INTERVIEW: Dee Snider Loves Being a Broadway Baby
The legendary rock star discusses his new CD, Dee Does Broadway, his new memoir, and returning to the Great White Way.
On May 8, Snider will simultaneously release his new CD, Dee Does Broadway, a collection of theater music featuring duets with such superstars as Patti LuPone, Bebe Neuwirth, Cyndi Lauper, and Clay Aiken, and his autobiography, Shut Up and Give Me the Mic. TheaterMania recently spoke to Snider about these projects and his possible return to Broadway.
THEATERMANIA: How did Dee Does Broadway come about?
DEE SINIDER: A while ago, I was joking around with Alice Cooper about doing this project together, but that didn't happen. I wasn't trying to deconstruct this music or insult anyone. I love theater songs and thought it would be great to find a different take on them. For example, I think "Tonight" from West Side Story is the original power ballad; and I wanted to present it to other heavy-metal music fans so that they might enjoy it and see how cool it is. The other thing that inspired me was the people I met at the stage door of Rock of Ages who had never been to a Broadway show. That show served as a great introduction to theater, so maybe this CD will also serve that purpose..
TM: How did you choose the selections on the CD?
DS: The first rule was it could not be a rock-musical song, like something from Hair or Jesus Christ Superstar, because then it would just be about turning up the guitars. The second rule was it had to be a song I connected with on some level, especially because I was used to writing my own songs. I think songs like "Razzle Dazzle" and "Cabaret" are a perfect fit. And I was so thrilled to find out that "Mack the Knife" was from a Broadway show, since it was a song I've always loved!
TM: What do you mean by always? How long have you known this music?
DS: These are the songs I grew up with; my parents are big fans of musical theater. I grew up on Long Island, but we didn't go to Broadway. We went to the Guy Lombardo Theatre in Jones Beach, and I remember seeing Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, and Carousel.
TM: Let's talk about all these great celebrity duets on the album. How did you pick those people?
DS: Having done Rock of Ages, I connected with some of the people in the theater community. Wesley Taylor was in our show, so I reached out to him and he put a call into Bebe Neuwirth for me, and then she contacted me and was so enthusiastic. I asked her to do Lola's big song from Damn Yankees -- and I had no idea she had done it on Broadway. I just thought it was good casting. Bebe led me to Patti LuPone. I did not expect her to say yes; I was surprised that she even knew who I was. I knew Cyndi Lauper from the old club days. I met Clay Aiken on Celebrity Apprentice and he immediately impressed me, and we've become friends.
TM: Did you originally plan to write a memoir to come out on the same day as the CD?
DS: No. Greater minds than mine thought it was a good idea to cross-promote the projects. I want you to know I wrote this memoir myself; there were no ghostwriters. When we first started the project, the people at Simon & Schuster didn't believe I could do it alone. So I wrote a few chapters, and they said we love it and we love your style. And then I wrote 210,000 words -- I had to tell my story chronologically -- and then my editor cut it down to around 140,000 words.
TM: What's the most surprising thing about the book?
DS: First, it's really a love story about me and my wife, Suzette, which has thrived in spite of the band for 36 years. She has no real interest in music. Also, because I am clean and sober, and always have been, I'm a great observer of what happened during this time. I was able to step back and look at this decade of decadence.
TM: What are you most proud of in the book?
DS: Unlike other celebrities, I start my book at the lowest point in my career, after I had lost everything. I was flyering cars for my wife who was working as a makeup artist. No one ever talks about the low points in their lives -- people like to keep up the façade of success -- but I'm cool admitting I went bankrupt twice. I hope that honesty will speak to people.
TM: The CD is called Dee Does Broadway, but would you ever really do a Broadway show again?
DS: Doing Rock of Ages was one of the greatest experiences of my life, so yes, I would like to do it again. But it's so absorbing, like touring -- it's hard being my age and married, with four kids and two grandkids, so it would have to be a limited run.
TM: Do you have any ideas in mind?
DS: Well, being my age and with my look, maybe I could do The Phantom of the Opera. And there's been talk of bringing that musical, Robin and the Seven Hoods to Broadway and the producers have approached me about a role. And one of my favorite tracks on the CD is "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd." So if I could do the whole show this way; that would be cool.