Monday, May 11, 2009

Rockin' the Great White Way

Actress Amy Spanger

Rock of Ages
Book by Chris D’Arienzo
Musical supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp
Directed by Kristin Hanggi
Choreographed by Kelly Devine
Starring Constantine Maroulis, Amy Spanger, James Carpinello, Mitchell Jarvis

Broadway performances began March 17, 2009
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street

Spanger and Maroulis in Rock of Ages (photo: Joan Marcus)
She’s no stranger to the Broadway stage, with appearances in The Wedding Singer, Urinetown, Kiss Me Kate, Chicago and Sunset Boulevard. But Amy Spanger’s experience starring as Sherrie in the 80s musical Rock of Ages has been unique, to say the least. Not only is the show a hit with audiences, but it’s also gotten loads of positive press notices and also received several Tony nominations, including one for Best Musical.

Amy recently spoke about performing 25-year-old hits in Rock of Ages, her Tony-nominated costar Constantine Maroulis and the special kinds of fans the show is attracting.

Kevin Filipski: You can admit it—your leading man has a big head now that he’s a Best Actor nominee.
Amy Spanger: (laughs) No, Constantine is actually quite humbled by it. I had actually worked with him before: he came into The Wedding Singer and I played opposite him for four months. But being humbled is true for everyone, actually—I think everyone was surprised at how successful the show has become. It started off as this bar show five years ago in L.A. and now it’s a Broadway musical. It’s kind of a magical ride for all of us. We got a Broadway upgrade, as it were—a little bit more money for better costumes, along with a few new cast members, including me. The whole thing just sort of grew and got a more sophisticated.

KF: You weren’t in the off-Broadway cast—how did you join the show for the Broadway run?
AS: I wasn’t in town for the off-Broadway show, so when the script came across my agent’s desk, he called me and asked if I wanted to go in to audition for the Broadway run. First I asked around, and everyone told me how funny it was and how everyone is singing their asses off, and it makes fun of musical theater in a kind-hearted way. So I read the script, laughed a lot and was on board. I really wanted it and I got it.

KF: Are these 1980s pop songs (by Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, Quarterflash, Journey, etc.) all familiar to you?
AS: I know every single one of these songs, and I never thought in my wildest imaginings that I would be singing these songs on Broadway every night. It’s thrilling for me because I always had that rock star fantasy along with wanting to be in Broadway musicals—and doing this show is the perfect combination of both, since I get the chance to do the theatrical version of it. I love playing Sherrie, and I really can flesh out this girl—the part has tremendous range, emotionally and vocally, and it’s so much fun to do.

KF: Are there any particular onstage moments that stand out?
AS: I love the whole section where Constantine and I go on a date and sing “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and bring out the Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers: the audience goes crazy! And when I start to sing “More than Words” (by Extreme), everyone in the audience pulls out the lighters and sings along with me.

KF: How has the audience reaction been?
AS: It’s amazing. I go outside after a performance, and people are in tears because they’re so passionate about it. “You totally get us,” “this is my story”—I hear this mostly from women in their mid to late 40s. I think this show is helping Broadway lighten up and have a sense of humor about itself. There are those people who keep their arms folded during the show don’t get it: it’s not for them. It’s a combination of a jukebox musical with a group of people who are making fun of jukebox musicals. It’s for people who’ve never seen a musical before—they go and have a ball. For those people who have a brain and are regular theatergoers, it’s a smartly written and well put together show.

KF: Were you caught up in 80s styles while you were growing up?
AS: Well, I never had big hair, thank God. I had perms from the time I was four years old–I don’t know why, probably I had bone-straight hair and my mom insisted on it, for my sister also. I remember being very interested in fashion from the time I was little, so I was intrigued by the off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, neon and rubber bracelets, and I watched MTV constantly and loved watching Flashdance.

KF: Do you think you’re on your way to becoming a cult show?

AS: I think we already have. There’s a woman who saw it off-Broadway 50 times, I think—our number one fan and comes back all the time, sits right in the front row and sings along to every song and speaks every line of dialogue. She’s an uber-fan. I have to knock on wood, because this has been a really great experience so far. It’s the best kind of ride—it’s total madness, it’s crazy and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had onstage. Really.

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