Sebastian Bach is ready for Broadway. But is Broadway ready for Sebastian Bach?
Near the end of the '80s, Bach led a band named Skid Row that produced such hits as "Eighteen and Life" and "Youth Gone Wild". As hard rock bands went, Skid Row lived it up and rocked hard, supplying this reporter with his fair share of rebel-teen tunes to wail in the shower. Can a beer swillin', skirt chasin' bad boy charm the stuffed shirts in the orchestra seats?
Years after grunge rock replaced the harder acts like Skid Row, Motley Crue, and Guns 'N Roses, Sebastian Bach set his sites on the stage. Burned years ago for a provocative T-shirt he wore on MTV, Bach has reinvented himself as a renaissance man. And although Broadway is sometimes still hoity-toity, she has opened her arms to a theater neophyte with a striking voice in the hope that he will lead the unconverted to musical theater. The new star of Jekyll & Hyde is willing, the ovations are standing--but the jury is still out.
Animated and amiable, Bach recently spoke with TheaterMania by phone about theater, rock and roll, the fourth wall, and onstage dos and don'ts.
TM: Is theater like a rock concert?
BACH: It is when I'm in the theater! The major difference between theater and a rock concert is the fourth wall. I'm a rock musician, I didn't know about this. You don't acknowledge the fans--that was new to me. No stage dives into Grandma! It's very challenging not to play to the audience. After one of the recent curtain calls--it was a standing ovation--I started shaking the hands of audience members. I was told not to do this. On opening night, I was given a bunch of red roses, so I bit the buds off of the roses and spat them out. I was also told not to do this.
TM: What attracted you to Jekyll & Hyde?
BACH: The plot. It's really fascinating. I also grew up loving Marvel comics, and they had a Jekyll and Hyde comic book. It's a great story.
TM: Do you sing "This is the Moment" in the shower?
BACH: Nah. I save it for the stage. I sing "This is the Moment" three keys higher than anyone else has. I sing a couple of other songs a whole octave higher.
TM: How did your rehearsals go?
BACH: Great. I mean, it's incredible. The director, Robin Philips, he whipped my ass into shape. He taught me everything--six days a week, 11am to 7pm, for four weeks. It was like boot camp. You know, the rules of rock and roll are that there are no rules. After 15 years of rocking, I was looking for discipline, and Robin gave it to me. I feel lucky to be learning so much more about myself as a performer.
TM: Will this affect your rock concerts?
BACH: Absolutely. 100%. Robin has taught me to be still, to give in to your stillness on stage. I'm, like, six-foot-five and lanky. On stage, when I'm performing, I look like a gazelle. Robin told me that, when I'm controlled and still, I look like a lion. I'm much more dynamic. I love it.
TM: I have a couple of preference questions for you: Fiddler on the Roof or The Sound of Music?
BACH: Oh, man...The Sound of Music.
TM: Jane's Addiction or Pearl Jam?
BACH: Jane's Addiction. But I do love the Pearl Jam song "Alive."
TM: What do you think of pop music now?
BACH: I don't. I think it's sad. [Current pop stars] don't write their own songs, they have to hire choreographers. Skid Row was a real garage band--just a bunch of greasy teens with a six-pack of beer and a dream.
TM: Can musical theater be pop music?
BACH: To me, pop music is like the Backstreet Boys. I like hard rock, Black Sabbath. They should get Ozzy Osbourne on Broadway.
TM: Can theater rock?
BACH: Dude, come watch it.
[To see John DeVore's ideas for some truly rockin' musicals, click on page 2 below.]
David Bowie sang about ch-ch-changes, and Broadway is starting to sing the same tune. The casting of Sebastian Bach in Jekyll & Hyde exemplifies the attempt to attract audiences with new stars, new gimmicks, and high concepts. VERY high concepts. Here, John DeVore offers up a list of suggestions for the coming season.
John Carpenter's The Thing and I
This is the toe-tapping musical story of a proper Englishwoman's unlikely romance with a bloodthirsty, shape-shifting alien.
Phantom of the Truck Stop
Starring Jimmy Buffet as a scarred grease monkey. He falls in love with the local truck stop waitress who is famous for her transcendent meatloaf hot plate.
Hamlet: Rock and Roll Ninja
Shakespeare's great tragic character is re-imagined as a disgraced ninja with a poet's heart who can play a mean axe. Hamlet is abandoned by his ungrateful ninja band mates and embarks on a journey of self-knowledge.
Riddler on the Roof
Batman's arch nemesis torments Tevye and all those nutty Russian Jews with pithy, glib riddles.
The Elian Story
Haley Joel Osment, star of The Sixth Sense, stars in this touching musical about a boy, a dream, and a closet.
My Dead Lady
Ozzy Osbourne makes his Broadway debut in this big-budget musical about a doctor's education of a lower-class zombie who eats brains with her hands.
Bruckheimer: The Musical
Inspired by Tony-winner Contact, this show features top-notch dancing to music from the films of Jerry Bruckheimer. Stylized F-16's dance to the raucous sounds of Top Gun's Danger Zone.