It’s just as you suspected: All the “American Idol” finalists really do know one another.
I know because that’s what Ace Young told me.
“A lot of the Top 10 finalists know each other because we’re all on the same radio junkets,” he said. “You get to know each other. We all went through the same life-changing experience together. There’s definitely a little clique there.”
Young is playing the title role in the national tour of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical that retells the biblical story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers only to ascend to power by interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. This show began life as a concept album and predated their next project, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Playing the Narrator in this production, which opens Tuesday at Starlight Theatre, is Diana DeGarmo, who married Young just over a year ago.
And, yes, she happens to be an “American Idol” finalist as well. She was the runner-up in the third season in 2004. Young was a finalist in the fifth season.
“Diana and I never met when she was on the show,” Young said. “She was just 16. I didn’t know her until we did ‘Hair’ together (in 2009). I was Berger and she was Sheila. Everybody else knew her as a 16-year-old country singer, and I knew her as a 22-year-old beautiful woman.”
Young said they quickly became friends in the Broadway revival of the classic flower-power musical. It didn’t take long for them to become more than friends. And when it came time to pop the question, he figured: Why not do it in a big way?
So on the final episode of “American Idol” in 2012 he arranged with the show’s producers to let him propose on national television. Young and DeGarmo were in attendance as alumni, and host Ryan Seacrest invited them onstage. Then, on Seacrest’s signal, the lights dimmed, Young sank to one knee, DeGarmo looked appropriately flabbergasted and … well, the rest is history.
“I proposed before 21 million viewers, and that night was perfect,” Young said. “We got to party with all our favorite people from ‘American Idol.’”
DeGarmo wasted little time in parlaying her “American Idol” fame into a musical theater career. Starlight audiences saw her in “9 to 5” in 2011. Young, who had spent most of his life making music, had no theater experience. But he followed a similar path, making his Broadway debut in 2008 in the most recent revival of “Grease.”
Young said that initially producers wanted him to play nice guy Danny Zuko, but he was drawn to tough guy Kenickie.
“I’m more of a sports guy,” he said. “I played football and baseball. I sang all the time and wrote my own songs, but I never thought of theater and never knew I would even get into theater. When I auditioned (for ‘Grease’), they asked which part I wanted to do. Everyone knows me as a nice guy, and I wanted to show them I can act. So I told them I wanted to play Kenickie.”
His Broadway debut was signaled by, among other things, a 200-foot billboard in Times Square, Young said. At that point he understood that theater wasn’t a bad way to go.
Plunging into a Broadway show and signing on for eight performances a week with almost no theater experience is unusual but not unheard of. Young said his background allowed him to make the transition smoothly. It all seemed analogous to sports. Broadway requires endurance.
“I often tell people we’re not paid to do Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said. “Anyone can do one great performance. But we’re paid to do five shows every weekend. We do two shows on Saturday and two on Sunday. After a Friday night show, that’s hard.”
Performing on the road is a little different. There won’t be a cluster of weekend performances at Starlight. But pacing and energy levels remain important.
“It’s very similar to doing a team sport,” he said. “In our show right now we have 26 people who are moving flawlessly together, creating imagery onstage, and it’s all timed with people running lights and sound and the orchestra in the pit and our conductor.
“If somebody doesn’t do their job, someone can get hurt. So that took me back to my days of playing baseball and football. It really feels like a family. We definitely value everybody in the cast.”
The touring production was directed by Andy Blankenbuehler, who won a Tony Award for his choreography for “In the Heights.” Young said audiences could expect a fresh take on the show.
“What Andy did with this production of ‘Joseph,’ he created something new while giving everyone who loved ‘Joseph’ for the last 30 years the ‘Joseph’ they love. The whole cast is the star. It’s not just about me. It’s not just about Diana. Andy made sure you get to know all the brothers and wives. It’s incredible, what he did. We’ve been having a blast with everything he did.”
Young said he got permission from Lloyd Webber to play around with the music just a bit.
“We threw in another song at the end, a duet,” he said. “We kind of re-create the prologue … but it’s a brand-new version. A lot of people think it’s a totally different song.”
Young said the tour is scheduled to run through mid-2015. What happens after that isn’t clear, but he said he and DeGarmo plan to settle in Nashville.
Young, 33, grew up in Boulder, Colo., but his parents and older brothers lived in Kansas City for several years. Young said his full name is Brett Ace Young, named for Kansas City Royals legend George Brett.
He tells a story — one that sounds practiced in the telling — about the time his mother drove him to Kansas City to see the Royals play. He was 13, and the year was 1993 — the year Brett retired. One of the goals of the trip was to meet his namesake. Which he did.
When he saw Brett, he nervously approached the future Hall of Famer holding two baseballs.
“George Brett, my name is Brett Ace Young,” he said. “Can you sign my balls?”
“Well, if it’s OK with your mom, I think we can work something out,” Brett replied.
Young said his parents are coming in from Boulder to see several of the Starlight performances. He and DeGarmo are hoping for heat and humidity at the outdoor theater.
Humidity, as all singers know, is great for your vocal cords. And there’s a bonus: When it’s humid, you don’t have to worry as much about consuming alcohol, which dries out your vocal membranes.
“We love it,” he said. “You get a singer to go to Vegas, you better pay ’em a lot because they have to buy humidifiers for every room. And the more humid it is, the more beer you can drink.”
To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to email@example.com.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” opens Tuesday at Starlight Theatre and runs through July 13. Call 816-363-7827 or go to www.kcstarlight.com.