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Adam Lambert: Before he was an American Idol

April 8, 2009 |  2:38 pm

Now, Culture Monster isn't one to play favorites, and we're generally too modest to toot our own horn. But after watching Adam Lambert's show-closing, show-stopping performance on "American Idol" last night, we thought we needed to single out this contestant and, at the same time, share a moment of prescience on our part.

We take you back to 2004, when Los Angeles theatergoers were treated to a spectacle like no other (although some audience members of Achim Freyer's "Ring" productions at Los Angeles Opera may argue otherwise). The occasion was a multimillion-dollar production of “The Ten Commandments,” a pop musical that starred Val Kilmer as a singing Moses.

Produced by fashion designer Max Azria, founder of the design house BCBG Max Azria, the musical played at the Kodak Theatre in -- how shall we put this? – a less than well-reviewed run. As our critic, Mark Swed, wrote:

" 'The Ten Commandments" is such effective theater that, after 2 1/2 hours of cheesy stagecraft and innocuous, blaring upbeat music, we don't just understand Moses, don't just aspire to be Moses, we actually become Moses. That is to say, 'The Ten Commandments' has the power to leave a epiphany-seeking theatergoer speechless."

But our intrepid reviewer did appear to more or less enjoy at least one performer. A then-"unknown" Lambert, who played the slave Joshua (video clip above).


"Indeed, given that there is no dialogue and everyone sings similarly styled music, 'The Ten Commandments' does become, in a funny way, less a story of individuals than a saga of larger emotions. The cast is huge, some 50 strong, and everyone is beautiful. Few singers or dancers distinguish themselves with a personal sound or style. High notes are calculated to get applause. Adam Lambert, as Joshua, does the best in 'Is Anybody Listening?' It is also the best song."

So, instead of saying “you heard it here first,” we’ll just offer Lambert our best wishes in the competition. As far as we’re concerned, this guy has truly paid his dues. 

-- Lisa Fung

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