BACKSTAGE: Reflections on a year (and a career) covering the arts
by PAM KRAGEN - firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 12:00 am
Over the past 12 years, I've reviewed more than a thousand theater and opera productions. I can't name a favorite, but I can count on just two hands the performances at which I knew I was witnessing something extraordinary. One of those occurred at Vista's Moonlight Amphitheatre in the September 2000 production of "Grease," where the crystalline, powerful tenor voice of a husky, freckle-faced, bushy-haired teen tenor from Mt. Carmel High School literally caused the hairs on my arms to stand on end. I was surprised to hear a voice with such unforced power, control and beauty coming out of such a young man.
At intermission, I tracked down Moonlight's artistic director Kathy Brombacher and asked,"Who is that kid with the amazing voice?" And in my review that night, I wrote about how this young singer from Rancho Penasquitos was the show's "big surprise" for his "lovely and powerful" voice, and how "we're sure to see more of him in the future."
And we have. It just took nine years.
That singer was Adam Lambert, who in 2009 went from unknown L.A. theater chorus boy to global pop icon on television's "American Idol."
The morning after the "American Idol" finale last May (when the flamboyant Lambert lost in a stunning upset to bland-but-likable Kris Allen), the show's producers set up a conference call where music journalists could call in to a round-robin interview and take turns asking Lambert one question each. I dialed in late and ended up 43rd on a list of 45 reporters (including writers from Rolling Stone Magazine, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Us Weekly and many other major outlets). Each of the questions I'd prepared in advance was plucked off one by one by the reporters in line ahead of me, so by the time my turn finally arrived, I was nervously scrambling to devise a question that didn't sound repetitive or stupid among such august company.
Then, as the interview moderator called my name, "Pam Kragen from the North County Times," the polite but measured tone of Lambert's voice changed into a cheery shout-out: "PAM KRAGEN? PAM KRAGEN? I know Pam Kragen! That's a name from my past!" I was elated. After rather unprofessionally gushing to him (and the 44 other journalists) about how proud we all are of him here in North County, I babbled some question I don't remember and then basked in the glow of his recognition.
Turns out I'd given Lambert one of his first professional reviews and ---- as many actors have told me over the years ---- a few positive (or negative) words in the newspaper are something an actor never forgets, no matter how much time passes or how famous they may become some day.