When you sing 27 songs in a Broadway show, you’ve got to take care of your voice. No wonder Jersey Boys star Jarrod Spector was busy making soup when Broadway.com caught up with him in the midst of a hectic holiday performance schedule. Now in his fourth year as Frankie Valli—a year in San Francisco, a year in Chicago, 15 months and counting at the August Wilson Theatre—Spector is an audience favorite who’s been center-stage since he was six years old. (Check out the You Tube video below featuring the young Star Search winner rehearsing for the Muscular Dystrophy telethon of 1988.) The friendly Spector answered our burning questions about Jerry, Jersey & more.
We’ve heard you have to maintain a monk-like existence to play Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys.
I have all these rules that I live by in order to do my job effectively. I can’t drink except on my day off; I can’t have caffeine because it dries me out. I have to eat after the show and stay up for a few hours so I don’t have acid reflux. But you get to the point where you don’t really think about it. I used to drink with the best of them, but once you stop, you don’t miss it if that’s what the show requires.
Is it true that you pull your tongue before every performance?
Yeah, part of the warm-up vocal exercises that all the Frankies are required to do include pulling on your tongue. At this point, I don’t care [where I do it]. During that big snowstorm [before Christmas], the car service couldn’t pick me up, so I took the subway, and I was standing in the corner of the subway car pulling on my tongue. That’s just how it’s gotta be!
Was it fun to sing on the Emmys two years ago [in a salute to The Sopranos]?
That was amazing. We were sitting in a holding room under the stage, minutes away from performing, and James Gandolfini and Edie Falco and the two kids were down there with us. As we were walking out, he said, “Hey boys! Don’t fuck it up.” Just like that. It didn’t help ease the pressure, but it was kind of funny. If Gandolfini tells you not to fuck up, you’d better not fuck up!
We’ve been having fun watching clips of you singing as a little boy. The best is your rendition of “Mack the Knife” at the Jerry Lewis Telethon of 1988.
Was it “Mack the Knife” or “Up a Lazy River”?
It’s “Mack the Knife”—and Jerry is standing behind you in a frightening pair of short shorts.
[Laughs.] Ed McMahon was co-host of the telethon, so the people from Star Search got me on. Look, I was six years old and now I’m 28, so I don’t remember most of it. I have more memories of watching it than of actually having done it. I do remember meeting Sammy Davis Jr., and I remember Jerry being very funny and cordial, making jokes that went over my head. He was very sweet.
Do you have fond memories of working as a kid?
I think I loved it. I have a six-year-old niece and a three-year-old nephew now, and as I look back at what my parents did with me back then, I realize that no amount of persuasion can get a kid to do those things if they don’t love it. You have to have a proclivity for [performing], and you have to have some kind of innate ability. I don’t mean that in a braggart way, because in some ways it seems like it was somebody else. I have flashes of what it was like to be on Star Search; I remember what the backstage looked like. I know that it has helped me with my [adult] career insofar as I never get nervous. I was in a recording studio when I was six, so it feels like part of who I am.
How long will you stay in Jersey Boys?
My contract runs through April , and then October if I so choose. At the end of this contract, it will have been four years, which is a long time. Physically, I feel fine, and I always want to put my best work out there. I’ll stay as long as I feel inspired every night.
It’s got to be a rush to play a rock star on Broadway.
I’m not married, but I have a girlfriend, and people say to me, “You must have all these women [at the stage door]!” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve got 14-year-olds and 60-year-olds. Those are my age groups.”
Don’t knock 60-year-old women!
I’m not knocking them! Are you kidding? They are the best audience members. They love the music; they love the show. But people are deluded about what it’s like to play a rock star on Broadway. It’s not what you think.