NEW YORK – The next big Broadway star is coming from the Internet.
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"Rock of Ages" producer Matt Weaver said Tuesday that the show has asked YouTube sensation Chester See to play rock idol Stacee Jaxx. The new media star will start onstage at the venerable Helen Hayes Theatre on Oct. 27 and will play through Jan. 4.
See, who auditioned for the part after being noticed by producers, has made a name for himself doing pop covers, viral original songs and comedy videos. His songs have been downloaded on iTunes 500,000 times.
"I looked at this as an exciting opportunity to do something that wouldn't be expected," Weaver said. "He's got a real audience at YouTube, he's got a real voice there, and I think that audience is going to travel to Broadway."
The video for See's song "Whistle While I Work It" has been viewed more than 4 million times and won a Streamy Award for best original song last year. He also is producing and starring in the web series "Side Effects."
See, who has over 1.5 million subscribers and 161 million channel views, will be making his Broadway debut. A graduate of UCLA with a degree in theater arts, he first became known as the host of the Disney Channel's behind-the-scenes entertainment news program "Disney 365" before he launched his channel in 2007.
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Weaver stressed that "Rock of Ages" — now 5½ years old — has always prided itself on having a high bar for talent and the addition of See will not lower it. "We are never putting anyone in the show that's a gimmick or that's a joke or that can't do the job," he said. "First and foremost, we're not putting anyone on the stage who is not great."
"Rock of Ages," which was made into a film starring Tom Cruise as Jaxx, tells the story of small-town girl and an aspiring rocker who share the dream of fame and whose paths cross at a legendary rock club. It's all set to a rock 'n' roll soundtrack that includes "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," ''Cum on Feel The Noize" and "I Wanna Know What Love Is."
The show has always been envelope-pushing, whether it's handing out lighters in the theater, casting current and former NFL stars to do cameos or getting Randi Zuckerberg, a sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to play a role. The addition of See offers the potential to increase Broadway's audience with a younger crowd.
"'Rock of Ages' has always led the charge of being innovative," said Weaver. "Hopefully, it does open up a new world. This guy has 1.5 million fans who tune in and look at his content every single week. I find it hard to believe that a good portion of those people are not going to come buy tickets to the show."
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits