Star of Broadway tour Universo Pereira relishes the role of a washed-up aging rocker
By Joyce Davis Special to the Reporter-Heraldreporterherald.com
When Universo Pereira saw a casting call for a washed-up, aging rocker, he thought, "I can do that." No matter that the Connecticut native had never acted on stage before. "They were looking for a burned-out, worked-out, hot--mess-train-wreck rocker and I knew I could do it. I'd been singing in rock bands all my life and it felt natural," he says. "I got the part and now I'm the luckiest guy in the world."
Now, Pereira's real-life rock 'n' roll heaven is playing the hard-living Stacee Jaxx in the Broadway touring production of the hit show,
"Rock of Ages." The show will play at the Lincoln Center Jan. 9 and 10. While on Christmas break in his home state, Pereira spoke by phone of his love for the tunes of the '80s, around which the show is built. "It's just such amazing music for the era that it was," he says. "There's an anything-goes style and attitude of those times. I think the music really translates to the stage and the story."
"Rock of Ages" is set in 1987, and tells the story of some small-town kids trying to make it in show business. It's big music, big hair and big dreams set around a cheesy storyline featuring the music of such artists as Journey, Poison, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, Whitesnake and more. The storyline is set around the last concert at a famous nightclub facing demolition, fronted by Jaxx, the rock legend gone to seed.
The show debuted in 2009 on Broadway, earning five Tony nominations, including one for Constantine Maroulis, a former American Idol contestant, in the role of Jaxx.
The show, Pereira says, "is all about letting go, both for us and for the audience. It's very era specific, from the mid to late '80s. We get people from all age groups, some who were born in the '80s and some who came of age in the '80s. The music is the star of the show. These songs are magic. They're songs we've been hearing our whole lives and they mean a lot to those in the audience."
He modeled his presentation of Stacee Jaxx after some famous rockers of the time. "He's like a David Lee Roth or one of those rockers who played the strips before becoming big," says Pereira. "I'm bringing him through all of the levels during those years. When the audience first meets him on stage, they have to gauge what's gone on with him, be brought up to speed and then brought along for the rest of the story. Stacee's flamboyant and outrageous, but there's a story behind all that." For Pereira, each performance is in tandem with the audience. "Most of our energy on stage is from the crowd; we feed off that. As performers, that can only help us get better. We want to give the audience everything we've got," he says. "It's like a love story, an affair between us and the audience."
The troupe continues the tour, which began in August, with performances in New Mexico before arriving in Fort Collins. "I'm ready to get back on the road," he says. "I never get tired of singing these songs. I'm lucky that I get to sing a duet of (Foreigner's) 'I Want to Know What Love Is' -- just one of the beautiful ballads that are so full of heartbreaking emotion -- and then go on to something upbeat like 'Don't Stop Believing' that gets the crowd going. It's a dream job."
Pereira has also brought his love for rock into his personal life. His dog, a schnauzer mix, is named after one of his favorites, Freddie Mercury, lead vocalist with Queen and rated among the top rockers ever. "Luckily, my parents have grown very attached to him, so he's in good hands while I'm on tour," he says.