The popular television show American Idol brought Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young together, even though they actually competed on separate seasons. Fate and destiny are also parts of the storyline in the duo's latest project Skates.
DeGarmo was the runner-up during American Idol's third season, at age 16. At 18, she made her Broadway debut in Hairspray. She met Young during the Broadway revival of Hair and they later toured together with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Young appeared on season five of American Idol and wrote a Grammy-nominated song for his fellow cast member Chris Daughtry. He has performed in the musicals Aida and Rock of Ages.
DeGarmo and YOung are teaming up once again for more musical mayhem with a debut in Chicago.
Skates takes place in the roller rink of Windy City Skates, and is based on the film Roll Bounce. It's the story of singer Jacqueline Miller, played by DeGarmo, who is touring with a hit record. She plays at the roller-skating rink and goes back in time to talk to her 12-year-old self. Miller learns about who she is from the people in her past.
Skates' original run was postponed due to the pandemic; it was later renamed, revamped and moved to a new location.
Windy City Times: You married each other in 2013 and settled down in Nashville. Have you been to The Mockingbird restaurant yet? A gay couple I know owns the restaurant.
Diana DeGarmo: No, but we have been to Chauhan Ale House and it's right next door. Mockingbird is the next place on the block that we are trying.
WCT: Where are you both from originally?
DD: I am from just outside of Atlanta.
Ace Young: I am from Colorado.
WCT: Talk about this new project Skates.
DD: Skates is a coming-of-age story told twice again. We first meet my character, Jacqueline Miller, in 1994. She's a pop-rock star. She's at the precipice of her career and things are going great. Life hits the fan and her 12-year-old self from 1977 comes back to remind her who she is. We get to relive Jackie's story through 29-year-old Jacqueline.
It's a really fun, very universal story. Some of us can remember all those awkward moments growing up and sometimes we wish we could forget. It's a great trip down memory lane. The show's life lesson is don't forget who you really are.
What would your 12-year-old self say about the person you are now? The tween age is such a magical time for everyone. It's when we are not really a kid but at the same time haven't had the weight of life thrown upon us, so we are our genuine selves. Jackie helps Jacqueline remember that.
WCT: Sounds like this show is good for different generations.
DD: Very much so. Kids could come to see, it all the way up to their great grandparents.
The music is really infectious. We tug at your heartstrings just right! [laughs]
AY: It is for the entire family to see the show, but it's cutting-edge for everyone. People may feel some discomfort when one of my characters comes out as a bully. He's that guy and we don't like that guy. My job is to make the audience not like him.
I also play a love interest to her '90s self named Blake Conrad, who is a jazz saxophonist. When her career blows up, he has to deal with her star shining brighter than his.
He has an inner fight where he's excited but has to figure out what is going on. A lot of people go through this in relationships. It's very rare to find someone like us who supports each other in every success that we have. There's no competition. We love the art. Being a part of it is a dream come true. That's not the way it is for a lot of people. We get to play those people.
WCT: Sounds like a good range.
DD: It is! I only play one person in the show. Everyone else plays multiple people. The characters are woven in and out so seamlessly. Once you get the skates on, you don't get out of the rink until the very end. It's a very fun ride of a show that reminds us of some very important things about life.
AY: It reminds me of being 12 years old. Do you remember that?
WCT: I remember Rivergate Skate Center in Tennessee at 12 years old.
DD: Yay! We live very close to there. That's the mall we go to.
WCT: I saw a possibly gay cast member in the show.
DD: Yes. It's a very well-represented show and cast. The creative team wanted to show a diverse cast. Everyone gets a chance to be represented in the show. It's fun and smart.
AY: The stories in the show hit it on the head where everyone can relate. I might not have the same story, but I can remember when I felt that way.
As I am watching it, I have all these memories coming back from my childhood. It weirds me out. It's what a good story is.
DD: You can put yourself in those skates and in that place.
WCT: Does anyone actually skate in Skates?
