Thursday, January 24, 2008

Clay Aiken: Becoming Sir Robin



Associated Press

Clay Aiken has made his Broadway debut in "Monty Python's Spamalot" as Sir Robin, creator Eric Idle's old role.

Associated Press Jan 23 2008



"There's a lot of pressure," Aiken says. "To think about how many people dream of doing something like this and to have the opportunity is pretty humbling."

Humbling, and possibly a little bit puzzling: What's a nice North Carolina boy with scant theater background and a penchant for pop lite doing in a scatological English stage comedy?

Exactly.

"One of the reasons that it intrigued me was that it was so different. Nobody I think would have expected me to show up in 'Spamalot,'" he says, laughing.

"It's very irreverent. ... I mean, my character soils his pants on stage multiple times."

This also is different territory for Aiken, who hasn't really acted much and was even cut from his high school's production of "Guys and Dolls." Just nailing the stage lingo has him rattled.

"I'm having to learn a whole new language. Upstage, downstage. I'm like, 'Upstage? What's that mean? Behind? Oh, got it. Why didn't you just say behind? ...' It makes me crazier than I already am."

Aiken, 29, has taken over the role of Sir Robin, the cowardly knight that Idle once played on film and David Hyde Pierce originated when the Tony Award-winning musical debuted in 2005.

"I think I'm probably just like the character — kind of chicken, afraid of everything and likes to sing. This particular character becomes a knight because he really just wants to sing and dance. He's so surprised when he finds out there's fighting involved. That kind of silly stupidity? — yeah, that's me."

Aiken, a performer who has sold 6 million CDs and continues to draw fans to his concerts, confesses to being sore and exhausted as he prepares for his debut. Aiken's first performance was Friday.

"Probably more preparation has gone into this than anything I've ever done," he says. "It's not just learning music and lines and even steps. It's mentally preparing yourself to do all of it at once."

Associate director Peter Lawrence says Aiken has been no idle diva; the singer asked to be treated like any other company member and has been surprisingly fearless.

"Clay really surprised me. When you meet him, he's this sweet kid from North Carolina with an accent. And you think there's no way he can do Cambridge material. And then he does," says Lawrence.

"It's been a total delight and a surprise for me and everyone in the company to work with Clay because he can do things you'd never imagine he could do."

The show is based on the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which came out in 1975. The film, in turn, grew out of the success of the cult BBC comedy series.

Aiken, it turns out, was a stranger to both.

"Until three months ago, I thought Monty Python was a person," he says, sheepishly.

Not surprisingly, the Python-Aiken partnership started poorly. After being courted by "Spamalot" producers a year ago, Aiken went to see the show and left befuddled.

And why not? He was expecting something like "The Phantom of the Opera" and instead saw characters slapped with fish, dancing plague corpses, a killer rabbit and cow tossing.

"It was, in my opinion, the stupidest thing ever produced," he recalls. "There's no plot."

Persuaded over the summer to return, Aiken finally got it. "It's just completely off-base. So I went in and realized that. You have to go understanding that they even advertise it as being the silliest thing ever. It really is."

That's something Python purists will be happy to hear. Even so, Aiken is bracing for criticism from die-hard fans who can be more caustic than Simon, Randy and Paula.

"I'm anticipating and expecting some sort of fallout. I think it's a little bit different when someone who's never done Broadway before, who may be more well known in the pop world, comes in to Broadway," he says.

"There's always this skepticism that they've been brought in for the wrong reasons or they didn't play their dues or they're not going to do their part well," he says.

"So I even told the choreographer and the director ahead of time, 'I don't want you to go easy on me. I want to do everything that everybody else does. Don't change things and make them easier for me,'" he adds, laughing. "I've since changed my mind."

Aiken, who got a degree in special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was teaching grade school kids with autism before he tried out for "Idol" in Atlanta. He was a former member of the Raleigh Boys Choir, and occasionally sang at weddings and at church.

"There's not really a market in North Carolina to sing for a living. There's not that career path for people. So I never really assumed or had any dreams or aspirations to sing," he says.

That changed in the seventh grade when his mother took him and a friend to a local production of the musical "Big River," starring Martin Moran as Huckleberry Finn.

