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Justin Guarini picks up where 'American Idol' began

"American Idol" season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini, who will be appearing at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington on March 2, 2012. Credit: Matt Beard/

Justin Guarini had the same dreams as every other hopeful when he tried out for season 1 of "American Idol": to have a successful pop music career. Instead, in the 10 years since he came in second to Kelly Clarkson, his career has taken several unusual turns, from the megaflop 2003 movie "From Justin to Kelly" (with Clarkson) to hosting an Internet radio show.

In the past few years, Guarini, 33, has become a fixture on Broadway, appearing in "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and "American Idiot." Up next for him is "The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," a musical with songs by John Mellencamp and a book by Stephen King that he'll star in. Tomorrow night, he'll reflect on all those experiences in his show "From American Idol to Broadway and Beyond" at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington.

What can people expect to see in your show at Landmark?

It just encapsulates pretty much my time just before "Idol" and my journey from "Idol" to eventually getting to Broadway. And I touch a lot of my favorite songs I did on "American Idol." People are going to get a behind-the-curtain peek going on with me during "Idol."

What was the biggest thing you learned from doing "Idol"?

The fact that it's called show business and not show friendship. It's the business of the daily grind of maintaining a presence. Once the lights go down on "Idol," that's when the real work begins.

How so?

I didn't expect the roller-coaster ride I was going to have. I went from having 30 million people a week watching me to going five or six years later struggling to really find my place in the industry. Fortunately, this past year has been a tremendous upswing.

Did being on that first season make your group special?

That first season had the biggest impact on people's consciousness. It was something so unique at the time, and was the beginning of a glut of reality TV shows. At the same time, the system wasn't as worked. There wasn't iTunes. Now, if you finish in fourth place like [Chris] Daughtry, you can still have an amazing career. Back then, the system was still being worked out to promote the ones who weren't the winners.

Do you still watch "Idol"?

I do, and it's just amazing to see how big the changes are in the show. Our stage was the size of a postage stamp. The one thing hasn't changed is that "American Idol" . . . has always been about the talent. It's always been about kids from Anytown, USA, struggling to prove themselves and getting that chance.

WHO Justin Guarini

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, March 2, Jeanne Rimsky Theater, Landmark on Main Street, Port Washington

INFO $30-$35; 516-767-6444, landmarkonmainstreet.org

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