Brian Justin Crum Hits Carnival!
by Steve Desroches
Singer Brian Justin Crum took to the stage at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium to audition for NBC’s hit summer variety competition show America’s Got Talent, one of television’s highest rated shows that introduces diverse acts to a national audience. It’s a modern day incarnation of the variety show successfully repackaging the likes of The Ed Sullivan Show, The Gong Show, and The Sonny & Cher Comedy House as it features everything from magicians to acrobats to dog acts, making the competition intense as it crosses all genres of entertainment. As Crum began to sing, the audience hushed. And when he tore into his cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” it was not long before the crowd was on their feet, followed by all four celebrity judges.
Crum went all the way to the finals, ultimately finishing fourth on the 11th season of America’s Got Talent with soaring covers of Radiohead’s “Creep,” Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” But the San-Diego-native achieved something else beyond just securing a lot of screen time on a widely watched show and making it to the very end of the competition. He had the support of home viewing audiences who call and text in to vote for their favorites. It’s a sign of remarkable change for the better that viewers across America showed such support for an openly gay man, who made his coming-out story and battles with homophobia part of his narrative on the show.
Since his 2016 appearance on the show, he’s been touring the country. He’ll be making his Provincetown debut this Carnival Week as he performs at the Pilgrim House and sings on their float in the parade for the 90,000 revelers that line Commercial Street for the biggest annual event of the year for Cape Cod.
“I find that it really was a door opener,” says Crum about his America’s Got Talent experience. “Exposure is great and powerful. It’s created a lot of opportunities, for one.”
While the country was introduced to Crum via America’s Got Talent, he is certainly no stranger to the spotlight. His creative journey sounds like the script for a musical or TV show itself. Raised by a single mother with his two sisters, he was enrolled at the age of six in an afterschool program run by the San Diego branch of the Christian Youth Theater, where he fell in love with performing. After graduating from the School of Creative and Performing Arts, he was cast in a touring production of Wicked at only the age of 17 before moving to New York, where he made his Broadway debut in the smash hit musical Next to Normal, followed by national tours in productions of Grease, The Addams Family, and We Will Rock You, the jukebox musical featuring the music of Queen. That’s where Crum perfected the song that would become his star turning performance on America’s Got Talent. In New York, Crum also met composer Stephen Schwartz, who penned such smash hits as Godspell, Pippin, and Wicked. Schwartz became Crum’s mentor and the two toured the country together performing Schwartz’ work.
Lately life has been a bit of a whirlwind, mixing concert dates with time in the recording studio. And this autumn, a “big, big dream” of his will come to fruition, and he’ll be back before a national audience in a project that has to be kept secret for the moment, before he heads out on another tour crisscrossing the country. Crum is in the overwhelming sweet spot where all those breaks you work so hard for are starting to appear. But before the start of a whole new world opens up to him in the fall, he’s thrilled to make his debut in Provincetown this Carnival Week, returning to a place he’s vacationed several times, and he is eager to make his mark on the town’s live performance scene, which is as varied as America’s Got Talent itself. It will be a refreshing change, he says, after working on television, recording in the studio, and performing in big theaters, to return to the intimate world of cabaret-style performance, where he can make a deeper connection with his audience through his music.
“It’s become the backbone for which I approach music,” says Crum. “Live performance is where I really thrive. I’m really lucky. I’m really going back to my roots, going back to cabaret-style shows. It’s going to be a really nice connection to my roots.”
Brian Justin Crum performs at the Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Provincetown, Saturday, August 11 and Sunday, August 12 at 10 p.m., Monday, August 13 at 7 p.m., Tuesday, August 14 at 8:30 p.m., and Wednesday, August 15 and Thursday, August 16 at 10 p.m. Tickets ($30 general/$50 premium/$75 VIP with a meet and greet) are available at the box office and online at pilgrimhouseptown.com. For more information call 508.487.6424.