Dee Snider, lead singer of the `80s heavy metal band Twisted Sister, will be headlining the nightclub 54 Below this week, taking on such standards as "Mack the Knife" and "Cabaret."
The appearance Thursday and Friday night builds on Snider's new CD, "Dee Does Broadway," where he tackles a dozen theater standards, including "Music of the Night," "Big Spender" and a blistering rendition of "Mack the Knife."
"I was true to the songs but I found the rock in them, I didn't force the rock into them," says Snider, settling into a cozy banquette dressed in his trademark all black with his long wavy hair in a ponytail.
Snider will cram a 10-piece band onto the stage of Below 54, a new nightclub known more for performances by its Broadway belters like Norbert Leo Butz, Sherie Rene Scott, Brian d'Arcy James and Ben Vereen.
"The norm is to have Broadway people come in and maybe interpret a rock track," he said. "Now they're reverse engineered it: They've a rocker interpreting Broadway. It should be fun."
Snider, who grew up on Long Island, became one of the more flamboyant singers during the hair metal era, belting out anthems like "I Wanna Rock!" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" while in full makeup and shoulder pads.
He was raised on musicals - he recalls seeing regional productions of "Carousel," "South Pacific" and "West Side Story" - and laughs when people are incredulous that he loves show tunes.
"The thing I say to people who are surprised to see me doing Broadway and theater is, `What about the makeup and costumes and theatrics I was doing for all those years?'" he says, laughing. "Are you shocked that Alice Cooper is a theater fan as well? He is. Shocker!"
On the new CD, Snider invited Cyndi Lauper, Patti LuPone and Clay Aiken to sing along. Bebe Neuwirth stops by to help "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)" from the musical "Damn Yankees," and the three cross-dressing stars of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical" - Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Nick Adams - offer their pipes for "There's Nothing Like a Dame."
"I'm sure they snickered when they got the request and then they heard what I was doing," Snider said. "The fact is everybody was raised on rock at some point in their lives. So they had a chance to rock and I had a chance to stretch a little bit."
Snider, who in 2010 spent a few weeks in the Broadway show "Rock of Ages," has even written his own musical, "A Very Twisted Christmas," which he calls "alternative, seasonal entertainment."
"It's about a struggling rock `n' roll band who sell their soul to the devil in a last-ditch effort to find fame and fortune, but find a magical Christmas instead," he said.
Snider said the show has been optioned by Broadway producers and will feature Twisted Sister songs as well as some of Snider's original tunes. A workshop is scheduled for February. He plans to play the show's narrator.
He'll get some practice at Below 54, a club in the cellar of what was a notorious, coke-fueled disco in the 1970s. Snider remembers hating everything that Studio 54 stood for.
"We used to smash disco records, burn posters of John Travolta, hang the Bee Gees in effigy," says the rocker. "This is the closest I ever got to that scene."