From Big Hair to Big Band: Dee Snider Takes on Show Tunes
The legendary Twisted Sister front man dishes on his concert at 54 Below, his holiday musical, and his dream Broadway role.
Who would have thought that Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider is, at heart, a Broadway baby? While he's only been seen on stage in Rock of Ages – a show that uses a host of Twisted songs including "We're Not Gonna Take It" – his love of the theater has followed him throughout his career. During his stint on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice, his charity of choice was Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. And earlier this year, he released what he considers to be his major passion project, Dee Does Broadway, a CD of show tune covers ranging from West Side Story to Sweeney Todd.
Snider will make his cabaret debut on December 20 and 21 at Broadway nightspot 54 Below. TheaterMania sat down with the hair metal-band heavyweight at the venue, to discuss his passion for the Great White Way, the holiday-themed musical he's writing, and how two-time Tony Award-winner Patti LuPone could lure him back to the stage.
What does "Broadway" mean to you?
Broadway is a part of my youth. Reconnecting with Broadway doing Rock of Ages brought me back to being a kid, when my parents took me to see shows, played West Side Story in the house, and [when I was] in drama club in high school. I didn't distance myself, but the years have distanced me from it, and suddenly I felt reconnected.
You did drama club? What show were you in?
I did Godspell. I played Jesus. Typecasting. I also did a little bit of theater the one year I was in college. I was never a theater major, but it's certainly in my blood.
Is your 54 Below concert exclusively show tunes?
I'm calling the show Dee Does Broadway and Holiday Favorites. So I'm doing something from my Dee Does Broadway CD, which is my interpretation of Broadway show tunes. Twisted Sister also did a holiday CD a few years ago, so I figured I'd do a few of those songs -- "White Christmas," "Silver Bells," "The Christmas Song," -- with a rock band and with a horn section. And it wouldn't be a Dee show if I don't do some Twisted things. I think the thing I'm most excited about – and terrified about – is the "We're Not Gonna Take It/O, Come All Ye Faithful" mash-up.
What was the inspiration behind that?
I sang in a church choir until I was 19 and it had a lasting effect, because the first six notes of "We're Not Gonna Take It" is "O, Come All Ye Faithful," which I didn't realize until many years later. I've written a musical called A Very Twisted Christmas, which has been optioned and we're in development right now. The show is a seasonal comedy about a heavy rock band that, in a last-ditch effort to find fame and fortune, sells their soul to the Devil but find the magic of Christmas instead. They keep erupting into Christmas songs and they don't know why, but there's one moment where they decide to fight this urge to sing Christmas music by playing the most rebellious song ever written, "We're Not Gonna Take It." During the song, they go back and forth between that and "O Come, All Ye Faithful," and I'm gonna do the mash-up during our show. It's very difficult to do, even though the two songs are similar, but it's a weird gear switch.
I hear you're going to have a 10-piece band?
Four horns, bass, drums, two guitars, keyboard, vocal. And the piano doesn't move. So I'm gonna discover how a man sits on a piano. Which is the same question Martin Short posed on Saturday Night Live this week. I'm gonna find out.
You made your Broadway debut in Rock of Ages. Say a director comes to you and says "Let's do a musical with you starring in it," what would it be? Age doesn't matter. You can play anybody.
Wow. West Side Story. Singing "Tonight" with Patti LuPone, which I did on the record, [was] one of the great moments of my life.
You and Patti as Tony and Maria in West Side Story?
Yeah! It just means so much to me. It's that show that I grew up with and have a connection to, you know?