After the first season of American Idol, Doylestown native Justin Guarini became a winner — in more ways than one.
Coming in second behind Kelly Clarkson, Guarini, then a relatively naïve young man in his early 20s, likened the experience to what he called “industry education 101.”
“I learned a lot from it, and have gone on to use all that I learned in subsequent years in the business,” he said.
Being the runner-up in this new television phenomenon meant lots of opportunities for Guarini, now 33, including a strong connection with Disney, performing with the national Idols Live! tour around the country, making several successful albums and appearing on well-known talk and variety shows.
“Over the years I learned that they don’t call it ‘show friendship.’ They call it ‘show business.’ So I had to learn to do my homework so that ultimately I could trust in myself, and be very discerning about the people I let into my life and the people I trust with every facet of my life, let alone with my career,” Guarini said.
Having learned his lesson well, he spent the past year in many endeavors — including his Broadway debut in the stage version of the Oscar-winning film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, followed by the hit Broadway production of American Idiot.
Guarini is now making his Media Theatre debut as Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago, playing through Nov. 6 at the Delaware County venue.
ldquo;I’m a little younger than most Billy Flynns,” Guarini said, “but I think that just means I can have more fun with the role. I get to experience him, and play with him, and make him a little slicker than he might otherwise be.”
Guarini has some dance moves in the show, meaning he does a little soft-shoe.
“But dancing is not my strong suit, and fortunately there are people in the show who are much better dancers than I am, and they manage to take the spotlight,” he said. “I just hope people will see how much fun I’m having, and that translates into something that’s fun for the audience too.”
Guarini’s formal music education began at age 4 with the Atlanta Boys Choir and continued with the Philadelphia Archdiocese Choir. After concentrating on his classical- and spiritual-music background, he went on to study vocal performance, dance, theatrical arts, and film and television acting at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
“Initially, I thought I would go into some kind of law enforcement because my father was the chief of police in Atlanta, and through my experiences with him I had been to the FBI Academy in Quantico, the White House, and I spoke to CIA and Secret Service people,” he explained. “So when I was very young, that’s what I thought I would be doing with my life.”
But when Guarini began to focus on music in junior high school and sang a solo in the County Choral Festival, he changed his mind. “I began to have a vision of myself making it in show business from the time I was in seventh grade,” he said. “I was always good at music, always had a passion for it, but it wasn’t until then that I realized I could make my living at it. I don’t think I did anything consciously, but I started designing my life, practicing my signature, and believing that music could become more than I ever dreamed it could be.”
And so, when his mother happened to hear a radio commercial asking singers to apply for a new TV show called American Idol, she urged her son to try out. He decided to take her advice.
“It was a brand-new show and no one thought it would evolve the way it has,” he said. “We had no clue that it would become this giant of a program. And, as for me, thanks to the show, I’ve had and continue to have an amazing run. I love entertaining people, and just hope I can keep it up for many years to come.” ••
The Media Theatre is at 104 E. State St. in Media. For times and ticket information, call 610-891-0100.