a family-friendly show. Webber and lyricist Rice used the biblical story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis for their musical, which tells of the coat of many colors. It's sung almost all the way through, with little dialogue. Two of the best-known songs from the show are "Go, Go, Go Joseph" and "Any Dream Will Do."

Despite being written in the late 1960s, "Joseph" didn't open on Broadway until 1982, though it had appeared on stage in London's West End a decade earlier.

Since then, thanks largely to a string of performances by Donny Osmond, it has become one of most loved musicals in contemporary theater, in part because it features so many musical styles. Webber and Rice wrote pop songs, rock songs, country songs and island music for the show.

Which makes it a perfect vehicle for Aiken, said director Jayme McDaniel.

"I was certainly familiar with his voice before we started the process, but now, listening to it every day, I hear how he's been influenced by so many styles. The remarkable thing about his singing is how it appears so effortless," McDaniel said.

"He just sings higher and higher, and you never question just how high it can go. It's not like any 'Joseph' that we have heard before."


Aiken became part of America's pop-culture consciousness in 2003 when he finished second on the second season of "American Idol." But that second-place finish was questioned right away, because Aiken was widely considered the popular choice.

Since then, he has released a series of popular CDs, toured extensively and written a book. He's also done TV talk shows and appeared in various sitcoms.

Theater is a logical extension of his creative talent, he said.

"I think the biggest difference, when you are doing a pop concert, you get to interact with the audience. When you do a theatrical production, you don't get to acknowledge the audience at all," he said. "Not being able to do that, it always takes me back a bit."

(Continued on page 2)

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