Why a 'Voice' Winner Is Playing 'Pippin' on Broadway Before Releasing a Single

"Climb the Chinese poles, do a backflip up over a guy, and [walk] two high wires!"
Joan Marcus
Rachel Bay Jones and Josh Kaufman in 'Pippin'

For the first time ever, a Voice winner is stopping by Broadway before the recording studio.

Josh Kaufman, the season-six champ who touted rock, pop and soul covers while under Usher's wing, has stepped into the lead role of Pippin. Director Diane Paulus staged the Tony-winning revival of the 1972 musical, written by Roger O. Hirson with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.

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Kaufman on Oct. 31 stepped into the title role of the young medieval prince on an existential journey, just after wrapping The Voice tour and before cutting his first post-Voice single. That track is set for an early 2015 release and will hopefully be followed by a full album.

It's an unprecedented move for a winner of the NBC series, as past champs have headed straight into the release of their post-Voice albums — with displeasing results. Meanwhile, American Idol alumni like Justin Guarini, Fantasia Barrino, Constantine Maroulis, Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young have all done stints on Broadway after competing onscreen. 

"Right from the beginning, I wasn't 100 percent sure I wanted to do it," Kaufman tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding that the gig keeps him away from his wife and kids for another three months. Yet as a performer who enjoys musicals and is curious enough to try acting, he accepted. "It's a new challenge — I tend to get bored if I'm doing the same thing all the time."

The circus-themed production's signature acrobatics have set the bar high in Kaufman's hunger for newness.

"I have to climb the Chinese poles, do a backflip up over a guy, and [walk] two high wires — there's a lot of stuff!" he laughs, describing the three-and-a-half weeks of rehearsal before his debut performance. "It's been fun. It definitely took some practice, but I got comfortable with it fairly quickly." And of the show's set list, he favors "Morning Glow" for the powerful delivery it demands.

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Does he feel pressure to help fill the Music Box Theatre's seats before the production closes on Jan. 4, or to launch himself into superstardom the way no Voice winner has yet to do?

"I guess there's a little bit of a feeling of pressure, but I don’t know how much of it is external," he explains. "I think it's more just self-imposed — I want to do the most that I can, regardless of what The Voice has been able to produce. This is an amazing platform to start from, and I'm hoping to do as much with it as I possibly can."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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