February 8, 2010

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Douglas Crawford – Arguably the Most Traveled ‘Jersey Boy’–Part One

February 8th, 2010

By Howard Tucker, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

I believe that Douglas Crawford holds a personal record, having been a member of four Jersey Boys companies: on Broadway and in Chicago, Las Vegas and the First National tour of Jersey Boys.

But this is only one of the highlights of his distinguished 20-year career as an actor, singer, playwright, and director. In addition to Jersey Boys, he created the role of Kenickie for the First National Tour of Tommy Tune’s revival of Grease (before going on to making his Broadway debut in the show) and performed opposite Ben Vereen and Jack Black in Jesus Christ Superstar in Hollywood.

HT: Let’s go all the way back for a minute, Doug. What is it about Columbus, Ohio that generates Jersey Boys legends? Our Jersey Boys Blogmistress, Susie, also grew up in Columbus. Were you a child star in Ohio? Did you come from a showbiz family?

DC: (Laughs) Interesting, huh? I don’t believe when most people think of Jersey Boys that Ohio comes straight to mind! Great place to grow up, however – great people there. Those talented Bogart boys (Matt is now “Nick Massi” on Broadway) also hail from “The Buckeye State!”

We moved from Columbus when I was 10 to Tulsa, Oklahoma, but my parents and my sister, Pam, have since moved back, so Ohio has always seemed like home to me. I certainly was no “child star,” but I probably thought that I should be (laughs again)!

Growing up, I was very blessed to have parents that supported the arts and always took my sister and me to the theater. We would often make trips to New York City around the holidays and do the five-shows-in-three-days kind of weekend. For me as a child, the theater was an extraordinary and magical place where dreams became realities live in front of me! I was hooked and knew at a very young age what it was I wanted to do.

Neither my mother nor my father were involved in “the Biz,” but my dad’s brother, my Uncle John, is an extremely talented artist, painter, actor, singer and comedian. Back in the day, he and a young Jonathan Winters used to write, perform and made an appearance on “The Ted Mack Show” together. He was always performing and doing musicals, so I probably owe him a debt of gratitude for paving the way for future Crawfords!

I’m also proud to let you know my sister Pam has gone on to become a two-time Emmy-nominated and two-time Gracie Award-Winning broadcast journalist, currently co-anchoring the morning news show for WDTN in Dayton, Ohio. I’m sure my parents had hoped they were raising a doctor and a lawyer, but I’m happy to say I don’t think they could be more supportive or more proud of their children!

HT: You and I share an affection for one song in particular, Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.” But yours is a better story than mine. Would you share it?

DC: You’ve done your research, haven’t you, Howard? Not my finest moment, but a memorable stage debut, nonetheless (takes a deep breath). Okay…well…when I was in first grade, I made my auspicious live debut in the Bexley High School Talent show. To my knowledge, I was the youngest performer to ever achieve that honor. I sang Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” – I know…but for whatever reason, I loved that song as a kid! I went on stage in my little cowboy boots and hat and when I finished the number and heard the applause and joy that erupted from that packed auditorium, the die was cast!

What I didn’t realize at the time was most of that reaction I had elicited from the audience had less to do with my actual performance and more to do with the fact that I had wet myself while doing it! I finished the song, took a bow and was greeted by my mother crying in the wings. I thought she was proud and moved by my triumph. When she hugged me, I realized my pants were soaked and looked back to see some poor high-school student mopping up the pee on stage where I had been standing. I was mortified! Fortunately for me (and the countless others who I have performed with in the many years since), I’ve learned to control my bladder and use the bathroom BEFORE I hit the stage!

HT: Your story of how you came to Jersey Boys is indeed a real testament to friendship. In an industry where people are often afraid that someone else might get a break, Deven May reached out personally to you with an introduction to Jersey Boys. Could you elaborate?

DC: It’s true. If you know me, then you know more than anything else in my life, I am most grateful for the love, support and inspiration I receive from my extraordinary family and friends! I bought tickets for Deven and me to see Jersey Boys early in the Broadway run. I had heard so much about the show through another friend, Donnie Kehr, and knew Dev would appreciate the chance to go. One of my dearest friends, Dev and I had known each other for years at this point, having already done a few shows together in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. What’s funny is, I’ll always remember our leaving the theatre after, completely blown away by what we had just experienced and thinking “What a shame there is NOTHING for me to do in that show!” I mean, I’m blonde, Midwestern, don’t play guitar…I’m not even Catholic – I have no business being in Jersey Boys!

Well, when it came time to put together the First National Tour – Dev was cast as “Tommy DeVito.” I was back in L.A. doing a production of Man of La Mancha when he called me to tell me the good news. I was so happy for my friend and just knew he was going to be phenomenal in the role! As they began rehearsals in New York, it became apparent to the creative team that even though the cast was exactly the same size as the Broadway company, because of the addition of the Knuckles track three male swings were still going to be needed to amply cover all of the male roles.

