What’s it like to be THE Stacee Jaxx?
I’ll admit, this interview encapsulated so much of my fictitious crazy childhood; scores of anthemic rock arena songs, scores of spandex, and scores of sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll that of course, never happened for me. Easily the greatest era of music of all time, the 80’s Sunset Strip Glam Rock Scene enshrined all that’s right in the world and eschewed everything else. Hours, then days, then weeks, then years of playing the drums to 80’s anthems like Don’t Stop Believin’, Wanted Dead or Alive, Jump, Hot for Teacher, Here I Go Again, Rock You Like a Hurricane, and Welcome to the Jungle influenced my musical taste forever. Whether we want to admit it or not, it affected our entire culture. As a kid, I always wondered, what would it be like to be Alex Van Halen…what would it be like to be a rock god? In fact, I still wonder it today…in my past, I even made a video for a contest and I acted like I was a rock and roll drummer for a band that rhymes with Poison, and I won free tickets to a Poison/RATT show…the things we do for our rock Gods.
All of this together still leads me to wonder what it’s like to be THE Stacee Jaxx….
Who is Stacee Jaxx?
I could barely contain my excitement when Ryan Sablan, the actor portraying the upcoming Rock of Ages shows in Portland agreed to meet me! Part of me wanted to show up in spandex, a codpiece, a wig, and bring a bottle of whiskey… I opted for coffee instead; I had to decide if I wanted sugar….one lump or two (if you get that reference, you’re my new best friend). For those of you who don’t know the musical, Stacee Jaxx represents the embattled, drug-filled, sex-oozing lead singer of Arsenal, the greatest (fake) rock band of all time…his character represents the aging and weary rocker who continues to circle the drain…and as the musical notes, “[Stacee’ is a Star…and Stars are undeniable…like herpes”
Here’s a picture of one of the previous Stacee Jaxx actors from one of the Broadway Shows. Those pants just scream sexy.
My interview ended nothing like the Tom Cruise Stacee Jaxx interview, because, well, that would have been just awkward…I was waiting for him to ask me “David, have you ever met yourself?” I did, however, let Ryan know how incredibly excited I was to write an article about a rock God. Honestly, I think he was like “ok, creepy dude…chill out…” Regardless, even as I write this, I blast “Don’t Stop Believin‘ while singing those emblematic lyrics to my dogs.
Who is the Man Behind Stacee Jaxx?
Despite what we will see on stage this upcoming week (because, believe me, I got opening night seats, and I plan to be the loudest fan in the room), the man behind Stacee Jaxx enshrines the values and work ethic one would expect of a true professional artist. Ryan Sablan grew up in Guam and later moved to southern Indiana. (The irony…Axl Rose hailed from Indiana as did I). As we talked, I realized how much I had in common with him, and I admit my jealousy since I can’t sing. Ryan is 41, thus, he grew up in the same era as me. Moreover, at the time, you had 80’s pop or 80’s glam to pick from…and he described how he would listen to the greats: Warrant…White Lion…and of course, Guns and Roses. He found musical theater in high school and theater has permeated his life in and out since then, to today, where he’s thrust to the forefront of a major musical…people don’t get there by accident. Hard work, desire, and a dedication to true passions get these actors to the stage they are now, and frankly, I felt inspired just sitting over coffee with Ryan. We spoke about his first musicals, like Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Evita, and Jesus Christ Superstar. (I sensed, and he confirmed, an Andrew Lloyd Webber fanatic in my presence), and then turned to our mutual love for the 80’s glam scene.
To me, it’s amazing how something in your past can continue to inspire you, and you never know where it will take you. In his case, the singing, the theater, the acting all went in and out of his life as a hobby over the next twenty years. At his girlfriend’s suggestion, he got back into theater last year with the musical Jekyll and Hyde as an ensemble role. When it came time for the production of Rock of Ages, he found himself as an understudy for both the parts for Stacee Jaxx and Drew (another, less iconoclast principle role in the musical), and ended up with the part of Stacee Jaxx. This absolutely blew my mind. For a childhood passion to go in and out of your life for 20 years, and then find yourself in the limelight has to be rewarding. That said, Ryan was extremely humble and, truthfully, he just seemed like a super nice, kind, and respectful person. That’s in stark contrast to who he has to conform to on the stage as Stacee, who basically is a complete asshole:) Method acting at it’s best, eh?
“If I can’t see Stacee Jaxx, I’m going to BE Stacee Jaxx”- Drew – Rock of Ages
What does it take to BE Stacee Jaxx?
This thought came more out of curiosity more than anything. The short answer: a lot. In music theater, one must master choreography, singing, and acting, all at the same time. As consumers, we see the final product, but we often fail to see everything behind it. Having acted in various shorts, and having played the drums for years, I possessed some familiarity, but nothing like this. This actually was my favorite part of the interview because I got to delve into what it really takes to get to this point, even if for just a minute:) The answer is as logical as it is comical. What does it take to BE Stacee Jaxx? One word….Karaoke.
Karaoke. Lots of it. More Karaoke
Sablan explained that it’s rare for anyone to have access to accompanying musicians at their beckon call to practice. His solution???? Belt it out at Karaoke. Seriously. Logically, if we think about it, it makes sense: you’re forced into a situation in front of a crowd you probably don’t know, and all of the musical cues are built in. He went further to explain that “Heaven on their Minds“ from Jesus Christ Superstar is the starting point for those with dreams of singing in rock operas. From there, he explained that the song “Alone” by Heart presents the real test. After much discussion, we agreed that what the 40 yard dash is to the NFL Combine, “Alone” is to being a rock opera God, or in this case, Stacee Jaxx. Essentially, the vocal range and the rhythmic complexity of that song captures a lot of what one would need to master to become Stacee. (That’s just the singing part by the way). He joked that he can tell if he needs to practice and get back into it if he’s off when he sings Alone at karaoke. While somewhat comical, it’s not necessarily illogical. After all, Journey found their current lead signer, Arnell Pineda, in similar fashion on Youtube. Maybe hope exists for me as a rock and roll icon after all…I’m still waiting for Bret Michaels to call based on my video above.
In the end, Rock and Roll dreams do come true, and it was a pleasure and honor to meet Ryan and talk with him about the role. I can only say that I’m absolutely stoked to see the shows this week…
Let’s burn this place to the ground…I mean, literally, Burn it to the Ground…because, you can’t trap the fire phoenix…
Information on the show:)
Portland’5 Brunish Theatre at Antoinette Hatfield Hall
1111 SW Broadway (between SW Broadway & SW Main St)
Portland, OR 97205
February 16 – March 5, 2017
(THURS/FRI/SAT @ 7:30PM)
(SAT/SUN @ 2 PM)
Call box office 800.273.1530
Visit Portland’5 box office: Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave. Portland, OR 97205
(Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon-Sat* *Open 2 hours before event)
Online: www.stumptownstages.org or www.Portland5.com
Tickets range from $25.00 – $40.00