"It was the first time ever that I looked on stage and saw people — you know, adults — singing. And I thought, 'Wow, wait a second. You can actually sing for a living?'" he recalls. "From that point on, I kind of allowed music to be a part of my what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up scenario."

After finishing second to Ruben Studdard on "Idol," Aiken went on to release his debut CD "Measure of a Man," which went double platinum in 2003. His other albums are "Merry Christmas With Love" and "A Thousand Different Ways." He's currently working on his fourth CD, due possibly by May.

In one of the weirder twists of Aikens' Broadway debut, he looked down at the Playbill while catching a "Spamalot" performance before he officially signed on and saw a familiar name: Martin Moran as Sir Robin.

"So I'll take over Robin from the same person who you could say kind of inspired me to actually make music something that I would do," he says. "It's a very small world — kind of a full-circle thing."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Clay Aiken's Spamalot Debut Tonight!


Clay Aiken's big knight on Broadway


Friday, January 18th 2008
by Joe Dziemianowicz



Clay Aiken debuts as the cowardly Sir Robin in the hit musical 'Spamalot.'

Pop singer, how-to author and now, Broadway hatchling, Clay Aiken debuts Friday as Sir Robin in "Monty Python's Spamalot," the squirrely musical spoof of the Arthurian legend.

Aiken is the latest in an ever-expanding roster of "American Idol" contestants who've leapt to Broadway. The list includes Fantasia ("The Color Purple"), Diana DeGarmo ("Hairspray"), Frenchie Davis and Tamyra Gray ("Rent") and Josh Strickland ("Tarzan").

In the past couple of years, Aiken has fielded offers from other Broadway shows but passed because he was either busy or not very interested. He chose "Spamalot," he says, "because it's completely different. A lot of the stuff seemed, for lack of a better word, boring."

"Spamalot" is anything but. "It's the silliest thing on Broadway," he says, adding that it felt like a good fit even if Robin doesn't warble all that much. "I have a part with minimal singing," he says. "My big number is a Noel Coward-style patter song."

He goes on to say that most people would have expected him to do something more traditional and with more shots for solos. His powerful pipes are, after all, his claim to fame. The show's humor pulled him in. "It appealed to me," he says, "in the same way that it appeals to audiences."

Aiken credits fellow "Idol" alum Fantasia with playing a part in bringing him to Broadway. "Seeing her in 'The Color Purple' helped me decide to do this," says Aiken. "I was blown away. She said she was enjoying the experience."

Aiken has been relishing working with legendary director Mike Nichols. "He knows so much you have to be a sponge around him," he says. "He's the funniest person I ever met, so dry and wise."

He's even appreciated the rather bizarre visualizations and motivations Nichols uses. "He was trying to teach me to react to something," says Aiken. "He said, 'Imagine if you came in and we said, 'Every fifteenth performance, we cut off a toe.'"

Audiences will find out tomorrow if the tip actually helped, and they'll see the new bits of music and jokes "Spamalot" writer Eric Idle has added for Aiken. "It's just a touch here and there," says Aiken. Songs have been modified to better fit his voice.

Aiken can take comfort that he's not the only new kid on the stage. Hannah Waddingham, who played the Lady of the Lake in the London production, starts Saturday in that role at the Shubert Theatre. "I've kind of gotten past the whole audience-makes-me-nervous thing," Aiken says, "but this is the first time I've danced. I'm kind of a little weirded out about that."


Having his fans, those notorious Claymates, in the audience could ease his mind and let him know he's among friends. "They're coming out in full force," he says. "They'll be in the house."

And so will Clay - through May 4. When Fantasia's spotty "Purple" attendance record comes up, Aiken declares he's not using her as a role model when it comes to showing up for performances. "I plan," he says, "on making them all."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Clay Aiken News and Interviews

Clay told APNews about his 2002 experience as an auditioner in Atlanta.



Our Exclusive Interview With Clay Aiken

January 15, 2008 - Posted by Marnie

Even with a grueling rehearsal schedule for his upcoming role in the Broadway show SPAMALOT, Clay Aiken conveyed nothing but high energy and endless enthusiasm during his interview with americanidol.com. This certainly isn't due to him getting a lot of rest these days, however. As Clay so bluntly put it, the rigors of Broadway are "kickin' my butt!" With the debut of SPAMALOT on Friday, his schedule will only get busier. The show will run once a day from Tuesday to Friday and then twice on Saturdays and Sundays! As Clay relayed, having to put together all the acts of singing, dancing, playing piano, and speaking in an accent is more than he ever expected!

