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Glee's Dot-Marie Jones Is a Rock of Ages Superfan. Now, She's Starring in the Show

Jones is playing bartender Dennis Dupree. You read that right.

[UPDATE: Rock of Ages is on hiatus until April 13 in accordance with government regulations.]

There were times, Glee Emmy nominee Dot-Marie Jones says, that she and her wife Bridgett would go to Las Vegas for the weekend and see Rock of Ages all three nights they were there. For the better part of a decade, Jones (who played Coach Beiste on the series) has fantasized about joining the company in one particular role: aging rocker and bartender Dennis Dupree. Finally, that time has come.

For eight weeks starting February 24, Jones is making her off-Broadway debut as Dennis in the 10th anniversary production of the hair-metal hit at New World Stages. It's only her second theatrical experience, and it's been a lot of work — the most work she's ever done, in fact, even after pulling 18-hour days shooting television. But putting on Dennis's goatee and acting like her real-life uncle Richard has made it all worth it. She's having nothing but a good time.

Dot-Marie Jones as Dennis in Rock of Ages.
(© Caitlin McNaney)

I hear you lobbied for this part because you're a superfan and you've seen it dozens of times.
I did. My wife, Bridgett, and I saw it first in Vegas, and we were so into it. We'd probably seen it 20 times in Vegas before it closed. We've seen the show on Broadway, and then a few weeks ago I saw the new one in Hollywood, which is different. It's interactive, and you're sitting at tables, not theater seating. It's still fun, but it's not this one.

Bridgett has been saying for nine years that I would be an amazing Dennis. Even our friends in the show in Vegas said I would kick ass as Dennis Dupree. We came to New York for my birthday in January, and I had known the casting director, Duncan Stewart, for years, but didn't realize Duncan was casting this. We saw it January 6, and I wrote him an email on January 7 saying that it's a dream of mine to play Dennis. Five days later, I get an email from Duncan that says, long story short, an offer is going out to your agents. I couldn't even speak. I handed Bridgett my phone and said, "Read this." I was almost crying. It was ridiculous.

We figured they'd stick me in for fun for a weekend in Vegas years ago, not give me an eight-week run in New York.

And you're playing it as "Dennis." They're not changing anything.
As written. They had asked me if I want to do it as Denise, and I said, "No. Dennis, 150 percent." When we had the hair and makeup test, it was amazing. From the shoes to the wig, head to toe, I look like an old biker dude. It doesn't look like makeup, which is fantastic.

There's a lot of this Dennis that is my uncle Richard. My uncle Richard owned a bar when I was a kid, and I would stay there on weekends because my mama worked, my dad had passed away when I was young, and my sister wanted to get rid of me so she could go out. I started bartending when I was 14 or 15.

Can't do that now.
Noooooo. No, no, no. But uncle Richard took care of everybody, and that's what Dennis does. He's taking in all these strays. Uncle Richard had all of his kids there, and if we stayed there on the weekend, our job was to get up and clean the bar in the morning. We'd play pool every morning, all that stuff. So now it's like, "Oh, my god! I get to do it again!"

Dot-Marie Jones stars in Rock of Ages at New World Stages.
(© Caitlin McNaney)

This is only your second theater show ever.
And it's my first musical. I sang a couple songs on Glee. I had one solo, "Jolene," and I loved doing it, but I never in my life thought… You sing in the shower, you do karaoke, but I grew up on a small dairy farm in northern California. I never thought this would be a possibility.

Is that scary?
I did Our Town at the Pasadena Playhouse four years ago with Deaf West. I had to learn to sign, and it was my first play, and I was terrified. This is a million times more work, but it's so worth it. I have such a passion for this show, and so much respect for these kids in the cast who could sing the phone book and it would sound incredible. It's overwhelming, but it's so much fun. The only thing they need to add is a Heart song. That's my favorite band ever.

Is it as fun as you hoped it would be?
Twice as much. Ten times as much. On Glee, we had 18-hour days, but the seven hours a day I put in here during rehearsal were the hardest I've ever worked. I think it's because it's the hardest I've ever wanted it. That makes a big difference. And this cast makes it incredible. Everybody has been so kind, and not just to me. I see how they interact with each other backstage. They're a family. They're so welcoming. That's why we come to the show. We know it's going to be fun. No matter what, we know it's going to be a good time. To actually get to be in that good time and creating a good time for the audience, it's more than I ever thought it could possibly be.

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