Constantine Maroulis Dazzles in Broadway Musical Jekyll and Hyde

By Penelope Karageorge
Special to The National Herald
Constantine Maroulis rocked TV’s American Idol in 2005, turning us on with his personality, his singing, and the look: lowing curly locks that enhanced rather than detracted from his sinuous masculinity. This Greek-American star had arrived. After winning a Tony nomination for leading actor in a musical in Rock of Ages, he is conquering Broadway again with the lead roles in Jekyll * Hyde, a darkly thrilling musical drama that probes the mystery of good and evil. “Maroulis’ performance is a triumph of verbal pyrotechnics,” Entertainment Weekly praised. The part has already earned him a Drama League nomination for distinguished performer.
As the constrained Dr. Jekyll, Maroulis moves through London fog in bowler hat, his hair pulled tightly back. As Hyde, Maroulis struts, leaps, flings that trademark hair and hits the glorious high notes with aplomb. “It is fun to be Hyde,” Maroulis admits. “I think everyone has that fantasy within themselves – to be able to break out from our shell, to discover of all of this power and drive and passion.”
Maroulis, 37, determined in childhood to make his career on the stage. He attributes a great deal of his success to his older brother Athan, a recording artist, record producer and role model. The other big boost came from American Idol where he placed sixth and made a dramatic impression.
“American Idol was my MFA program, like graduate studies in life, in the arts. What a wonderful experience! Before it happened, I had graduated from the Boston Conservatory. Then I was off to Williamstown Theatre Festival and toured in a production of Rent. I had built my credits up, and I had a lot of experience, but not with the kind of fan base that Idol brings. Imagine some of those young kids who have just been plucked out of the farms and the malls of America going right into American Idol. It could be daunting.
“But for me, American Idol was a tremendous opportunity. I saw it as a chance to build and to allow it to get me where I wanted to be. I’ve been a young businessman as well as a musician from a very young age. My parents are relatively a blue collar family and I’ve grown up with entrepreneurial skills. I always set goals for myself like five years, ten years. I had told myself that five years after graduating from Boston Conservatory, I will have moved to New York. I will start a band and get an agent. I’ll do a Rent tour and that will get me to the next project, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m very lucky, but I also try to set myself up for success. I built the brand.”
We met Maroulis in his dressing room backstage at the Marquis Theatre. He’s 6 feet 3 ½ inches and extremely slender, with a delightfully animated face, and warm, expressive black eyes. The avid sports fan was disturbed because the TV in his dressing room was not working. Otherwise, he was relaxed and gracious, dressed in jeans, boots, and white hat. He offered me the good chair and then “Let me just send this last little tweet here. Thank you so much.” He sat down one long leg crossed over the other.
“Honestly, what a ride this has been,” he exclaimed. “What most people don’t realize is that we toured with the show for seven months before Broadway. It all started when Nick Scandalios, executive vice president of Nederlander, called. He’s a fellow Greek, just a great executive in this business, a caring and passionate man as well as a great producer. I was the first person cast in the show’s revival. It was an awesome journey for me to come off Rock of Ages and to have such a contrasting opportunity as an actor.”
For Maroulis, his current role is all-consuming and requires most of his energy, with eight performances a week. “To stay in shape, there’s no drinking and very little caffeine. I’m having a little boost today because I was up very early. And I played sports all day. We have a Jekyll * Hyde softball team. It’s serious stuff, the Broadway Show League. It’s been around for sixty years. We lost by one point. It was rough. I came here today, got a little work done, took a little nap, and I’m ready to do the show.”
“This is probably the biggest house on Broadway, the Marquis, but we played theatres twice as big on the road – huge – big barns – everywhere, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, LA, Tulsa. So this actually feels more intimate. The orchestra and the vibe and the stakes are so high. We’ve gotten some amazing notices. The audiences have been wonderful.
“This is a piece that is unlike anything on Broadway right now. It’s something so epic, and dangerous and sexy, thought provoking. You have tour de force performances. It’s great stuff. Pippin is opening next door tonight. I’ve been told that it’s beautiful and I’m happy that it’s opening. But this is a different thing. This is powerful, edgy, dramatic genre theatre. It’s like Downtown Abbey meets a Tim Burton film.
