It Takes Two

It Takes Two Two time's the charm for "American Idol" runner-up and Spamalot star Clay Aiken.
Clay Aiken
Clay Aiken

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Two may be Clay Aiken's lucky number. After all, the former "American Idol" contestant placed second during the second season of the hit Fox TV series, and that runner-up status has not affected his career in the least. In fact, he has long outsold that season's "Idol" winner, the affable, velvet-voiced Ruben Studdard. It also took Aiken two viewings to realize that Monty Python's Spamalot was just the right vehicle in which to make his Broadway debut.

When Raleigh, NC, native Aiken first saw the Tony-winning musical at the Shubert Theatre, he admits with a laugh, "I thought it was the stupidest thing I've ever seen in my life." But on his second visit he revised his opinion when he realized "there is zero plot. I sat down and I watched it that way, and . . . understanding what it is and that it's making fun of traditional musicals with silly British humor — it's hilarious."

In Spamalot Aiken has assumed the roles of Sir Robin, Guard and Brother Maynard, which were created by Curtains Tony winner David Hyde Pierce but most recently played by Broadway veteran Martin Moran. And, it turns out that Moran was one of Aiken's earliest inspirations. "When I was in seventh grade, my mom took me to see Big River. It was the very first time that I looked onstage and I thought, 'Wait a second, people can make a living singing!' That kind of excited me — it was the first time I really thought to myself, 'Maybe this is what I'd like to do, something with music.' Ironically, the person who played Huck Finn in that production of Big River was a guy named Marty Moran."

 

Clay Aiken as Sir Robin
photo by Joan Marcus

Although he does get the chance to display his beautiful, rangy, crystal-clear voice in a few numbers, Spamalot doesn't offer the gifted tenor as much opportunity for vocal acrobatics as several other Broadway musicals might. "We had other shows approach us," Aiken says, ". . . but the reason we were interested in Spamalot was it was completely different than anything I had done in the past, and it was something that I don't think people would have expected me to be interested in. That was kind of a draw, the fact that it was opposite of typical Clay Aiken stuff."

Aiken — whose best-selling recordings include "Measure of a Man," "A Thousand Different Ways" and "Merry Christmas with Love" — says he's also working on another studio album, which he hopes will hit stores when he finishes his run in Spamalot. "It'll be out in May, hopefully. Of course, no album I've ever done has come out on schedule, so that doesn't mean anything! Then, we'll see where that takes us, whether it'll get us back on tour . . . who knows?

"I've always said that I try to look at [show business] as an interesting summer-camp experience. I don't know how long it's going to stick around or how long it'll last, so I'm going to have fun and do what I can while I'm here and not try to foresee ten years down the road and be disappointed — because ten years down the road I could be working at McDonald's."