Friday, August 28, 2009

Adam Lambert's Biography Part 2: The Theatre Years

The first few months in L.A. were difficult. Adam was feeling miserable and overweight and couldn't find work. Then, an opportunity presented itself. He auditioned with Anita Mann Productions for a 10-month contract with Holland America Cruise Lines. Not only was he hired, but he got the lead role in the 6-people musical revue, making him, at 19-years old, the youngest performer to ever land such a job. His fellow castmates were not too happy about it, and were quite antagonistic at first, but his voice and talent eventually won them over. The ship, the MS Amsterdam, was beautiful and brand new. They first went to Europe, then came back to New York just a few days before 9/11. They were sailing off the coast of Nova Scotia when the attacks occurred and had to stay at sea for three days. In early 2002, Adam had the privilege to be part of the ship's maiden grand world voyage, which took him as far as Australia and New Zealand.

After the end of his engagement, he went back to L.A. and landed a couple of ensemble cast jobs with the Civic Light Opera (Evita, My Fair Lady). He wasn't paid much, since he hadn't yet earned his Equity card. He signed up with a manager, who found him various contracts. Then, in 2003, he joined the European Tour of the musical "Hair", produced by Wolfgang Bocksch Concerts, where he played the role of Margaret Mead, the tourist lady, as well as a member of the Tribe. He was also the understudy for the role of Claude. Hair was a turning point in Adam's life. He totally embraced the hippie lifestyle, both on and off stage. He started out as a blond, freckled boy and metamorphosed into a glam rock star. He dyed his hair black, started to wear black nail polish and eyeliner, changed the way he dressed and experimented with sex and drugs. He was finally starting to feel good in his own skin.

Back in the U.S., Adam resumed his search for musical theatre jobs. He landed the part of Charlie Dalrymple in "Brigadoon" presented at "Theatre under the Stars" in Houston, where he received excellent reviews for his interpretation of "Come to me, bend to me". He got his Equity card and felt that he had finally become a professional actor. In the summer of 2004, he played the role of Phil Mackey in the musical comedy "110 in the Shade" at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Then came a big breakthrough when he got the part of Joshua in "The Ten Commandments", starring Val Kilmer in the role of Moses. The producers were a little uneasy with his "gayness", asking him to remove the nail polish and eyeliner during rehearsals and to "tone down" his performance. They even tried unsuccessfully to find a replacement for him. Adam felt rejected, but was totally vindicated when he got the best critical reviews. The show ran from September 21 to December 5, 2004 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. He made friends with Val, hanging out with him in restaurants and at his house. He got the first glimpse of what it was like to be a celebrity, being followed everywhere by paparazzis, signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.

Adam had made some good friends on the Hair tour, including Scarlett and Lee Cherry. Back in L.A., they were both working on the Zodiac Show and invited Adam to join this extravagant musical revue, which was presented at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theater in December 2004. That was a match made in heaven and Adam went all out with the glam make-up and feathered costume, singing a very outrageous version of Sam Cooke's "A change is gonna come". He even changed the words a little, singing "I don't see what's wrong with a little glitter around my eyes", a direct reference to his unfortunate "Ten Commandments" experience. He made some new friends at the Zodiac show, including Allan Louis and Alisan Porter.

Around the same time, Adam auditioned for a part in the national tour production of the musical comedy "Wicked". The casting director had read the glowing reviews of his performance in "The Ten Commandments" and hired him to be part of the ensemble cast as well as the understudy for the role of Fiyero. Adam was ecstatic, as he would finally be part of a real Broadway show. There were a couple of months of rehearsals in New York and Toronto before the show opened on March 9, 2005 at the Canon Theatre in Toronto. The production then travelled to Chicago in the spring, then Hollywood and San Francisco in the summer. After six months on the road, Adam decided to call it quits. He was a bit lonely and unsatisfied to be in the ensemble cast, not getting enough attention. He felt that this was not what he was supposed to be doing.

Adam's Zodiac Show friends took him to the Burning Man festival, a utopian underground week-long event that attracts thousands of people every year in the middle of Nevada's Black Rock Desert where they build a makeshift "city" and celebrate individuality, creativity and free spirit. He had a blast and returned in 2006 and 2007, where he performed in "The Big Black Man Show", a glam revue created by Allan Louis, aka "Alanna", presented at the Center Camp Cafe. At Burning Man 2007, he had an epiphany and suddenly realized that whatever he wanted to do, he had to make happen. That's when he decided to try out for American Idol.

At the Zodiac Show in 2004, Adam was approached by guitarist Monte Pittman, who wanted to start a new rock band. They hit it off right away and composed their first song together that very night. Monte had left his hometown of Longview, Texas in 1999 to pursue a musical career in L.A., but ended up selling guitars, then giving guitar lessons to make ends meet. However, fate was on his side when the guitar shop referred him Guy Ritchie as a student. One thing led to another and Monte started giving lessons to Madonna, and was invited to join her band on her "Drowned World" and "Re-invention" tours. Monte introduced Adam to Madonna after one of her guitar lessons. That was a magical moment for him. She teased him about being intimidated and they talked about astrology, which is an interest they both share.

Monte taught Adam how to write songs on GarageBand, a music editing software for the Mac. They co-wrote a number of songs together and recorded some tracks. Monte recruited guitarist Tommy Victor and drummer Steve Sydelnik to join the band, which was called "The Citizen Vein". They gave their first live show at the Cat Club, in Hollywood, on December 23, 2006. They performed a few more times in 2007, but Adam didn't really click with them. He was also spending all his time off with his boyfriend Brad Bell, aka "Cheeks". Adam had never been truly in love before and this was a totally new and wonderful experience for him.

After more than a year of living the struggling artist life in L.A., having to accept jobs far beneath his talent just to make ends meet, Adam was longing for a regular paycheck. Wicked was coming back to Hollywood's Pantages Theatre, and he was determined to make the cast. The producers were concerned that he would drop out again and he had to plead and beg to get the job, promising to stay until the end. He was given exactly the same role as he had in 2005, part of the ensemble cast and understudy to Fiyero. He kept his word, staying for the whole run from February 2007 to November 2008, but he hadn't abandoned his dream of becoming a rock star. He shared his idea of auditioning for American Idol with his castmates, and they all encouraged him to go for it.

This post was originally published by The Librarian on the Adam Lambert Reference Centre blog. The original post URL is

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