Doing the Time Warp:'80s Singers Populate Millennial Broadway

A couple of Broadway shows recently faced a casting quandary: Where to find someone who can be scary, comfortable in lots of makeup and sing well at the same time? In the rock and pop pantheon of the '80s, of course.

How else to explain rockers of yore Joan Jett and Sebastian Bach appearing on Broadway this year?

Though Jett's name is more likely to evoke the crunchy guitars and chorus of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" than a rising curtain and an ensemble cast, she is nonetheless appearing as Columbia in the stage version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, opening Nov. 15.

"Theater was one of the first things I was interested in as a kid, even before rock and roll," she told recently. "I was into theater in junior high school and putting on the school plays and things like that. So it's always something that's interested me."

Bach, the flaxen-haired lead singer of Skid Row ("I Remember You": do you remember them?), waxed schizophrenic this past summer in Jekyll & Hyde, a show that has also resurrected stars with both pop and TV '80s icon status: Melrose Place star and "All I Need" crooner Jack Wagner preceded Bach, and Knight Riding, Baywatching, German-pop-craze-inducing actor David Hasselhoff took over the role for a five-month stint last month.

Bach, 32, was recommended to Jekyll & Hyde composer Frank Wildhorn by an executive at the singer's label. He said in June, "It's just in my profession — screaming my b***s off in a heavy-metal band. That's like a prerequisite to do it well."

Hasselhoff had Broadway hopes before he became embroiled in TV stardom. It wasn't until he left Baywatch that he was able to choose from two musicals on the Great White Way: Jekyll and Annie Get Your Gun. He told Playbill, "I opted for the more challenging role, the tour de force. ...This cast is some of the nicest, sincerest, people I've met in a long time. Far superior to the people that I work with in Holly-weird."

But Annie Get Your Gun didn't completely lose out: The production is getting country star Reba McEntire to take the title role for a five-month stretch beginning in January.

Other musicals have proven fertile comeback ground for post-peak pop stars: Jett backed out of an appearance in Broadway's longest running revue, Smokey Joe's Cafe, last year; but "Jessie's Girl" singer Rick Springfield did made a two-week visit.

It's possible that part of the attraction to certain shows comes from a lower bar in terms of complicated choreography. At least, that was the lure for Bach: "I couldn't do Grease or Saturday Night Fever," he says. "I'm not a dancer. Rockers don't dance."

Meanwhile, Smokey Joe's has also hosted Deborah Gibson, perhaps the most thorough and prolific of career shifts from broadcast to the boards. As a songwriter-singer teen prodigy, she sold millions of records with Out of the Blue and Electric Youth. She was also known mainly as Debbie.

Gibson left teen-idol Debbie in the dust and became Deborah, musicals queen. She's starred in Les Miserables, Grease, Beauty and the Beast, Gypsy, and that perennial pop star fave (cf. Donny Osmond, Andy Gibb, New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre), Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Currently in rehearsals for a touring production of Cinderella, Gibson says she plans to release an album within the next year. "I, like most people, have different parts of me that need to be expressed. It's the yin and the yang.....the combo keeps me balanced," she tells

But theatrical performance continues to excite Gibson. "Musicals are magical," she says. "You get to bond with like-minded passionate people, play dress-up, move an audience eight times a week....the list goes on. Rehearsals are going so well. I am exhausted each day like you'd be if you were outdoors playing as a kid or running around town with a new's that kind of exhaustion. It's that magical."

— The New York Post contributed to this story