EXCLUSIVE: ‘Rock of Ages’ is Dan Domenech’s dream come true

Rebecca Faulkenberry and Dan Domenech in Broadway's 'Rock of Ages' -- Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnick

NEW YORK — Eight times a week, Dan Domenech lives out his dream.

The Long Island native is making his Broadway debut in Rock of Ages, the wickedly funny jukebox musical now playing the Helen Hayes Theatre on 44th Street in midtown Manhattan. In the role of Drew, Domenech gets to sing classic hair-band tunes from the likes of Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon. The character, which he’s played for nearly 300 performances on the Great White Way, is the culmination of many years of difficult work in community and touring companies.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox talked with Domenech about all things rock ‘n roll, from his early career to the upcoming Rock of Ages film starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin.

This is your Broadway debut. How was it to get on that stage for the first time?

It was amazing. I had a lot of friends and family there in the audience. And they’ve been around for me, chasing this dream for quite a while. That, coupled with the fact that this show is just a dream. It’s just loud rock singing. It’s crazy. It gives you everything you want. It was awesome. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

How did you come to the show?

I’m from Long Island here in New York. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and I saw the audition for the national tour. So I auditioned for the national tour, and they offered me the part of the swing. A swing covers multiple male parts in a show, and they are off-stage and you wait to go on when someone calls out

And so I did that and ended up leaving the Rock of Ages tour because I had booked Wonderland, which was another Broadway show that was going to open. But right before I was going to do Wonderland, Rock of Ages called back and said, ‘We’re reopening at the Helen Hayes in March. We want you to play Drew and wanted to know if you’re interested.’

I said, ‘Absolutely, I’m interested.’ And it all worked out really nice.

It seems that you made the right decision for Rock of Ages over Wonderland.

Wonderland ended up closing and Rock of Ages is still going. We just hit the top 100 longest running Broadway shows in history.

How is it working with the ensemble?

It’s a lot of fun. The cool thing I like about this show is that it’s an ensemble piece and everyone has a really important job to do up there. No one gets lost in the mix. We just had a good time.

It’s never hard. Even when you go to the theater and you may be having a hard day. You may be tired. When you hit the stage, the energy of the show just hits you and you are automatically at 100 percent. And then you get off stage and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, what happened? That was amazing.’

You get to sing some great songs every single night. Growing up, were they some of your favorites?

I knew them because the songs are so iconic. I knew the tunes, but I didn’t know them by heart. When I started appreciating music when I was younger, it was when the ‘90s grunge era happened. So ‘Teen Spirit’ came out and everything changed. So those were the bands that I was really into in when I was in high school. But these songs everybody knows them. So it’s a lot of fun to sing.

How are the audiences for Rock of Ages?

They’ve been really great. It’s cool because the atmosphere that they create at the Helen Hayes is one of a party atmosphere. They have cocktail waitresses going up and down the aisles, serving drinks and jello shots. Everyone comes in ready to feel that nostalgia when they hear those songs.

They remember where they were when they heard a certain song; it brings back an old memory.

So it’s really cool to go out there, especially when the whole audience connects with each other and you hear everyone singing along. It’s great. And at the end, everyone is up on their feet. It’s a big party. Like they say, ‘Broadway’s biggest party.’ But it’s not just a tag-line. It’s really true.

How did you get started in musical theater?

It was just an obsession of mine. I was so obsessed with theater that everything else unfortunately suffered. My academics were just awful in school, because I would just look forward to doing the shows after school.

And then when I went to college, all I wanted to do was theater. So I got involved in community theater. I would be doing one show while rehearsing another show, and obsessively see how much I could pile on to my plate until my peers were saying, ‘Why don’t you go out to the city and start auditioning?’

I said, ‘OK, cool.’

Then I spent my days going out to the city and auditioning, and then coming home and doing a show while reading for another show. It was great. So when I booked that first gig, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my job now. It’s a dream come true.’ It’s a good thing it worked out.

How long will you be in Rock of Ages?

I don’t really think that far ahead, because in the beginning when I started doing this professionally, I was very focused on trying to make it happen a certain way. Life happens when you’re making plans.

I’m going to be in this show as long as I can, because it’s so much fun each night. … Whatever happens next, happens next. If I end up weaving baskets after this, I’ll go weave baskets. But I’ll be the best basketweaver you’ll ever see.

Is the show difficult on your voice?

Yeah, it took a lot to figure out how to get through eight shows a week. I credit my voice teacher a lot. … It’s worked so far, because we’re coming up on 300 shows, and I haven’t missed one yet. It was a lot of trial and error, where to push and where to go back to technique.

With the upcoming movie starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin, is there a buzz around the Helen Hayes?

Everyone is excited. Everyone wants to know what’s it going to be like. We had the Drew from the movie come visit us and see the show. He said, ‘There are things that are different and things that are similar.’

No one from the movie had seen the stage version before they shot because they wanted it to be two independent things. So we’re all really excited how it will translate to film, especially with the cast that they have got.

Is it the ultimate pleasure to perform in front of your family and friends?

When this whole thing started, it brought back a flood of memories of those days when I thought, ‘Is this the right thing for me? What am I doing? Should I keep chasing this?’ But after that first night, you realize all the people who are there and how they kept pushing you. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to share that with them.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
  • Click here for more information on Rock of Ages.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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