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March 22, 2017

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Q+A: Joey Fatone is in sync after first five days in ‘Rock of Ages’

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Denise Truscello / WireImage / DeniseTruscello.net

Venetian and Palazzo Vice President of Food and Beverage Sebastien Silvestri presents “Rock of Ages” guest star Joey Fatone with the key to the Bourbon Room on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, at the Venetian.

Joey Fatone in ‘Rock of Ages’

Venetian and Palazzo Vice President of Food and Beverage Sebastien Silvestri presents “Rock of Ages” guest star Joey Fatone with the key to the Bourbon Room on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, at the Venetian.
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Venetian and Palazzo Vice President of Food and Beverage Sebastien Silvestri presents “Rock of Ages” guest star Joey Fatone with the key to the Bourbon Room on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, at the Venetian.

Fans are shouting his name mid-performance, and the confetti gun that fires the glitter has been shooting into his face. It’s not easy being a music superstar when you grab the mantle of actor.

But that’s the challenge that pop star Joey Fatone of ’N Sync and “Dancing With the Stars” fame has taken on for his new guest-starring role in “Rock of Ages” at the Venetian. He’ll be there through the end of April playing Dennis Dupree, the owner of the Bourbon Room threatened with the wrecker’s ball in a Sunset Strip real-estate grab.

Happily married, Joey isn’t fazed by fans and misfire hiccups. His larger worry is having to nightly throw co-star Mark Shunock over his shoulders winding up with the latter’s crotch in his face.

In an earlier interview with Joey before the run of shows began, he admitted that it was his biggest fear. Now into his second week of shows, Joey and I chatted after his fifth performance:

You looked remarkably comfortable after just five nights.

You know it is rather odd how comfortable I feel. The first show was a little nerve-wracking, but after you get two or three under your belt, you slowly start getting the rhythm — and that’s kind of what I started doing. Now it’s like a matter of finding the jokes and where things work. It’s been fun. I’m having a blast.

What do you think you have brought new to the show already?

It’s a little bit of a different take. It’s actually funny how the writer came in and I was doing some of the songs, and he was, “That’s good.” He called it “Joey Sauce” — put a little bit of Joey sauce into it, more of my style singing into it as opposed to the normal raspy thing that Dennis does. I’ve done little minor things.

You want to stay true to the character and what he is and represents. He’s laid back and observing everything and being a little bit crushed by the Bourbon Room being torn down. He’s like a father to those kids at the Bourbon Room. It’s been fun to play; I’m still trying to figure things out.

Mark’s package gets dangerously close to your face. We spoke about that when you were prepping for the show. Has it caused any problems?

No! It’s funny to say that I am a straight wiener of ’N Sync, but I think I’ve probably had more packages in my face than Lance Bass! Even referring to when I did “Dancing With the Stars,” there was a funny bit we did where my male partner was in a harness, and he went upside down and I’m trying to undo his harness and my face of course ended up in his crotch, as well.

I don’t know how this happens. I’m very in tune with my sexuality, yet I’m in men’s crotches a bunch of times! It’s all part of acting.

As an actor, Joey Fatone drops the ’N Sync persona. The audience, which I find amusing, is yelling out your name as if you are still the pop star rather than the actor.

Especially right before Mark and I do “Can’t Fight This Feeling” because it’s a little bit of a quiet moment, and then right in the middle of it, you’re hearing, “Woohoo, Joey!”

Does it throw you off your stride?

It’s funny; just like anything, the show must go on. You can’t really break character in a sense, even though “Rock of Ages” always breaks that fourth wall. I just stay focused and true to the character and get in there unless someone is really being outgoing. You acknowledge it in a sense, but you’re also performing.

Here it’s a little bit different. You’re telling a story. You’re supposed to be onstage where you’re able to sing the songs and interact with the crowd, and I’m OK with that. I’ve had tough moments. The very first time I did “Rent” on Broadway, I had a girl in the front row literally try to hand me a piece of paper to sign my autograph mid-performance. I couldn’t believe it. Unbelievable.

Joey Fatone at Surrender

Joey Fatone at Surrender in the Encore. Launch slideshow »

How’s the cast been to you?

They’ve been great; unbelievable. I think that’s why I jelled very quickly together with everyone. They were all just so supportive of me coming into it. I said, ‘If I mess up, just push me in the right direction.” They call that “the shove with love.”

And have they had to do that?

No, not really, thank goodness. There were only like one or two little moments where I was a little off where I just had to move over. I was just a little bit closer to them. They didn’t push or shove, but they were like really close, and I thought, “OK, wait, I know where they are because they’re normally on their spot since they’ve been doing this for a couple of years. I think I need to move over a little more.”

Having done it now for a week, what do you think of the show?

I’m having a great time. Getting into that rhythm and that feel, and it’s funny because it felt really comfortable even the first couple of times. I was second-guessing myself sometimes. Before going out, I’m going over my lines back and forth, and they’re like, “OK, don't screw up,” and it just kind of comes out effortlessly.

A lot of times, I’m usually not struggling, but you know you’re always constantly on your toes and making sure you’re saying the right lines and doing the right things. Just from the repetition, I guess it’s now muscled on me. It came fairly easy for this part. I’m not sure why, but it did.

It seems like you’re really having a party onstage every night. Does it feel like work?

No, it doesn’t. You get to sing a bunch of ’80s hits. I’m having a great time; it’s a blast. Like I said, now that the words are thrown away, I’m able to have a bit more fun, and it’s starting to happen now where I’m able to look at everybody onstage and interact with them a lot more.

At first, it was like, “Memorize lines, let’s see where I’ve got to stand, OK, don’t look at the screen, OK, focus on that.” Now it’s more or less of, “OK, cool, I can interact now.”

That moment when Mark is wrapping up the show and your character goes up to heaven to return as the angel, is that an emotional moment?

I think it’s a funny moment. Especially when they go, “Hey, you’re dead,” and I become smaller and smaller. It’s a very funny moment, I think. The outcome is that I become this sort of angel, and for people who’ve never seen the show, they’ve never seen that, and it’s a fun little thing especially then walking out into the audience.

It’s nice to be able to do that in the character where I’m able to come into the audience, see the fans and see the people who came to visit me. I think that’s a fun, little reward to see me onstage in a matching outfit, and everybody is throwing confetti in people’s mouths.

And when you wade into the audience, is it a case of reach out and touch somebody?

A lot of people want to high-five me and stuff like that, so I try and throw the glitter at them. There are a lot of things going on at the same time. I’ve got all this fringe, I’ve got a lot of hair going around, as I’m moving I’m throwing the confetti.

The first time I did it, I threw it in front of me, which is probably not the smartest thing because when I throw it right in front of me, it’s going right back in my face and mouth. I had hair in my mouth, glitter in my mouth.

The other night I had a pinky ring on my finger. I went and threw the confetti, and the ring completely shot off my hand and was gone. I don’t know if it hit anybody, I don’t know where it went, but the ring was gone. You learn a lot of different things on what to do and what not to do when you’re out there.

It’s a lot of stuff to tackle all at once. Sing, dance, tell a story, fly and fire confetti.

It’s just the little things. Like when the glasses are on and off, and when to smoke the joint, and when does that come into play. There’s a whole list on when I have them on and when I have them off. That’s actually the one that I’m most nervous about — I keep checking, I have a paper backstage that literally tells me when the glasses are on and when they’re off. I still haven’t gotten that down yet.

Are you looking forward to this run until the end of April?

Yes, I’m excited, definitely. I’m loving being in Las Vegas again — such an energy. It’s the city that’s got everything. I can’t wait to get back into it tonight.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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