Backbeat: Aaron Carter Lauded By Diehard Fans, David Archuleta at Off-Broadway Debut
Backbeat: Aaron Carter Lauded By Diehard Fans, David Archuleta at Off-Broadway Debut
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Aaron Carter (middle) poses in his dressing room with manager Johnny Wright (left) and "Fantasticks" co-author Tom Jones after his debut performance.

Former teen pop star Aaron Carter kicked off an extended run in the Off-Broadway production of "The Fantasticks" on Monday night (Nov. 7), returning to the stage 10 years after scoring a supporting role in Broadway's "Seussical." Times have since changed for the 23-year-old performer, best known for hits like "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" and "That's How I Beat Shaq": it's been nine years since the release of his last album, 2002's "Another Earthquake," and he has recently dabbled in reality TV on "Dancing with the Stars" and "House of Carters."

Yet Carter delivered a spirited performance as Matt, the play's naive male protagonist, that delighted the audience -- which included "American Idol" star David Archuleta -- at Manhattan's Snapple Theatre.

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David Archuleta, right before he visits Aaron Carter to congratulate him on a stellar performance.

"I'm my hardest critic. I would grade myself as a C or a D," Carter told Billboard.biz of his opening performance. The teen star sat in a small dressing room after Monday's show, with a bouquet of flowers adorning his dresser. "I always feel there's room for improvement. I'm never gonna feel like I'm up to par or where I need to be… There's always room to grow in my craft, and my craft is being an entertainer in every single way that I can imagine."

Carter was joined in his dressing room by manager Johnny Wright, publicist John Capo and legendary lyricist Tom Jones, who wrote the book and lyrics to "The Fantasticks" in 1960. Jones says that he was delighted to watch Carter's debut performance in this production, and appreciated the singer's down-to-earth manner.

"You never know when somebody comes off a career starting young like that, with a lot of fame and recognition," says Jones. "Some people are real a**holes -- speaking from personal experience! He's like a real person, and that's the best thing about him. He's young, he's fresh, and it's wonderful and surprising that he can [perform] like that."

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Aaron Carter fans wait for the singer to step out in the lobby of the Snapple Theatre after the show.

Shortly after the interview, Carter was visited in his dressing room by David Archuleta, the "American Idol" season 7 runner-up who posed for a few photos with fans immediately after the performance ended. While Archuleta embraced Carter and congratulated him for the performance, a group of diehard AC fans were standing 20 feet away, behind a pair of closed doors and a long corridor, waiting for their favorite teen star to emerge and sign a few autographs.

Carter is expected to perform in "The Fantasticks" through mid-January, but told Billboard last week that he's still "extremely passionate" about his music career, and that he expects to release a new album shortly. ""I enjoy Foster the People and Coldplay and U2 and that kind of music, so I'm going to be going more towards big pop ballads and really meaningful songs based upon my experiences and my life," said Carter. "I think that's really where I'm going to be headed -- a more mature sound." "