Idols They Weren't, But Maroulis And DeGarmo Now Are Musical Comedy Stars

Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.

American Idol has named its latest winner, Scotty "Lockemdoors" McCreery, but don't feel too bad for runner-up Lauren Alaina. Many of the also-rans from that show are doing better than some of the winners.

Two of the best past Idol finalists are in town through this weekend winding up runs in road companies of big Broadway musicals. Fourth season finalist Constantine Maroulis is starring in the Lexus Broadway Tour of the irresistibly entertaining 1980s jukebox musical Rock of Ages at the Winspear Opera House. Diana DeGarmo, who finished second to winner Fantasia Barrino on Idol's third season, is playing the Dolly Parton role in the touring company of 9 to 5: The Musical at the Music Hall at Fair Park.

Watching DeGarmo do a squeaky impersonation of Parton, complete with tottering heels and inflated bazooms, isn't nearly as much fun as seeing Maroulis totally in his element as a rock-star-in-the-making. DeGarmo, who was here a few years ago starring in Brooklyn: The Musical, is stuck warbling Parton's twangy score for 9 to 5; her big solo is the corny "Backwoods Barbie." Maroulis, who was nominated for a Tony for his performance on Broadway in Rock of Ages, gets to wail classic 1980s "hair band" hits by Whitesnake, Styx and Twisted Sister.

Rock of Ages is a silly show that keeps commenting in a winky way on its own shallow storyline. But Maroulis, who's a charming comic actor, underplays his role just enough to balance the wildly over-acted performances going on around him. His character, a bartender in a famous Sunset Strip club who's trying to break into the music biz, gets the girl and his shot at stardom. By the end of the show, as he stands at the edge of the stage, his long, curly hair blowing back with the help of wind machines, Maroulis has taken us on a happy journey leading to, what else, a kickass finale built around Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." So he's the one to see this weekend. Rock of Ages closes Sunday. Now, quick, who was the winner on Maroulis' season on American Idol? Don't think about it too hard. It was David Cook Carrie Underwood. OK, fine so she actually got more than a few chart-toppers out of the whole thing...but who would you rather see work their range Eighties-style? Point made.

Rock of Ages continues through May 29 at the Winspear Opera House. Call 214-880-0202 or visit attpac.org. 9 to 5 continues through May 29 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Call 800-982-ARTS or visit dallassummermusicals.org.

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