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Santa Rosa ‘singing Viking’ ready for next round of ‘American Idol’

When Anthony Guzman made his debut last month on the ABC singing competition show “American Idol,” the audience’s first impression was likely shaped by what they saw — a big bearded guy in a Viking helmet.

What they couldn’t know is that the 27-year-old Santa Rosan, a forklift and delivery driver for a plumbing supply warehouse, has been polishing his singing ability for more than half his life, much of that time spent in local musical theater productions.

“I’ve been singing since I was 11, and I’ve been in bands since I was 13,” Guzman said.

It was only five years ago that Guzman started dressing up as Thor, the Norse thunder god, a pastime linked to his love of heavy metal music.

“Thor is a huge part of Norse mythology, and there’s all sorts of Viking metal music,” he said. (Viking metal is a subset of heavy metal music and is characterized by a lyrical and thematic focus on Norse mythology and the Viking Age.)

But despite the thunder god get-up, Guzman didn’t go the metallic route on “American Idol.” Instead he sang the Ella Fitzgerald jazz standard “Cry Me a River” in a smooth Michael Bublé style.

The gimmick both surprised and confused the “Idol” judges panel during his on-air audition, but with two out of three voting for him, he was cleared to move on to show’s Hollywood round of competition, which starts Sunday, March 21. An ABC spokesman said the network still hasn’t confirmed what day Guzman will appear on the show.

After “Idol” judge Luke Bryan recoiled from the Thor gimmick, both Katy Perry and Lionel Richie advanced Guzman to the show’s next round but urged him to drop the costume and take his singing more seriously. So will Guzman come dressed as Thor next time?

His response is sly: “You’re going to have to wait and see.”

After spending the first 13 years of his life in Vallejo, Guzman moved to Sonoma County and attended El Molino High School in Forestville, where he got involved in theater.

“We had a low budget, but we made the most of it,” he said. “We had a lot of good people come out to see us.”

Guzman has been part of the Sonoma County arts scene for a decade already. He appeared in more than half a dozen local live theater productions, from a bit part in “My Fair Lady” at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2011 to the starring role of Danny Zuko in “Grease” at the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa in 2014.

“Anthony is a force to be reckoned with. He’s a bold talent, and he’s always been confident is his abilities,” said John Shillington, who directed Guzman in “Phantom of the Opera” at Santa Rosa Junior College and “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, both in 2014.

“He boldly goes where nobody has gone before,” Shillington added. “Who else would go to his ‘American Idol’ audition dressed as a Viking? And he sings a wide range of material, from Broadway to heavy metal to pop.”

In contrast with his love of classic musical theater, Guzman has a long history with local heavy metal bands, including Nuclear Tempest and A Hero to Fall. He’s a bassist, vocalist and “occasional screamer,” he said.

Guzman never wants to stick just one kind of music.

“I’ve always prided myself on musical diversity,” Guzman said. “Music is a huge passion of mine, and I’d like to do it full-time.“

But in the meantime, musical aspirations aside, Guzman said he’s happy with his job at the plumbing supply warehouse, where he has worked for three years.

“It pays well and they treat me nice,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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