Photo by Monica Simoes
The latter is a question that resurfaces frequently in Joe Iconis’s work. His hit ballad, ‘Broadway, Here I Come!,” for example, tells a story of someone who jumps off a ledge, plummeting towards the avenue that is considered the ultimate destination for theater performers and audiences alike. And while “falling through the sky” the singer wonders (note the double entendre in the lyrics) “Will I retain my name when I’m the biggest, hugest hit? Or will I blend in the with the rest of the street?”.
Gruesome. Vivid. Funny. Sobering. Iconis frequently works all of these into his work. This unexpected play of emotions is not easier to understand even after one is told that the Garden City-born, Hell’s Kitchen resident is a fan of Quentin Tarantino/Robert Altman movies and the Muppets, Dolly Parton and the Rolling Stones, and whiskey. Well, maybe ‘whiskey’ makes easier sense.
The “real” Joe Iconis isn’t easily pegged. The self-described ‘hat-wearing fella with big eyebrows’ wears a warm casual smile, is down to earth, and has a deliciously arid and unorthodox sense of humor. He exhibits a profound intellect and describes his musical passion and work ethic with seriousness and intensity. Yet he frequently switches a vapid conversation into a witty, punchy droll -- a la Muppet – at unexpected turns.
Turn the page
Described often by critics as one of the rising stars to watch, one wonders what it is exactly everyone is waiting for Joe Iconis to do or to be.
Since 2006, the now 31-year old writer/composer has been staging oft well-reviewed musicals and productions from The Blacks Suits to The Plant That Ate the Dirty Socks to The Bloodsong of Love, just to name a few.
Also sprouting regularly at legendary venues like Joe’s Pub, 54 Below and the Laurie Beechman Theatre are the “Joe Iconis and The Family” performances, the musical extravaganzas in which he performs his compositions together with his handpicked well-known and soon-to-be-well-known performers including Jason SweetTooth Williams, Lance Rubin, Katrina Rose Dideriksen (Hairspray), Krysta Rodriguez (Spring Awakening, In the Heights), Eric William Morris, Lorinda Lisitza, Badia Farha, Lauren Marcus, Matt Hinkley, Nick Blaemire, Jason Tam, Sarah Glendening, Jared Weiss, Jeremy Morse, Liz Lark Brown, MK Lawson, and musical theater icon Annie Golden (Assassins, Hair, Xanadu). He has also worked in musical productions with original casts of Rent Anthony Rapp and Daphne Rubin-Vega, and from Spring Awakening & Greenday’s American Idiot, John Gallagher, Jr.
And then, of course, there is his perennially anticipated Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular. Staged around the season that he loves, it is a musical feast that includes a buffet of talent in familial banter, musical or otherwise --the kind of evening that echoes gatherings when all of one’s own extended family descends en masse, and the managed chaos results in an unfiltered, unforgettable night of merrymaking.
He has already received three Drama Desk nominations and has won the Jonathan Larson award, The Lucille Lortell Award, the Ed Kleban award and “several other fancy sounding awards.”
Beloved. Respected. What else is there left to measure one’s success by? What is that indisputable mark that one needs before a rising star like Iconis becomes simply an accepted star? Who gets to declare it official? Or does it even matter?