July 16, 2006

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Bobby Spencer!

July 16th, 2006

Bobby Spencer

Jersey Boys Blog had the phenomenal opportunity while in New York to interview J. Robert (Bobby) Spencer before the Friday, July 7, 2006 evening performance of Jersey Boys. Bobby talked about his amazing journey with Jersey Boys since the early days at La Jolla Playhouse; what it’s like to play the late Nick Massi; the Tony Awards; and how he has come full circle as a “rock star.”

JBB: Congratulations to Jersey Boys for winning Best Musical! When you heard Julie Andrews announce your show as the winner, what were the first things that went through your mind?

BS: Thank you. First thing I thought, honest to God, was that I knew we were going to win. I’ve known that for months—it was just my feeling. And secondly, when I saw Julie Andrews walk out on stage in that red dress, the first thing I said was, ‘Oh my God, this is so cool.’ I leaned over to my wife and I said, ‘Julie Andrews is going to say Jersey Boys. How cool is that?’ I just thought, I can’t wait to hear Jersey Boys with that British accent.

JBB: What does winning a Tony mean to you?

BS: Everything–all of the hard work, years of struggle, patience, persistence, and prayer–it pays off. Constant faith.

JBB: What does the Tony mean for your career?

BS: I’m very hopeful, optimistic, and positive, like I’ve always been. I know great things are coming. Just like Jersey Boys happened—I knew before Jersey Boys, great things were going to happen. Great things did happen. And now, I have great feelings and expectations for my future, just like I did when I was fortunate enough to get this job in Jersey Boys.

JBB: You’ve been with Jersey Boys since the very beginning at La Jolla Playhouse. When you first read the script for this role, what did you think of the script, and what kind of reaction did you think you would get from the audience?

BS: When I first was cruisin’ through it, like a lot of actors do…the first thing that they do is open up the script and look for their characters’ name and say, ‘Okay, how many times is my character in there?’ Honest to God, we do that, whether they say it, or not, we do that. Then, we start from the top, and start cruisin’ through it.

I thought it was very interesting at first. I knew it was good, but I wasn’t completely sold on it, only because I needed to hear the other voices. I knew it was good, but I didn’t know it was going to be great until the day we all sat down and read through it. And, then, once you heard everybody’s voices—Daniel’s Christian’s, the other cast members, and me, and the sound we had together—I knew right there–this is going to be a hit. I just didn’t know it was going to be the phenomenon that it has become. It’s overwhelmingly amazing, and it’s just a blessing.

JBB: What makes the audience feel so connected to Jersey Boys?

BS: The realism, the truth, the honesty–it’s not sugarcoated at all. These guys really, really lived this. People are fascinated by stories of inspiration. With this story, it’s really a rags to riches to rags to rags back to riches kind of story. It really, really shows people, if you bust your tail, anything’s possible.

That’s the connection we have, because it’s a true story, and you say, ’Oh my God, now what’s going to happen next to these guys?’ Then, they work their way out of it, then they get sucked back into something again.

It’s absolute realism. You have to give Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, and Tommy DeVito credit for allowing themselves to be that naked and so courageous with Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who wrote the book, and with Des, our director. It’s very vulnerable and scary to tell these stories, but you had to tell these stories to get it done right.

JBB: What’s your favorite scene in Jersey Boys?

BS: They’re all are so great—it’s the truth. For me, personally, it’s that table scene in the second act, when we’re all around that table; all that pent-up anger and aggression toward Tommy DeVito. We just let loose on him. For me especially, I’m the quietest of the four, and the more mysterious one in the first act. The audience doesn’t hear me say anything. Then, in the second act, it’s like ‘Oh wow, he’s talking.’ Then, they pay even more attention, because I haven’t said anything. So, when I finally get up to that moment, and start yelling at Tommy about the towels, and what an untidy person he is, it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for.

Also, the other thing that’s crucial about the whole scene—it’s like 12 minutes long. Before that, the show is at such a quick, great, energetic, electric pace. Then, here’s a moment…BOOM! the brakes hit and it’s in park, and it’s just 12 minutes. At that moment, the audience gets to finally experience–this isn’t a musical–this is a play. The only reason it’s categorized as a musical is because it’s about four brilliant musicians. So, of course, we have to play their music, because it’s part of the story. It shows the audience that we’re not musical theatre boys at all; we’re actors.

