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1/25/12

Chat It Up: Gerard Canonico, Pt. 1

Here’s the thing about Gerard Canonico…it was pretty obvious how awesome he is, whether you caught his talented self as Moritz in Spring Awakening, in the ensemble of American Idiot or around the New York music scene. After wrapping up his set with the “Right Now, Freak Outs” at Rockwood Music Hall earlier this month, he chucked his set of drumsticks out in the audience…and the prospect of getting wailed in the head seemed like a great night out (or at least a fun war story).


Gerard, amidst his crazy schedule, was kind enough to answer some questions for me and from the moment he teased me for calling him a “veteran” of theater, I knew this was going to be fun and he would reach a new tier of awesome. Like, so much fun, I needed to split this interview into two separate entries because there was too much awesome for any one post. Like, so much awesome that if he were any taller, his awesome would overtake the world in a rage of fury and leave a trail of fire behind causing the destruction of mankind.

If you are not already, follow Gerard on Twitter to keep tabs on his ventures as a talented performer/musician in and around New York…and while you are at it, send him pro-New York Giants tweets as we lead up to the Superbowl.

NRNW: You first appeared on Broadway in the late 90’s as Gavroche in Les Miserables.  Do you feel like a veteran of theater having been apart of it for over 10 years?
Gerard Canonico (GC): For some reason, that word “veteran” seems like such a snooty way of putting it (not your fault obviously, haha), but I suppose so. I certainly feel like I have been lucky to have started performing at such a young age because I got a lot of help from my parents in finding me agents and managers. Also, as a child, there were TONS of opportunities for me. But as a result, I also feel like I took for granted my situation when I landed that role in Les Miserables. That show was such a HUGE production and I was an eight-year-old kid who got to climb around a barricade and sing a couple songs here and there. I had no idea what a huge impact that show had on the Broadway community at that time but as some time passed I started understanding it more and more.

NRNW: Leading up to Spring Awakening, you performed in productions like The King and I and A Christmas Carol. Were you balancing school or some home-schooling schedule amidst performing?
GC: In every show I did as a child, I was also a (mostly) full-time student at catholic schools in New Jersey where I grew up. During The King and I and A Christmas Carol, there were tutors hired for kids who were still in school during the rehearsal period. We were called all day, six days a week, for rehearsals. Whenever we weren’t needed in rehearsal, we were rushed to the tutoring room and we’d do our work that our schools provided for us each week. I remember that A Christmas Carols’ tutoring room was just a basement room with no windows, so trying to get an ADHD child like myself to focus for more than two minutes at a time was a challenge for those tutors. They were so great and patient and somehow I always seemed to get work done ahead of schedule thanks to them, haha. Other than that, once the performances began, my parents would drive me every day to NYC from New Jersey so I could perform each night.

NRNW: Is there any one moment that you were absolutely sure that performing was a great path for you?
GC: Once I got Les Miserables, and got into that performance schedule every week, I was positive there was nothing else I’d rather be doing. I love performing and I love creating. Whether I’m doing that with theater, film, or music, I’m completely content.

NRNW: Moving on to Spring Awakening, which was a monstrosity of a production and high-acclaim, what was it like to be apart of a show and cast that would go on to become iconic for this generation of theatergoer?
GC: It completely changed my life. I have no words to describe how incredible that experience was for me. The creative team was fantastic. The cast was fantastic. The piece was fantastic. I am beyond grateful for having been a part of that show. I wouldn’t have had half the opportunities that I have today if not for that show and I am forever grateful for it.

NRNW: You also played the role of Moritz during the end of the show’s Broadway run. What was it like to play a character of such catharsis and emotion?

GC: When I was auditioning for Spring Awakening, I watched the “Bitch Of Living” music video and immediately connected with the Moritz character in that song. The intensity that Johnny [Gallagher] was putting into that character really inspired me and after watching that video, I knew I wanted to perform that role. When I landed the understudy track that covered it, I worked my ass off to perfect it. I watched Johnny and Blake [Bashoff] perform the character every night for a year-and-a-half and got so familiar with the actual track that I could feel comfortable doing my own thing with it if I needed to be thrown on.

I was offered the role of Moritz six months prior to my 1st performance of it. The stage managers and Producers and Director called all the understudies in individually to just give us all ideas on what to expect with the big change in the cast that was about to happen. I had NO idea what was about to happen; I was in shock when they told me they wanted me as their next Moritz.

When my opening night came around as Moritz, I had already performed the role a few times so I was sort of comfortable with it already but that night I almost cried thinking, “Holy Shit…. This part that I’ve wanted for so long is mine.” I almost couldn’t believe it. Those next 6 months leading up to our closing night were the greatest, most challenging, heart-wrenching, frustrating, beautiful, and invigorating moments that I have ever had on a stage. That part is FUCKING HARD. But I don’t regret a single challenge because I feel it made me a better performer and definitely humbled me.

NRNW: You moved on from one rock musical to a more of a rock opera-esque show in American Idiot…what was that transition like working with Michael Mayer again?
GC: I owe a huge thank you to Michael Mayer because he and our producers and casting directors all offered me a part in American Idiot without having to audition for it because at that time I was still in Spring Awakening. I got involved during the second workshop ever of Idiot. That’s when we built the show from the ground up basically. Our choreographer Stephen Hoggett left it up to us as a cast to create the choreo (with his guidance obviously). Everything you saw in American Idiot that had to do with movement was created by the original cast and Stephen equally. I learned that I could dance because of Idiot, haha. It was an  incredibly special experience getting to take that show from the rehearsal room to Berkeley and ultimately to Broadway.

NRNW: What was a highlight in performing in such a modern, edgier then normal show?
GC: There are tons of highlights. First of all, Green Day has been my favorite band since I was a child. I have idolized them all my life, so getting to do their musical was a no-brainer. Secondly, I got to do something that was so natural to me. I’ve supported the message that “American Idiot” told since the album came out. I played in plenty of punk bands and listened to punk music all the time, so everything that the show stood for, I stood for. The movement that we got to do every night was so much fun and additionally, I never had to go to the gym because it kept me in shape, hahaha.

The biggest highlight for me is knowing the Green Day guys on a personal level. Billie, Mike, and Tre are three of the coolest people you will ever meet. Down to earth, talented, fearless, loving, and amazing individuals. I am proud to call them friends and most importantly call them family. Everyone involved with Idiot holds a very dear place in my heart because we were ultimately a family. We’ve been through EVERYTHING together and have seen the best and worse sides of each other. I wouldn’t want it any other way!

NRNW: Did you find the physicality of the show to be fatiguing performing eight times a week with no intermission?
GC: Yes, I kept telling myself  “Maybe it’ll get easier…” It never did; it is a 90-minute concentrated whirlwind tornado of a show. After every show, I’d be WIPED. But honestly, if there were an intermission, then it’d be harder. Having that 15 minutes of downtime in a show that is complete mayhem from the start would just kill me. I would have no energy in the second act, hahaha.

NRNW: Between both shows, any memorable stage door experiences or encounters?
GC: Man there are so many great great great people who I met through the stagedoor. SO many loyal fans and so many AMAZING gifts for random occasions. Spring and Idiot had the coolest supporters, NO DOUBT. They were all pretty memorable; it’s so hard to pick just one. However, I do love all the people that support me and the shows I do. It’s because of them that I get to keep doing what I’m doing and I’m so thankful for it.

Stay tuned for Part Two; there is some good stuff to share...trust me, Gerard continues to bring it!


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