“I think it starts with Dr. Henry Jekyll – the isolation he feels from everyone else in society, the relationship with his father, seeing his father on his deathbed – knowing how prestigious his father once was, how prominent he was in society. But knowing also that they were outsiders. I related to that.
“When we moved from Brooklyn to Wyckoff, NJ, away from a huge community of Greek people and all my cousins and everything, we were a little bit of outsiders when we came to the suburbs.” He gives a rueful laugh. “I started school there. I was five. My brother was starting high school. We were like this Arab family moving into your neighborhood right after 9/11. It was very white-bread. An affluent area. Good people and a wonderful place to grow up. But there were some tough times, definitely. So I do relate to that and I start the Jekyll * Hyde story with the layered feeling in my heart.”
The show’s physically demanding. “Before a performance, I do a bit of yoga and get some bodywork done. The whole day is like a ritual from the moment I wake up leading up to the show. I’m always thinking about it. It stays with me all the time. I have back pains and stomach pains and bruises to remind me. I’m always trying to better the experience for the audience. To further myself every night. The show can be sort of campy and hammy and over the top but I think we’ve brought a very grounded dimension to it.
“Playing Jekyll * Hyde does evoke the tragic Greek in me. I definitely draw on my roots as a Greek. I think that so much of the power that I’m able to lay out there on stage comes from my heritage. From the millions of people who backed me as a still rising up and coming Greek-American performer. I went to church growing up and so much of my influence artistically comes from that beautiful artwork from the Greek Orthodox Church – from the drama of the services – and the Classic Greek language. And I loved the stories of Agamemnon and Orestes and Clytemnestra, all of that imagery. It’s great to take all of that into my performance,” Maroulis says with intensity. He looks up with a smile. “But you also have to just forget it all as well and just rock.”
Growing up, Maroulis’ parents had the typical Greek-American ambition for their youngest child that he might become a doctor or a lawyer. ‘Of course they wanted all that for me. I always tested well but I’ve wanted to be on stage since I was very young. It’s just what I was going to do. At first I think I had to earn their respect for what I was doing. They always want what’s best for me.”
For Maroulis, this particular role holds personal significance. As Jekyll * Hyde opens, we see the sick father, inspiration for Jekyll’s seeking a cure. Maroulis’ own father James suffers from Parkinson’s disease and stenosis. “Of course he couldn’t see the show. We’re still able to have good conversations about sports and what I do. He responds. He’s excited about what I’m doing.”
“My father is a computer engineer. He worked on the first big computers for IBM and Citibank. He’s a really smart man. He was born here and so was my mother, Constance. Her family’s from Cephalonia, and my father’s side is from Ithaca. I’ve been to Greece and I love it. I speak Greek but not great. I did go to Greek school. My brother and sister are considerably older than me, and speak it better. But I grew up very Americanized, very suburban. Because we moved out of Brooklyn when I was very young. There was a big Greek church in Wyckoff. I was even the president of GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth of America).
“I was an altar boy including for Archbishop Iakovos. When I was young, he would visit the Wyckoff church often. My mother sang – she would sing in church.” He breaks into song. “She had this beautiful alto. That was an influential sound to me growing up. My brother and sister both performed. My sister Anastasia, born on Easter Sunday, is an educator.
“My brother Athan is ten years older, and he’s a very established artist. He sings and produces in the world of independent music. My brother was a huge influence in everything from music to getting me interested in the Yankees, as well as old cars and antiques. We’re both Virgos. We’re very alike – very close. I was born on the 17th of September and he on the 22nd. He had long hair. He sang in really interesting and cool bands in the 80’s and 90’s, and he played in high school. We’re both a lot like our father. But my brother’s far more intellectual. There’s no sibling rivalry. We’re both so very different. I sing high notes and my brother sings avant garde goth and jazz.
“I never worked in a Greek diner but my family was in the restaurant business. When my grandparents came here, they got involved in the food business. They started off with a diner cart and worked that into a sandwich shop and then into two or three. They had a lot of children and bought homes in upstate New York, in the Catskills. We would go up there with a lot of Greeks. It was a great part of growing up.”
