From punk rocker to ‘Rocky Horror,’ Wilkes-Barre singer Markus A. D. bares all in racy role
As a folk punk singer/songwriter, Markus A. D. is used to putting himself out there and pouring his heart out on stage – just not in gold underwear and little else.
In last year’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show” at the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, he crashed into the role of Eddie – the badass motorcycle-riding rock ‘n’ roller played by Meat Loaf in the film adaptation – which was practically tailor-made for a frontman. This time, however, he’s taking on the titular character, which means taking off a whole lot more.
“They asked me when I went to audition to sing for Rocky’s part, which I was terrified to do because the character is supposed to be really muscular. When they said I got the part, I immediately hit the gym like every single day,” the skinny vocalist-turned-actor admitted with a laugh.
“It’s really cool. I’m excited about it because last year I did ‘Rocky’ as Eddie, so it’s a bigger role and more stage time.”
Doing Charles Atlas proud isn’t the only challenge of occupying the other half of Eddie’s brain as the result of the twisted experiments of the evil Dr. Frank N. Furter.
“It’s kind of a unique character. His entire lifespan is lived out on the stage, so when I approached the character, I had to think about everything I’m learning, I’m learning with the crowd themselves, so I have to maintain that mental thought, like, ‘I don’t understand exactly what’s going on all the time,’ so it’s OK to portray that. As I’m going about this character, there are parts that I might not understand, but I feel like it’s OK to show that. I don’t know how the character would react to Frank N. Furter coming on to him, but that’s OK – I can show that. That’s how I approached it, really,” Markus explained.
“It was different because last year, I came out, sang a song, everyone loved me, and then I died. This year, I have to maintain this inner monologue the whole time: ‘No, you’re a character. Remain in character. Remember that people are watching you.’ It’s been fun.”
While he feels that the adrenaline rush of performing in front of a live crowd is not unlike a rock concert, perhaps what leaves the 31-year-old Wilkes-Barre native most exposed isn’t his outfit – or lack thereof – but the pressure of inhabiting someone else’s personality.
“Without a guitar, I feel completely vulnerable. I’m out there and I’m trying to dance, I’m trying to act, and I’m not a dancer, I’m not an actor – I’m just a singer. It doesn’t feel as intimate because when I’m writing my own personal songs, I feel like I’m singing directly to people, whereas with this, I have to remain in character and I have to still talk directly to the crowd or project to the crowd, but I feel a little bit more out of my element. I feel more vulnerable. The spotlight is directly on me instead of on the music or the band. It’s an experience.”
It’s an experience that began many years ago when he saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at “way too young” an age, like many lifelong fans of the cult classic.
“I didn’t really know what the hell the show was about then. All I knew was I thought the soundtrack was awesome,” Markus enthused.
“I love ‘Hot Patootie,’ I love ‘Sword of Damocles,’ I love ‘Rose Tint My World,’ – all these great songs; that’s what really drew me in. And then after growing up with that, when I heard about the play, I just auditioned for it. Actually, it was my first show ever. This is only my second show ever.”
Since September, his life has been “a constant rollercoaster,” practicing at the theater until 11 or 12 at night, going home and sleeping for a few hours, working all day, then coming right back to transform into a creature of the night.
“The biggest thing is you always feel like you want to do a song justice. The main song for Rocky is ‘Sword of Damocles,’ and I actually listened to every single version I could find. I went on YouTube, I listened to the original soundtrack, I listened to the original Broadway cast, I listened to the new Broadway cast, and I tried to figure out what characteristics each person brought to the song. And I wanted to make it very much my own, but I still wanted to make sure I did the song justice because I’m following in the steps of a lot of great and amazingly talented people,” he noted, sitting in the theater after practice and still visibly elated even this late in the evening.
“You still get to do your voice, your take on something, but you have to always remember that it’s not yours to just have complete liberty over. You have to still do the song the way it’s supposed to be done, or as best you can or as close to that as you can. I hope I’m doing that.”
While he wishes for a bit more time to develop his character (and his biceps), Markus’ last-minute jitters have little to do with his underpants and everything to do with living up to fervent fans’ expectations, along with his own.
“I’m less nervous about [the outfit] than I thought I was going to be because it’s not me. I’m not up there in my underwear – Rocky is up there in his underwear. I don’t feel as insecure about that as I thought I was going to because, again, they’re seeing me, but they’re actually seeing the character of Rocky,” he mused.
“My mother is going to come see it, too. It should be fun.”
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, adequate photographer, podcast co-host, and practicing poet. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.