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

(Continued from page 1)

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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.

"JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT"

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 Aiken loves theater, and appreciates what it takes to build a great show.

He's been working hard in rehearsals, said Ogunquit executive artistic director Bradford Kenney, who visited Aiken in New York when rehearsals began.

"I found him to be a warm, well-rounded and talented person," Kenney said. "The character of Joseph needs a fresh, appealing centerpiece.

"Vocally, he needs to be an outstanding pop performer who can handle Andrew Lloyd Webber's best songs in a first-rate and interpretative fashion. The character is a white sheep in a family of black sheep brothers. You need warmth to pull it off, and Clay has that. We just found him to be very down to earth and genuine."

BRINGING IN STAR POWER

It doesn't hurt that Aiken has star power, which translates into ticket sales. But he also has the respect of his peers, Kenney said.

Since Aiken committed to "Joseph," Ogunquit was able to recruit actress Keala Settle to play the Narrator role.

Settle received a Tony Award nomination this year for best performance by a featured actress for her performance in "Hands on a Hardbody." (She lost to Portland native Andrea Martin, who won for her role in "Pippin.")

Settle has also received Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, and won the Theater World Award. In addition to her work on Broadway, she has performed in the national tours of "Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert," "South Pacific" and "Hairspray."

"She's the hottest actress on Broadway right now, and she chose to come to Ogunquit because Clay is playing Joseph," Kenney said.

Aiken said he's comfortable singing the title role, but it's not something he can do just because he knows the music from his youth. It's a difficult role, because some of the songs are out of his range. He and director McDaniel have adjusted the songs to better suit his vocal abilities, he said.

He also has to tackle the trepidation of stepping outside his comfort zone. Doing a concert is relatively easy compared to doing theater, he said, but the reward of theater makes the effort worthwhile.

"I never assumed I would enjoy this type of thing," he said. "But after doing it, I really appreciated the ensemble effort and the camaraderie of a production, with everybody having the same goal of entertaining people.

"I enjoy the pop world too, but I really like working with a group of peers. You do not have co-workers in the pop world. Everybody works for you. I really appreciate having peers."

'A BREAK FROM MYSELF'

His peers appreciate him too. McDaniel said Aiken has not received special treatment because of his star status. The cast, who are members of the Actors Equity union, voted him their deputy to serve as a go-between for the cast and management.

It's unusual for an actor with celebrity status to take on that role, and it speaks to the cast members' fondness for, and trust in, Aiken, McDaniel said.

Aiken appreciates not having to live up to the expectations that come with his personality. He's a very popular singer, and that's something he's grown comfortable with. But it's taken some time.

For many years, he denied that he was gay, or at least declined to acknowledge it. He eventually did, on the cover of People magazine. But it took time for him to open up and give fans something they wanted beyond the music.

"At a pop concert, you have to learn to be comfortable enough with yourself to interact with people and take certain liberties with people to let them know you are enjoying yourself," he said. "When you are doing something like this, you have to become comfortable with the character and disavow yourself from your personal issues.

"You have to be that person on stage. You have to morph into your character."

He enjoys that morphing process, and thinks he will like becoming Joseph, even if only for a short amount of time each night.

"I'm only the other person for an hour and a half," he said. "I wish I could take more of a break from myself."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

bkeyes@pressherald.com

Twitter: pphbkeyes

 

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