Being Greek-American continues to be a big part of Maroulis’ identity. “Absolutely. I’ve had agents who wanted me to change my name early on, and I was just never going to do that. People still mispronounce it. But for me, that’s my father, that’s my blood line. So I’m very proud of who I am and I don’t care who knows it. Greek power, man!{62356}

“Listen, the Greeks started all of this art business. We really did. And I feel that connection to our way of life, our culture, and the influences they’ve had all over the world. I think there’s something very special about being Greek. Especially in New York City and the pride that there is here.”
Family is even more important to Maroulis since he’s become a father. The dressing room was distinguished by a miniature arm chair for his daughter, two-year-old Malena, a frequent visitor. “I wish she were here right now,” Maroulis said. “That’s her chair. She sits with me. She knows that this is Daddy’s work. She listens to me sing on the loud speaker. She knows all the cast. She’s actually with Yiayia now. But she’s coming back tonight. Being a father has made a tremendous difference in my life. It’s been a huge enlightenment on many levels.”
Although not married, Maroulis maintains a special relationship with Malena’s mother, actress/dancer Angel Reed, whom he met on Rock of Ages. “We get along very well. She recently had a big event, and I went to cheer her on. We have a bit of a different relationship than people are used to in the Greek world, but things are less rigid than they used to be. I think God accepts everyone.” As for marriage, “Maybe. Maybe someday. Right now I’m focused on work. I’m blessed to be part of these great opportunities.”
What’s next on his agenda? “I love being part of these productions and originating these roles. I love touring as well. I go out there. People know me. I I deliver. I love all that. But I aspire to do other great stuff as well. I’ve never tried to be a rock star or a superstar. It’s always been about the work. I’d like to continue to do this. I’d also like to get more into producing other things. {62358}{62355}

“Broadway’s big business – a billion-dollar business. It’s no joke. You get your hands on something like Wicked or Jersey Boys or Book of Mormon and you and everyone else and all of their children will be set for life. So I think that it’s something to play with, the idea of getting involved with producing and being behind the scenes in this beautiful business of ours. It’s a gamble, certainly. But it’s exciting. I have a small production company and we’ve been doing a lot of little things. Down the road I’d like to develop more stage productions. whether it’s Broadway or off-Broadway, and I would like to get more involved with film and TV as an actor. This is hard work, what I’m doing! They’ve got it easy on TV.
“I was on The Bold and the Beautiful. I played Constantine Paros – he was a young, hot record producer pursuing one of the gals there. So that was fun. And the soap world is cool. And they have great fans. But I’d like to get involved with more gritty and artistic projects as well. So I’m very content. But of course I’d like to continue to develop and expand my horizons.”
And how about that hair? “I think that a lot of Greeks are blessed with strong locks. My father always had a great head of hair. I kept it quite short up until my teenage years, and then started to grow it out big, and it had grown long by maybe 19 years old. I remember cutting it all off to play some role. And then it grew back again. There were so many roles in regional or community theater. I did every show. And sometimes I cut the hair. And it grew back.” He laughs. “It’s funny, but my mother never really let me grow my hair very long when I was younger. Now my mother – she can’t do without the hair. The other night for the opening, I put my hair back and she said, leave it down. Leave it down. It’s interesting how everyone comes around.
“The hair for me has definitely been a trademark. But I’m pretty much done with it now. Of course I would cut it off. I’d like to take on a dramatic role, whether on film or television or stage that would demand my transforming physically. I’d risk people not knowing who the heck I am to get back to being a blank slate as an actor – not walking into a room with producers or casting people expecting to see the long hair, the leather jacket, the boots and all of that – and just potentially getting a chance to work with them just for my sheer artistic ability. “{62362}

Jekyll * Hyde continues for another ten weeks. “I’m very devoted to Jekyll * Hyde and having a great summer with it and then maybe getting a little rest. After that, I’ll see what happens. On Easter I’ll be at the theater because I have two shows that day. Sundays in May are a big deal. So I won’t be able to head out to the family. But I plan on being at the Anastasi at the Cathedral the night before and celebrating with my friends on the street with my candle. And I really do love being a part of that moment.”