Interviews

Pop & Circumstance: Nick Jonas (and others) are making the switch from concerts to live theater

Though he's not the first and he certainly won't be the last, Nick Jonas is making the temporary switch from the concert stage to the theatrical stage.
Though he's not the first and he certainly won't be the last, Nick Jonas is making the temporary switch from the concert stage to the theatrical stage.

After the platinum-selling records, the sold-out tours, the numerous No. 1 hits and the failed romantic comedy, there’s only one platform left for pop stars to conquer: Broadway.

Coinciding with Tuesday night’s “Glee” finale, which took place in New York and put Kurt and Rachel on “Wicked’s” stage singing “For Good” until the tears came, it was announced that Nick Jonas, the baby of the JoBros, will be playing Link Larkin in “Hairspray” at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl this summer. Link has previously been played by “Glee’s” Mr. Shue, a.k.a. Matthew Morrison, as well as fellow Disney star Zac Efron.

Keep passin’ that hair gel torch!

So who will be singing alongside Nicky J? John Stamos of “Full House” (Corny Collins), Corbin Bleu of “High School Musical” (Seaweed), Diana DeGarmo of “American Idol” (Penny) and Drew Carey of … “The Drew Carey Show” (Wilbur). The star status ranges from washed up sitcom to “AI” loser. There’s no way Nick Jonas belongs on that line-up, right?

Right! He’s merely advancing his career. (That’s what we’re telling ourselves, anyway).

It’s hard to believe that the Jonas Brothers haven’t put out a record since 2009. What was once JoBro Mania has simmered down to a slight sizzle on the pre-teen front. Those 12-year-old super fans from way back when are now getting ready to enter high school, so why not start a side project, Nick? Why not return to Broadway where it once all began?

From teen heartthrob to Broadway belter, there’s one aspect of this career addendum that we can’t deny — the kid can act, sing, dance his heart out. In fact, Nick played roles in “A Christmas Carol,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Les Miserables” and “The Sound of Music” throughout his childhood. It ain’t a shabby resume, that’s for sure.

What other pop stars tried to prove themselves in the stylings of Broadway musicals? We’ve got quite the laundry list. Drew Lachey of 98 Degrees added heat to the cast of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Melanie Brown of the Spice Girls gave a crack at Mimi in “Rent,” Joey Fatone of N*SYNC played Mark in the same show, and even Disney star Christy Carlson Romano (remember Even Stevens?) made it as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Ashlee Simpson of “SNL” lip-syncing fame played Roxie Hart in “Chicago” for 10 weeks straight. Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams also played Roxie after her debut in “Aida.” P. Diddy once graced the Playbill of “A Raisin in The Sun.” 1980s icon Debbie Gibson took the Broadway Route and actually made it after failing as a teen queen — she went to star in over 10 shows internationally.

Some are talented, some are just a name. The motives on both ends of the Broadway deal are easy to figure — the stars want to prove their skills, and the casting agents want to bring in the bills. Say it with me: Ticket sales.

Speaking of which, “Hairspray” will run Aug. 5-7 at the Hollywood Bowl. Get your tickets ASAP before the Disney, “American Idol” and Uncle Jesse fans buy ’em up first.

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Allison Berger is a Philadelphia-based writer and a pop music columnist for Reverb. Check out more of her writing here.