FRECKLEFACE’s Newest STRAWBERRY Team Member, Sanjaya Malakar
Sanjaya Malakar was one of the most memorable contestants during Season 6 of “American Idol.” Since then, he went on to tour with the top 10 finalists from his season, wrote a book, “Dancing in the Music in My Head,” and released an EP. Malakar is now making his New York stage debut in the off-Broadway hit musical, Freckleface Strawberry, at New World Stages. The musical is based on the popular children’s book by Julianne Moore.
BroadwayWorld spoke with Malakar about his days on “Idol” and his off-Broadway debut.
What have you been up to since your “American Idol” days?
Working! I have been keeping busy working on a full-length album, and developing my songwriting.
How has your life changed since “Idol”?
It has been like night and day. Before “Idol,” I was in school and knew I wanted to pursue music, but I didn’t know to which capacity. Now, this is my career.
When you look back at your time on the show, what stands out for you?
Mainly, the connections I have made and the people I hung out with. Don’t forget, for almost a year, being on that show, you are only around the crew and other contestants.
Who did you connect with the most?
Phil Stacey and LaKisha Jones. On tour, me and Jordin Sparks were the only two under 21. We had a lot of time to connect. I wanted to see her on Broadway, but I was moving out of New York by the time she came here. I actually ran into her father on the street as they were coming here for her run in In The Heights.
Were you surprised that your hair was one of the most talked about things on “Idol”?
I was surprised. I didn’t expect that at all, especially to that capacity. It was a cool way to get creative. I wanted to keep it fun, keep it light.
Do you change your style often these days?
Nothing really crazy like on the show.
You are making your off-Broadway debut. How did this role come about?
The team approached me right around the time I was auditioning for Aladdin in Seattle. I got this role the week before Aladdin called me to tell me I didn’t get that gig. I wanted to move back to New York. Freckleface Strawberry has a small cast, so I was able to build friendships faster.
What is the most challenging when it comes to performing live?
Consistency. You are coming out everyday, and need to have that full energy, vocal quality. This show that I am doing now is for children, so we need that youthful energy. It’s all about keeping the audience engaged.
What kind of preparation did you need to do?
I have a seven-year-old brother, so I watched him, trying to figure out his habits and the things children that age would do. There is a song called “Basketball,” and I was playing some basketball.
What does this show mean to you?
The show is about being yourself, knowing everyone is different, and that’s fine.Freckleface Strawberryshows you why it is better being confident and comfortable with who you are. Here, Strawberry is uncomfortable with herself; she has red hair and freckles and always gets teased. I hear kids coming into the theatre saying I hate my glasses, I hate my freckles, but then they leave knowing they are different just like everyone else.
Did theatre always appeal to you?
Yes, I have been doing musical theater since the second grade. I was in school plays.
You are working on a full-length album titled “Life-Love-Music.” Can you tell us about it?
I’ve been writing it for the last couple of years. I want to keep it organic and honest. I would like it to be played on pop radio stations, but that’s not what I am going for – it has to be honest, more R&B, soul. I write about things that have happened to me or things I have observed. We want to release a couple of songs this summer and the full album by next September.