If Joey Arias wasn’t getting ready to appear at Town Hall, he just might be doing so at a different kind of town hall.
“I would like to be the mayor of New York City,” says the North Carolina-born performer. “I would find the right cabinet and pull the city together. I think it needs a good kick in the ass.”
For now, though, Arias is focused on his debut at the city performance center, which marks his return to New York after last fall’s sold-out limited run at Abrons Art Center. Arias worked carefully with the show’s music and artistic director, Ben Allison and Manfred Thierry Mugler, respectively, to create a musical revue of Billie Holiday hits, Bob Dylan classics, original songs and some unexpected material.
Despite appearing in Cirque du Soleil and an assortment of feature films, Arias — who will allot four hours to getting ready for the Town Hall gig — is proud of his underground roots.
“That’s the world I come from. I’m still part of that world. Nothing really grows in the light unless it starts in the dark. That’s where those seeds of life begin. That’s why I like to always go check out new artists and see the new people.”
A return to New York seems appropriate for the performer, who moved here from L.A. when he was 18.
“New York is alive. When I was in Vegas, people kept saying, ‘Oh, New York is dead.’ New York is not dead. If you think New York is dead, you’re dead. Hit the road, get out of here. Because the city doesn’t need that kind of energy. The city needs people who are excited.”
In the habit
Arias’ penchant for dress-up was evident during his days as a Catholic schoolboy.
“I went to church every day. I loved seeing the nuns. I used to bring a piece of black fabric and get a napkin and put [in] little clips, and I remember [a] nun goes, ‘What are you doing?’ and I was like, ‘Praying,’ and she goes, ‘A nun? Don’t you want to be a priest?’ I was like ‘No, I want to be a nun.’