This is not to say that Clay isn't enjoying the whole process. On the contrary, he is completely fulfilled by the experience and constantly amazed by those around him who do this on a regular basis. According to the popular singer, once you do Broadway, you can do pretty much anything. Clay is also astounded by the level of talent that has surrounded him during rehearsals. By the end of the day, they have filled his head with so much information that he has trouble remembering his own name! Clay admits that he was warned about the challenges he would face by another "Idol" alumnus, Fantasia Barrino. Thankfully, he is nothing but pleased with the result. He says that the show is "atypical of a musical," calling it a performance that's filled with "silly nonsense," which is what makes it so hilarious. Clay feels that he has really spread his wings by taking part in this, as the show doesn't even involve that much true singing. In fact, he admits that the one "big song" he performs is actually "talked sung."

Despite his participation in this farcical play and some guest stints on shows such as "Scrubs" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," Clay is reluctant to tout his comic abilities. As he joked to us, the only thing comical about him is that he is "funny looking." All kidding aside, Clay was quick to say that he doesn't think of himself as the complete marketing package, like Carrie Underwood or Chris Daughtry might be. Explaining further, he said that he knows he's "not this hip, cool radio guy," but he embraces the strengths he does have and enjoys pursuing things that will play up these qualities. In fact, one thing he thinks he would really excel at is hosting his own daytime talk show. While he doesn't want to pursue this to the point of missing out on other great opportunities, he did admit that this certainly something at the forefront of his mind. However, he realizes that this could be a long process and, as he said, sometimes it's best to "let go and let God."

Clay also discussed two things that are very close to his heart—his charities and his fans. What's interesting is the fact that the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, his fans have helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for organizations in which Clay is involved. The Bubel/Aiken foundation, formed by Clay, helps to include kids with disabilities in things like summer camp and sporting events. He also works closely with UNICEF to raise awareness about poverty stricken areas around the world. As Clay mentioned, his fans were the ones that helped raise over $100,000 in the ten days he spent in Mexico recently, helping those who were devastated by floods. They also helped to raise approximately $250,000 during his time in Afghanistan last year.

"Claymates," as his fans are often called, can expect something huge in return for their loyalty—a new album by Clay! While his last album was something that was desired by others, Clay says that this album contains music that is definitely desired by him. It is also the first time he is having one producer help him to put out the entire album. The result, he says, will be an album of original material that is consistent in its sound and its message to his fans—look for it to hopefully be released this May.


OMG! OMG! OMG! New album in May!!!! WooHoooooooo!!!!

Marnie added a bit more commentary about her interview with Clay on her blog.

I did enjoy a wonderful chat with one of the most popular Idols in AI history, Clay Aiken! I have to say, I was a bit nervous. I'm glad he couldn't see my hives through the phone. It went very well, though, and he was an absolutely gracious interview. Unfortunately, the fifteen minutes the PR person gave me was a HARD fifteen minutes...no leeway there. I didn't get to some of your more...er...creative questions, but I did my best with the time given.


.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Clay Aiken For Dummies!

OK, raise your hand if this is your boyfriend!



What you are seeing is a facsimile of a real live person. He is electronically generated and he lives in cyberspace. The WWW has many iterations of him.

Impersonating Clay Aiken online has been going on for almost 5 years. Some people first met him in chatrooms, in anonymous postings and instant messaging with faceless strangers who spoof and role play Clay Aiken online. There was and still is fan fiction and slash written about him and he has been paired with everything from Simon Cowell to Mrs Beasley and everything in between. I think the only one he hasn't had a fictional relationship with is Lassie, although I might have missed that one.

There are blogs, websites, social networking, myspace and LiveJournal sites and even message boards devoted to these fictional relationships. Some people even started up manhunt and other gay networking sites spoofing him. At one time there were over 80 myspace accounts alone that claimed to be Clay Aiken.

