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In some ways, you can say that life has nearly come full circle for John Krupa.
He was always involved in theater as a teenager, and shortly after he arrived at Lehigh University, he wrote and presented a rock opera that was critically acclaimed at the college. But the self-described cocky and conceited 19-year-old Krupa decided he was going to be a rock star.
As a musical composition and theory major, Krupa had the talent and the grounding of a musical education to go on tour with some pretty big acts. He was even asked to play with Meat Loaf.
But the character failings of his youth reared again, as he turned down that opportunity to focus on his own band and original music. Later, when Krupa married and started to raise a family, he gave up touring and eventually launched his own company that supplies musical equipment to theaters, which he continues to operate.
Now at 53, Krupa has written another rock opera, a semiautobiographical look at how a dynamic but emotionally underdeveloped lead singer of a 1980s rock band deals with his life’s decisions.
The work, “Choices: A Rock Opera,” will debut at Whippoorwill Theater in Armonk, the community he’s called home for the past 23 years, during the weekend of Apr. 1-3. Krupa has big plans for the show, especially since he has attracted MiG Ayesa, who starred in “Rock of Ages” on Broadway, for the lead role.
It also features Layla Davias and Christina Labrador, who have Broadway credits on their resumes as well, musicians Nick Celio and Joe Leo and Krupa. In addition to his role on stage, Krupa is directing the play.
The band is comprised of Artie Dillon, Hank DeCora, Mike Rosenman, Tommy Vinton and Grammy Award-winning producer, engineer, musician and songwriter Bill Wittman, who works with Cyndi Lauper.
“I felt for myself that it was a really black and white decision,” Krupa said on whether to pursue a theater or music career. “I couldn’t go halfway; I had to go full force one way or the other, so I really did decide that theater and my acting and playwriting and stuff was going to get in the way of me being on tour with rock bands. So it was a conscious decision, and to this day I don’t know if I chose correctly or not.”
The idea to write a story based at least partially on his own life came to Krupa several years ago. He was talking to a friend about how their lives had turned out, and that friend suggested he write a book. Krupa doesn’t know anything about publishing, but with his music and entertainment background figured he could turn it into a play.
Initially, it was for Krupa’s own enjoyment, but when he was isolated during the pandemic, he put the finishing touches on ‘Choices.’
“I said if I’m going to tell the story, which is somewhat autobiographical, why not go back to when I was 19 and set it to music and tell the story of my experiences, especially during the days of the ‘80s hair band scene,” said Krupa, who today leads a band called Group Therapy, which plays local venues.
Krupa had brought people that he had previously worked with into the project, which led him to Ayesa. After reading the script, he remembered Ayesa telling him “Wow, this is better than any of the Broadway stuff I’ve done.”
Co-producer George Drapeau, a fellow Armonk resident, said Krupa is immensely talented, “a consummate entertainer.” With the outstanding feedback received from people in the theater and music industry, he and Krupa are hopeful that one day ‘Choices’ can land on a Broadway stage.
“We have some strategic partners who have done this before, where I’ve taken shows to New York from Westchester, and they want to participate,” Drapeau said. “They are very excited and it means that nobody’s ever successful unless somebody else wanted you to be successful, and there are a lot of people who want us to be successful.”
Krupa said he wonders how life may have been different with different choices. But the best days may still be ahead.
“I try not to live a life of regrets, but I think every choice that every person makes that is that dramatic, you second-guess it at some point and I’ll admit that I’ve second-guessed these decisions many times, but I don’t say I have any regrets,” he said.
Tickets for “Choices: A Rock Opera” go on sale on Tuesday, Mar. 1 at www.choicesarockopera.com/tickets and are $20 each. Performances will be Friday and Saturday, Apr. 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. and Sunday Apr. 3 at 2 p.m. Recommended for audiences 12 and up.
Whippoorwill Theater is located at 19 Whippoorwill Rd. East in Armonk.
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