JBB: Give us your best line.

BS: “But if there are four guys, and you’re Ringo, better I should spend some time with my kids.”

I’ve actually had two women at the stage door on two different occasions say to me, ‘You’re not Ringo, you’re Paul.’ I was really touched by that; it was an amazing compliment.

JBB: What’s the most challenging part of playing Nick Massi?

BS: Nicky is so complicated. To this day, I’m still learning new things about him. So, I think the challenging thing is less is more. It’s so easy when you’re an actor to let ego get in the way and to want to be the focus. But with Nicky, the true focus is the nothingness. As simple as nothing might seem, it’s really a challenge to do nothing, but be.

JBB: How would you describe this story to people who have not seen the show and may not be familiar with the Four Seasons’ music?

BS: Electric–I have said this from day one. This show is electric and that’s why we won Best Musical. That’s why people come back in droves and droves, over and over again. They’ve seen it two, three four, sixteen, twenty, thirty times.

JBB: Describe the stage door scene after the show.

BS: I love the fans so much—it’s beyond my wildest dreams. You go into a Broadway show, and you just think how thankful and grateful I am to have a job and a paycheck. But, when you meet these people, and they’re all smiles, it’s amazing! We’ve all given them an experience to make them think we’re rock stars, even though we’re not.

JBB: How would you compare being a Broadway star with a rock star? Has playing Nick Massi given you any insight into the life of a rock star?

BS: You know, I’ve been a musician all my life; playing drums since fifth grade and I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for 12 years. Then, I had to learn bass guitar for this show. It’s awesome–I was born to be a bass player.

So, my entire life I always thought I was going to be a rock star. Back in ’91, my band and I were really close to signing on the dotted line for a record deal. A couple of guys got cold feet and decided not to sign. I was tired of living my life around four other individuals making my path’s decision We should have signed—so I always thought I was going be a rock star.

But then, I cut my hair and went back into acting. Now I’m an actor, but the rock star life is happening. The whole rock star enigma has come full circle, but it totally came in a different way than I ever thought it would. It didn’t come from playing music and releasing albums; it came from playing a guy who played music and released albums.

So, when I come out the door and see women of all ages–we’re signing autographs; people are taking pictures; and everyone is just having a great time. Then, I get into the car and they take me home. Sometimes, I grab a Guinness Stout, listen to some hard rock music, and start cruisin’ home. This is a great life! I am really living the life of a rock star, without the sex and the drugs, just rock ‘n roll.

JBB: Your career has been amazing—with your strong musical background, as well as extensive theatre, comedy, and film. What would you like to do next in your career?

BS: I want to continue to work as an artist, there’s no doubt, whether it’s acting, writing or directing. It’s all those avenues–I’ve been blessed with gifts, and I don’t take any of it for granted.

I’ll also be helping, whenever I can. I just did a mentoring program last Friday, which was an incredible day. I will be trying to make an effort to do that in the future. It was great to help this 15-year old kid out with his acting dreams and aspirations.

I’m going to continue to rock ‘n roll as an artist and help people on the side.

JBB: What advice would you give to students who want to pursue a career in theatre?

BS: To go to college—that is the key. You get a lot of growth and maturity in college, if you go there with the right focus and the right attitude.

JBB: Do you have any cautionary tales to tell them?

BS: Stay away from gin—gin sucks!

Jersey Boys Blog would like to thank Bobby Spencer for taking the time for this amazing and insightful interview!


  1. Great interview with Bobbie Spenser. We had the great fortune to see the show twice recently and be right up front after the show at the stage door. He was incredibly nice (all of them were) and friendly, signing autographs, posing for pics. I took some pictures and only afterwards when I was looking at them, did I notice he had on a Nashville Guitar T-shirt. I live in Nashville!


    Comment by Jean — July 19, 2006 @ 8:30 pm

  2. Congratulations Bobby! I have followed your career back to the time you sang for my students. You touched my heart then and you touch my heart still. I couldn’t be more delighted for you and your family! God Bless you my friend. The three Hugs will always be some of your most devoted fans!

    Comment by Judy Hugenberger — July 22, 2006 @ 10:44 am

  3. How cute?! This guy is the life of the party over there at JB. He seems so smart and devoted yet so crazy and fun. I love it.

    Comment by Lauren — June 6, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

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