By Christopher A. Pape
What makes a star, a star? Speak with Robert Cuccioli and you’ll find out. Gracious. Talented. Urbane. These are just a few of the words that describes the popular Tony-nominated Broadway actor, who now can be seen in the hit musical, SPIDER-MAN, TURN OFF THE DARK.
We caught up with Robert to discuss his career and his debut solo cd, ROBERT CUCCIOLI – THE LOOK OF LOVE, which includes more than a dozen American Songbook classics from the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Resident (R): Tell us about the inspiration behind the cd?
Robert Cuccioli (RC): I put together a show a few years ago called, A STANDARD OF LOVE. It was a cabaret concert concept. I like my shows to have themes so I came up with one for my album and this one uses lyrics of classic standards to tell romantic stories of one’s life, mine in particular. It tells the whole story, from loving and losing and loving again. I found the standards really told the story without using any kind of dialogue which made a perfect fit for the album.
R: How did you come up with the process of picking the songs?
RC: I just listened to a lot a material. Then I looked at each song’s lyrics and the story they told. Whichever song spoke to me, I put it where it belonged in my life.
R: Which songs did you particularly connect with?
RC: I really connected with Prisoner of Love and Witchcraft but I also connected with so many others in the album because each tells a very personal story. I bring my style to that kind of music and it is a mix, from ballad to swing.
R: Tell us about your career.
RC: I grew up in Hempstead, Long Island and did theater when I was young but never thought of it as a career. I was on the path of becoming a corporate lawyer. Then during my senior year at college, I was doing a show. People told me that I was really good and asked if I had thought of theater as a career.
A light bulb went off in my head and I knew that if I didn’t do it, I would be saying, “what if,” all of my life. I didn’t want to live with that uncertainty so I set off to learn as much about the business as I could. In the meantime, I worked on Wall Street. On my lunch hour, I auditioned for roles. It took 12 years for me to finally make my Broadway debut in LES MISERABLES. I then joined the cast of JEKYLL & HYDE, playing the lead roles. I’ve done a lot of off-Broadway shows and regional theatre. I’ve had recurring roles in daytime dramas on TV and I have directed regional theatre productions of JEKYLL & HYDE and THE GLASS MENAGERIE.
R: What does it mean to be a New Yorker?
RC: I love the energy of New York, the vibrancy. It drives and inspires me. I tried living in L.A. It wasn’t my bag so I came home. I have a passion for the city.
R: Where in the city do you live?
RC: On the upper end of the theatre district and I absolutely love it. I’ve seen the area change a lot over the years. It’s hardly Hell’s Kitchen any longer. I love its vigor, not to mention its restaurants!
R: Tell us about your experience with SPIDER-MAN, TURN OFF THE DARK.
RC: The music is fun and I play a great dual role, Dr. Norman Osborn and his alter ego, “The Green Goblin.” I am very happy to be back on Broadway. And I love to have an audience to perform for every night.
R: How is it to be an Italian-American? Do you connect with your heritage?
RC: I am very proud to be an Italian-American. I am proud of my name and, at one point, some former business agents of mine wanted me to change it. I wouldn’t do it because it’s my identity and it’s who I am. I love everything about being Italian. •
Go out and buy Robert’s debut album, The Look of Love. I couldn’t stop listening to it. His voice is a mix of Broadway, jazz and cabaret. It’s at once silky, smooth and passionately strong. It’s a great stocking stuffer for those that love good music and I recommend it without reservation.