Justin Guarini, runner-up season one of “American Idol” a decade ago, knows about being a guinea pig for something potentially big.
So joining the Stephen King/John Mellencamp musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” at the Alliance Theatre was a challenge he welcomed.
And he’s embraced the cast, the music, even the special effects. “It’s been tiring but really good,” he said. “The coolest part is getting direct feedback from Stephen and John and T-Bone [Burnett.] It was inspiring to be able to sit with T-Bone and work with him on these songs, to see how organic his creative process is.”
He loves creating a character nobody has done before. In the play, he plays the older of two present-day sons brought to a cabin by his father Joe. The father had witnessed the death of his two older brothers in that cabin decades earlier and those ghosts remain. “It’s about whether or not Joe can tell the truth about what happened in time to save his family,” he said.
Guarini has found his home in theater. He did two Broadway shows last year (”Women on the Verge,” “American Idiot”) and two regional shows (”Chicago,” “Rent”). Now married, he also had a baby, who is now ten months old. And yes, William Neko Bell Guarini has a mop of curly hair – of course.
For this play, he cut his own curly hair down to be a Southern rock musician. The music, he noted, is very swampy-like blues and rock. “It’s so much fun to sing,” he said.
Guarini, who grew up outside Philadelphia but spent summers as a child in Atlanta (mostly Candler Park) with his dad Eldrin Bell, said he’d like to move from Los Angeles to New York, home of Broadway. “Musical theater is a great fit for me,” he said. He admitted he was a bit unfocused for awhile, dabbling in different things. “I’m putting my nose to the grindstone in theater now.”
IF YOU GO
“Ghost Brothers of Darkland County”
Through May 13. Tuesdays to Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m., Saturdays, 2:30 p.m., 8 p.m. Sundays, 2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta. $65-$85. 404 733-5000. www.alliancetheatre.org.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk
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