Courtesy of Michigan Avenue
With his cascading hair and eye-popping wardrobe, Dee Snider might pass for Santa Claus in an alternate universe—and he does have a fondness for the Christmas spirit. “It is not very metal, but I love the family element of the holiday season,” says the Twisted Sister singer, who is now premiering Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale, an art-imitating-life holiday romp that charts the trials and tribulations of the fictional band Däisy Cütter. The show’s soundtrack features a cameo by E! darling Giuliana Rancic, who makes her musical debut in a markedly metal duet of “Silent Night” with Snider. In a lively, laugh-filled conversation, Snider reveals to Rancic how big hair and Broadway can go hand in hand after all.
Giuliana Rancic: Dee, my friend, how are you?
Dee Snider: Great! I’m becoming a Chicagoan.
GR: I cannot wait to see the big debut. What inspired you to write a musical?
DS: One year I thought to take my kids to see a show that spun my head when I was little: the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. My then-10-year-old son, Shane, said, “Dad, that show made me hate Christmas.” I was like, “Whoa, have these times changed!” The new generation is looking for something a little newer, and that started to get me thinking about Rock & Roll Christmas Tale.
GR: With your metal background, how did you go about writing for a Broadway audience?
DS: Look at me onstage in the heyday with Twisted. I always say, “What about me in makeup and costumes didn’t scream musical theater?” [Sings] Hello, Frisco! [Laughs] I was a headbanger, but I’m also a choir geek. I was in drama club, I sang Jesus Christ Superstar in high school, and I did Broadway with Rock of Ages, so I’ve always had an appreciation for entertaining people on a total level.
GR: Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?
DS: My favorite Christmas song? I didn’t realize until somebody pointed it out that I ripped off the first six notes of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” which I sang for 19 years in the church choir. I owe a lot to that song. [Laughs]
GR: Dee, I can’t believe you didn’t say “Silent Night,” our beautiful duet!
DS: My second favorite song? “Silent Night!”
GR: Let’s talk about “Silent Night.”
DS: Yeah, let’s talk about the one that got away. Giuliana auditioned for Rock & Roll Christmas Tale, and we were ready for her to stink. Readers, Giuliana killed it vocally, visually, dramatically—and then she’s not available to do the part! She’s the biggest tease in the world. Giuliana Rancic, I’m putting it out there.
GR: I’m going to be there for Christmas—don’t think I'm not going to try to sneak up [and] ambush the stage. I'm sure “Silent Night” will be a big download this holiday season because we did a fun rock version—[with] proceeds from digital download sales [supporting] my charity, Fab-u-Wish. As much of an honor as it was to work with you, it’s great to be able to give back, so that’s a personal thank you.
DS: I was more than pleased to do that and work with you. We’ve become friends, and I’m looking forward to spending the holidays with you.
GR: What do you love most about the Windy City?
DS: You know I'm a huge fan. I brought my wife, Suzette, to the city, and she said, “Wow, this is New York’s prettier sister.” I’m a New Yorker born and bred, but you’ve got to acknowledge when the prettier sister walks in—and she is prettier. [Laughs]
As Twisted Sister's Dee Snider celebrates the pre-Broadway premiere of his Rock & Roll Christmas Tale, he sat down with Giuliana Rancic (who makes her musical debut on the show’s soundtrack in a duet of “Silent Night” with Snider) to discuss his musical, his success, and why he loves the holidays.
Giuliana Rancic: Dee, I cannot wait to see the musical. In the show, the band Däisy Cütter is willing to sell their souls to the devil for success. With Twisted Sister, did you ever sell your soul to the devil?
Dee Snider: No, but close: I signed with Atlantic Records. [Laughs]
GR: Oh my god. You are so bad. That’s why I love you.
DS: The devil in that scenario is actually my manager now, so caution: He’s the guy from Atlantic Records who signed me. I love him. No, but a lot of the story is very inspired by my own trials and tribulations. My band was together for almost 10 years before we broke; eight years before we had any kind of a record deal...I went through a lot of hardships, and that is put into the story line.
GR: That’s your personality—you’re not a quitter at all. I like how you reinvent yourself; you don’t get stuck in the same box.
DS: Well, look who’s talking, Giuliana! You can totally understand. I’m more excited to talk about something I’m working on now—that hasn’t sold anything—than to talk about the past. I’m proud of the past, but at the same time, it’s the newest thing that I have that I’m most passionate about.
GR: I know the holiday spirit is a major theme throughout the musical. What do you love the most about the holiday season?
DS: I love the family element, and it’s really the message that we go through life always looking far ahead, and we very rarely truly stop to smell the roses. That’s really the story within the story of Rock & Roll Christmas Tale: about appreciating the things you have. I love that the world does seem to take a breath [during the holidays] to appreciate the great things that are out there.
GR: You’re such a great family man, and in my eyes [that’s] what makes you the coolest. You and [your wife] Suzette have been together how long?
DS: I met her 38 years ago, and we’re still happy together, as The Turtles would say. We have four children, three grandchildren. There’s some concept that once you “settle down,” your life is over. That’s just a self-imposed exile. You can be cool and have fun. Rock & Roll Christmas Tale will prove that. This is a family show, Giuliana. There’s not one word of profanity, it’s not overtly sexual...I want a show I can take my kids and my grandkids to, and have a shared experience that was fun and that we all walked out feeling the Christmas spirit. That’s the real impetus of this show.
GR: Speaking of, the show’s actually very sweet. A lot of people in Chicago could walk out and go, “Aw, I have a soft spot for him. He’s a bit of a softie.”
DS: All the toughest guys are soft at heart. Life makes you tough, but at our core we all want the same things—to be loved and live in a loving environment. [But] I know a lot of tough guys...So don’t think I’m not tough!
Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale runs through January 4. Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St., 800-775-2000.