DD: Nothat's the beauty of it. No one has to worry about anyone dying or falling off the stage. Our wardrobe designer had these shoes made that look like skates. They give the illusion that we are skating. Jacqueline never skatesthank you, Jesus!
AY: We have dance moves that are not typical dance moves. We are moving like we are skating.
DD: It's creating a whole new style of dance, which has been really fun to see evolve. I get to be the fly on the wall.
AY: The entire stage is a roller rink and you are going to want to skate with us.
WCT: How has the show evolved since we last spoke about it before the pandemic?
Ay: The biggest physical evolution is now Skates is playing the iconic Studebaker Theater! We are thrilled to be the first commercial theater production residing at the Studebaker in over 100 years!
DD: Losing our first home was another big blow to our already hurt hearts after the shutdown. So now to the be rehearsing in the Fine Arts Building, rebooting this Chicago story within the Studebaker's hallowed halls feels like all that Skates has been through was "a blessing in disguise," and 2020 is finally behind us.
Also, with having the base knowledge we learned in 2020, those of us returning to Skates have been discovering even more nuances and subtly to our story, as well as deepening our connection to our characters' intentions. All things you hope to learn the more you spend time with the material. Now we get to expand upon that even more with our new castmates. It's exciting!
WCT: What has helped keep you going during tough times during the production of Skates?
DD: Right now, what keeps us going [are] mediation, yoga and a beautiful city to explore! Skates is definitely a workout, but with great music; a healthy, happy body; and a clear mind, every workout is fun. Life is always gonna throw curveballs, you can either bend or break.
AY: We really love what we do and feel very lucky to be BACK doing it. Diana and I understand how the last two years have been extremely difficult and different for everybody. Working with my wife and doing so in a metropolis like Chicago makes this whole experience even sweeter!
WCT: Are there cover songs?
AY: It's all original music.
DD: We have done a lot of musical theater and these songs sound like hits.
AY: This is the first musical where I have been able to incorporate my performance as an artist into the actual show. It feels like you are at a rock concert.
WCT: Who do you still talk to from American Idol?
DD: The person I am closest to is Melinda Doolittle. She lives in Nashville.
AY: Daughtry lives in Nashville so I talk to him all the time.
DD: Justin Guarini will be in town soon for the Britney Spears musical Once Upon a One More Time. We are good at keeping in touch with just about everybody.
WCT: You are putting out music currently?
DD: I released my album Gemini in 2019i. Ace produced it. The style I call "big-band country." I meld my country roots with my love of musical theater.
I made it in Nashville. We will be selling the vinyl if anyone wants one. It comes with a digital download so you get the best of both worlds.
AY: She wrote every song except for one cover song. I just finished an acoustic album of my own and it's called Up All Night.
DD: We just decided on the title.
AY: My first album I got to do with live strings. I wanted to break this down without the enhancement. This is just me with a guitar. I did every song in one take. There are no backgrounds or other people. The album comes from a song on it called "Up All Night." That's my vibe.
WCT: You were probably up all night recording it.
AY: I was!
WCT: Just like in the Skates storyline, what would you say to your 12-year-old self?
DD: My 12-year-old self would be really happy. If she had met me about 13 years ago, she would have been confused and concerned. The pink cheetah pants live on!
Now I have purple hair with zebra pants. I am lucky to do this for a living.
WCT: Cheetah is back in style.
DD: It's never going away.
AY: I just learned cheetah is neutral.
My 12-year-old self grew up in Colorado and I could ski and snowboard. I would go down the mountain as fast as I could go. I would look at myself now and be glad I did all that roller-skating and outdoor activity!
WCT: Skates opens during Pride month. Are you coming to the parade?
DD: Heck, yeah. We'll be at the parade until we have to run to the Studebaker for the performance that day!
Skates hits the ground running with a premiere on Tuesday, May 24, at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave. For tickets, including VIP options, slide over to fineartsbuilding.com/events/skates or call 312-753-3210.