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Jersey Boys Star Matt Bogart on Playing Romantics, Tough Guys and ‘Rock Star Patrick Swayze’

Jersey Boys Star Matt Bogart on Playing Romantics, Tough Guys and ‘Rock Star Patrick Swayze’
Matt Bogart
Matt Bogart reflects on four musicals and two plays that helped shape his career.

Matt Bogart can play lovers, fighters and everything in between. From Chris in Miss Saigon to his long run as Nick Massi, the most enigmatic of the four Jersey Boys, Bogart’s strong voice and heroic good looks have made him a welcome presence on musical stages across the country. For his Role Call, the down-to-earth star chatted about his bookending Broadway roles, two memorable plays, a classic musical people keep asking him to do and a new show he hopes to bring to New York.

Role That Makes Me Feel Like Rock Star Patrick Swayze
“Every time I come out of the stage door at Jersey Boys, someone says, ‘Has anyone ever told you that you look like Patrick Swayze?’ I sign two more autographs down the line, and someone else says, ‘Know who you look like? Patrick Swayze!’ I take it as a compliment—I think it’s the suits we wear. Nick [Massi] is the most ambiguous [of the Four Seasons], and I’ve been given room to explore and take the role to the next step. In the four and a half years I’ve been here, my wife [actress Jessica Boevers Bogart] and I have had two kids, I sent her to grad school at NYU for theater education, and we bought and renovated an apartment. Those are some big accomplishments, and I’m very grateful to have had a long run in a show that’s so satisfying to perform and that audiences love so much.”

Role That Was My Biggest Learning Experience
“A lot of young actors come out of conservatory and think, ‘I’ve learned everything I need to know,’ but going on the road in Miss Saigon [1995, as Vietnam soldier Chris] was like my second conservatory. I was lucky to book such a big show right out of school, and then I did it on Broadway for another year and a half, which was an incredible run. Chris is a broken man at a young age who finds his rose [Vietnamese heroine Kim] in the mud. It’s loosely based on Madame Butterfly, but they took the tragic story of these two people to the ends of the earth. Chris is a difficult singing role, and very demanding emotionally. I know everyone is hot on Les Miz right now, but I think Miss Saigon will have its day again—and if they make a movie, it will be a big one.”

Role That Fit Like a Coat of Armor
“I’ve played Lancelot in Camelot several times and had a different experience with it each time. I first did it at Paper Mill Playhouse [2003] with Brent Barrett as King Arthur,  then at Arena Stage [in Washington, DC, 2003] with Steven Skybell, who is a Shakespearean actor. Right before starting Jersey Boys, I did it on the road [2007] with Lou Diamond Phillips and had a great time finding the comic nature of this very romantic character, as well as his golden heart and love for Queen Guenevere. As upstanding as Lancelot was, he got in the way of a whole kingdom! I was supposed to play it on Broadway with Liam Neeson [in 2004], but he took a movie and they ended up not doing the show. It had better come back soon or I’ll have to play the king!”

Role That Was the Most Challenging
“I don’t often get to do plays, but Molly Smith at Arena Stage is a champion of mine, and she gave me the opportunity to play Val Xavier in Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending [2004]. Val is a James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause kind of role. He strolls into town, challenges the people who have all the power and ends up coming between a man and his wife. The female character, Lady, is dead inside, but when she meets Val, she understands that she still has life within her. In the end, the townspeople hunt Val down and kill him. It’s an incredible piece, and I was thrilled to do something so challenging and beautiful in that company.”

Role That Was the Most Literary
“I’ve had a wonderful time creating new roles, and one that I am still working on is James Joyce in the musical Himself and Nora. We did it at the Old Globe in 2005 and at the NYMF Festival last summer, and we’re about to do a full production at the American Theatre Group in Rahway, NJ, during my three weeks off from Jersey Boys. Michael Bush is the director, and we’re hot on the trail of raising money to take the show to Broadway. It’s about Joyce and his muse, and it’s written in his style—the Joyce foundation will not allow anyone to use his actual writings in a staged work. The show tracks Joyce’s life to the point when he and Nora were living in Paris at the height of his career. He’s full of himself and full of alcohol, let’s put it that way! I get to abuse everyone. My co-star is Jessica Burrows, who did Zhivago with me at La Jolla, and we can’t wait to work together again.”

Role With the Best Co-Star Chemistry
“I had the very special experience of doing Sam Shepard’s True West [2008, as Lee] with my brother, Daniel Bogart, in North Carolina. Lauren Kennedy, who directed, loved the idea of brothers playing brothers. I had seen the John Malkovich version on videotape, so of course I wanted to play Lee, the volatile part. He and Austin flip-flop during the play, which gave my brother a chance to yell at me, too! Daniel did Les Miz on Broadway but is teaching kids now and not acting anymore, so I’m really happy we did this. Not only did we have the chemistry, we had trust and love for each other and for the play.”

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