During his mid-1980s peak, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider was perhaps the definitive hair-metal superstar. He had the pipes (a killer wail), the clothes (a combination of speed-metal denim and glam-rock gender-bending), the hair (a wild blonde mane) and the songs (the signature smashes "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock"). Unlike many of his contemporaries, he's not attempting to relive his past glories, even though they're still playing out in front of him six days a week.
Snider joined the cast of the hit Broadway show "Rock of Ages" about a month ago, and his limited run as bar owner Dennis Dupree has been both thrilling and bizarre.
"The entire situation is completely surreal," Snider explained to MTV News while sitting in his dressing room before a performance. "Imagine an actual Tyrannosaurus on the set of 'Jurassic Park.' They've got an actual '80s guy in a show about the '80s. I know the people who sing those songs were a little uncomfortable the first few nights."
The cast quickly got over the jitters of having a legend among them, and everybody quickly settled in. It was the culmination of a long journey for Snider, who has been coveting a slot onstage for a while.
"I would love to tell you that somebody knocked on the door and said, 'We want you!' " Snider admitted. "But the truth is: I was invited to the premiere of the off-Broadway production, where I saw my two songs in the show, and I turned to my wife and said, 'I want to do that. I could play Dennis Dupree.' So I let it be known, and it took two years to get asked out on that date."
As the perpetually stoned tavern owner Dupree, Snider delivers eight killer performances a week. Though two of his signature hits are included in the show, Snider doesn't sing during either "We're Not Gonna Take It" or "I Wanna Rock."
"Those songs are the two big moments of any Twisted Sister show, so it's weird that I'm not singing them," Snider explained. "I'm worried that when I go to perform those songs live in a concert setting, I'm just going to stand there and wait for my castmembers to sing them."
Though he's had plenty of experience onstage, the Broadway universe is new to Snider. He got some advice from contemporary and fellow Broadway star Sebastian Bach (of '80s shredders Skid Row), but there was one thing he had to learn on the fly: "The biggest difference between a concert situation and a theater situation is that you can't curse out the audience," Snider revealed. "I'm used to addressing situations. If something is going on in the house that I don't like at a concert, or if the audience is not energized or enthusiastic — or if they're particularly energized and enthusiastic — I will stop a song just to comment on what's going on. I quickly realized that was unacceptable on Broadway. I just have to stay in character and stay in the show."
Snider is open to doing more shows once his run in "Rock of Ages" is up, though he said the schedule would probably keep him to limited runs. Plus, he's not sure any other show would nail the poignancy "Rock of Ages" has for him.
"While it's a comedy, it's frighteningly accurate," Snider said of the show. "Especially when it comes to frontmen, and how the rest of the band regards them as complete a--holes. And I sit there and feel shame. I was a pompous ass. But I feel better now."
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