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"Rock of Ages" brings small town New Baltimore boy to the big stage
First things first — Jurassic is not Kyle Jurassic's real surname.
But it's not far off from the New Baltimore-raised actor's Juresich, either.
"My youngest brother changed his Facebook profile to Jurassic as a joke, and I went 'Oh, that's a great idea. I'm stealing that for the stage,'" says Jurassic, who comes home for performances of the hit musical "Rock of Ages" this week at the Fox Theatre.
"It's fun, definitely. I think it gets me noticed more when I walk into an audition room, 'cause everybody's always asking the question, 'Is that your real last name?' In this business you need anything you can to get attention."
And Jurassic is certainly an appropriate name for an actor in "Rock of Ages."
The Tony Award-nominated production — written by Paw Paw native and Michigan State University graduate Chris D'Arienzo — celebrates some dinosaur aspects of rock 'n' roll culture, specifically the '80s scene on Hollywood's Sunset Strip. The show's soundtrack is composed of hits by Bon Jovi, Journey, Styx, Poison, Night Ranger and others of the time. Launched in 2005 and opening on Broadway four years later, it made an impact with its irreverent attitude and by breaking the fourth wall between the stage and the audience, with performers addressing the crowd directly.
"To me it felt a little daring," D'Arienzo says. "You're taking music that Broadway or musical theater people think they hate, and taking theater, which rock people think they hate, and seeing if there's some way to create an evening that's kind of an olive branch to these two groups that don't know they have something in common with each other."
That was certainly the case for Jurassic, 29, a "Rock of Ages" fan since seeing the company perform with Poison's Bret Michaels during a Tony Awards telecast — when Michaels famously broke his nose on a descending set piece — and then performing in a Grand Rapids production during 2016.
"It's perfect because it's so self-aware," explains Jurassic, who's part of the ensemble and understudies the parts of German real estate developers Franz and Hertz. "It doesn't feel like it should work, but it does. Some people who are really, really good at classical musical theater kind of struggle with the really comedic stuff or anything that's really slapsticky. But this type of show is very on-brand for me, and I think it's easier to keep a show fresh when it's silly and outlandish like this."
"Rock of Ages" is Jurassic's first national tour. Both of his parents — an electrician father and a mother who was a bus driver and driver safety instructor — were musically inclined (dad sang in a barber shop chorus while he was in the Navy), and his Hawaiian grandfather was a member of the Aloha Chorus. Jurassic began acting while attending Anchor Bay High School, starting with "Bye Bye Birdie" in 2003 and also treading the boards in "South Pacific and "The Wizard of Oz."
Jurassic earned a bachelor's of music performance at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, and a 2009 community theater production of "Altar Boyz" there in particular gave him assurance that he had a future on stage.
"It was outside my comfort zone, auditioning for a brand new group of people," he recalls. "I wasn't sure of myself in terms of, 'Am I good enough? Are people going to want to see me do things on stage?' And the response was overwhelming. I got so much positive feedback that I thought, "maybe I can do this ...,' and I just kept auditioning and doing stuff from there."
Jurassic has piled up credits around Michigan as well as in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, in productions of "Catch Me if You Can," "Spamalot," "Forever Plaid," "The Wedding Singer," "Avenue Q," "Grease" and many more. He and his wife, Virginia, moved to New York in January 2017 after years of visiting for auditions. Even as he gets used to "living out of a suitcase" touring with "Rock of Ages," Jurassic is keeping is eye on future prospects.
"I'd love to originate a part on Broadway, to be on the original cast recording of something," he says. He'd also like to work in TV and film, as well as on stage. "I'd like to just see if I can work consistently. It can be an unstable career path. Even when you've 'made it' you can find yourself out of work in six months, so I'd like to just be able to keep working and keep my career moving forward."
• "Rock of Ages" plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets start at $34. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.
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