He's had more spoof Yahoo and AIM identities than we can count. Someone even auctioned off the AOL Instant Messenger ID of "Clay Aiken" a few years ago. For big bucks too!

Did you know that there are countless people who think they have made contact with the real Clay Aiken online? It boggles the mind of anyone still in possession of their senses. Don't they know that anyone they meet online could be anyone and anything they want? Don't they watch "To Catch a Predator"?

I'm shocked that there are so many gullible people out there. Clay Aiken isn't the first celebrity to have this kind of role playing and spoofing done to him. What will it take to make people understand that the little girl in a chatroom or the internet trolling pig they encounter online could just as easily be a Teamster in a TuTu sitting at his computer and laughing his ass off at you?

There are some new twists with the advent of recent technology. There is voice altering software that can make you sound male or female and even exactly like your favorite celebrity if you want. There are proxy services online that will give you a phone number in any state you want and it will hide your real number and identity. I could open an account at BigMuscle.com and be Brad Pitt if I want to. I can contact gay men online and send them private messages and set up a hook up date. I can send potential dates "my" picture that can be found online and I can convince any gullible guy that they just lucked out and caught the eye of Brad Pitt! Holy crap, he thinks I'm hot, they say.

The sad thing is that these people are not hot. Many of them are middle aged or average people who are lonely or depressed. Some are gay men past their prime.

Some are in their 40's. Out of shape, unemployed and definitely not eligible for membership in Clay Aiken's dating pool.

Interestingly enough there are 2 that fit that description. One male and one female. Both are deluded into thinking they have a relationship with Clay Aiken. Both have claimed that he is/was having sex with them. Both are out of their ever loving minds, but even Dave Letterman and Madonna have had crazy fans who thought they were married to them. They stalked them and even tried to break into their homes. One is now in jail and the other is in the nuthouse. UPDATE: David Letterman's stalker committed suicide.

This man:



will never have to make friends online. He will never have to resort to online dating services or sneak around in chatrooms or contact anyone online for a date, or to have sex with or even to ask for advice. If your relationship with any form of Clay Aiken has to stay secret, its a sham. If you have to call and leave a message for him to call you back because he won't give you his direct phone number, or if you spend hours text messaging with him at all hours, its not the real thing, honey. If he makes plans that always fall through. If he tells you shameful secrets or he doesn't know you or recognize you, if you ever get within 10 feet of the real Clay Aiken, you're being had by an impostor. Impostors have gone so far as to send photos, plane tickets and arrange for hook ups and hotel rooms, but they always fall through. Always. No exceptions.

Get a grip and get some help. Clay Aiken doesn't have the time or the need for any of this crap. He has a real life with real friends and family and he dates real girls he really knows in his real life.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Clay Aiken: Golfing for Inclusion

The first annual "Golfing for Inclusion" tournament and dinner was held at the Mirasol Country Club in Palm Beach,FL on January 7th 2008. There was plenty of food, drink,and golf lessons for beginners during the day and of course plenty of golfers teeing off and enjoying the perfect weather in good company.

Clay spent part of his day as Wayne Player's willing sidekick. Wayne used Clay to demonstrate proper stance and technique.




Clay spent the majority of the day going from group to group socializing, 'gator hunting and having his picture taken with the participants.

After the tournament the players and their guests enjoyed a cocktail party, dinner, an auction to benefit the Bubel/Aiken Foundation and entertainment by Clay. He sang an assortment of familiar songs such as "I Can't Make You Love Me","At This Moment","Get Here". "Love of My Life", "When a Man loves a Woman" and "Unchained Melody" to name a few. One of the most popular auction packages included dinner with Clay in NYC complete with Carriage ride and Spamalot tickets. It was so popular that it was expanded to 2 packages that went for $20,000 each. There were also professional golf packages and even a private poker lesson with Greg Raymer.

Clay got a little sun kissed but he looked great, sang beautifully and if this picture is any indication. It was a great day!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Clay Aiken: Give a Little Bit

I'm feeling a little bit nostalgic today. Remember this?



That's our Clay from 2004. He hasn't changed a bit. He still finds joy in contributing in a positive way to the children in need around the world. We're so proud of you. Clay!

Have a wonderful New Year everyone!