The minute Deven was aware of the need for additional casting, he not only called me but more importantly, he made sure the creative team would see me! I only had one day off during my La Mancha performance week…and I had long, blonde hair and a full beard and moustache, but Deven convinced me to get to New York and audition. I sang “December, 1963” and read pages and pages of sides for Des, Ron and Tara (casting), while the national tour company took a break from rehearsals. Kelly Devine then taught me the combination that, minutes later, I would perform for Sergio. I did the best I could but had to literally run out of there to catch the only flight that would get me back to L.A. in time to make my next show. Prior to departure, my agent called me to let me know I booked the gig – I honestly couldn’t believe it or have been more excited about it!

I joined the rest of the company on their first day of tech-rehearsals in San Francisco not even a week later and the rest, as they say, is history! To this day, I still thank Deven for what has turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life! Come to think of it, I think it was Deven, too, that first made me aware of my being the first male actor to appear in all four U.S. Jersey companies.

HT: Were you familiar with the Four Seasons music growing up? Either their heyday in the 1960’s, or the resurgence in the 1970’s? Or are you way, way too young?

DC: Wow, Howard, how old do you think I am (Laughs)! Growing up in the 70’s, however, their music was inescapable – appealing to such a broad demographic of music lovers! The title song to the movie Grease made me a Frankie fan.

HT: You did a remarkable cover of Three Dog Night’s “One” this year at Rockers on Broadway. Have you had vocal training?

DC: Thanks, Howard, I really appreciate that! I was probably more nervous that night than I have been in a long time! The lineup for the show included legitimate recording stars from the rock and pop worlds, Tony winners and nominees, Broadway stars…and me! There wasn’t time for me to do any kind of sound check before the show and I didn’t sing until late in the program. I really allowed myself to get intimidated as I waited for what seemed like a lifetime before I went on. When my time finally came, I put out a prayer and took some grounding breaths and ended up having a great time.

Listen, I know far too many gifted singers to really consider myself a great singer. My high school in Tulsa, the enormous Jenks High School, always had phenomenal music and theatre programs, in addition to sports teams that seem to play for state championships each year (there were, I think, a thousand students in my class alone, so by sheer numbers, competition was always intense just among my own class-mates). I always sang in school choir and in our selective show choir – it wasn’t like in Glee, everyone wanted to be in Trojanaires! I sang well enough but again, I never had those God-given abilities with which others have been blessed. I learned early on that, if I really sold the performance, I could overcome some vocal limitations.

I did love singing Rock n’ Roll, however, and quickly discovered that girls seemed to be drawn to rock frontmen. I fronted a few bands and wanted to continue to perform in musicals, so therefore realized I needed to study with some vocal coaches and learn techniques that would help me grow as a singer. I continue that education today and although I’ll more than likely never sing opera at the Met, I have become a much better singer over the years.

HT: I understand football played a large role in your early life, Doug. How did that transition into theatre?

DC: Well, I’m not sure there is a direct correlation between playing football and making a career in the theatre, but it did teach me the importance of working hard to be competitive even if my natural size, speed and skills may not be as strong as someone else’s. I always played sports growing up – football, basketball, tennis, etc.

I eventually had to give up playing football to take theater my senior year in high-school (which in the state of Oklahoma, was not a popular decision)! I loved football (and still do) and my high-school, Jenks, is often ranked in USA Today’s “Top 25 High-School Teams” in the nation, but the reality was I was never going to make it into the NFL.

I did believe, however, I had the abilities and desire to make a career in the theater. I remember telling my Dad I was going to quit the team to take theater classes and being worried he was going to be more disappointed than I was. My high-school drama teacher, who had directed me in local community and summer stock productions, had made an exception for me and allowed me to join the highest level drama class, even though it was the first I was taking in school.

My father never batted an eye or wavered in his support or belief in me. Soon into that fall semester we won the State One-Act Competition, I was named the “All-State Actor” and a few months later I was one of twelve students to be accepted into and receive a scholarship from the distinguished Meadows School of the Arts Theatre Program (Acting Track) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas!

HT: You’ve spent a lot of time with the Grease production and with Jersey Boys. How are the two experiences similar and how do they differ?

DC: More than anything, I guess, I’m just so blessed to have had both of those opportunities!

I can’t really compare Grease with Jersey Boys – one has a script co-written by an Oscar-winning screenwriter, Marshall Brickman and the other one was…well…Grease – but, I can say that both shows provided me the opportunity to feel like a rock star! Grease was my first production contract (creating the role of Kenickie for the First National Tour) and provided me with my Broadway debut when the role opened up in New York, so it will always have such a special place in my heart! To this day my greatest memory is seeing both my parents crying in the house of the Eugene O’Neill Theater as they so proudly watched their son realize his childhood dream! It’s worth noting, as well, that Joe Barbara (Gyp in Vegas Jersey) was one of my “Danny Zukos” on Broadway in that production, so it was amazing to reconnect and work with him again some thirteen years later!

Jersey Boys provided me with my only other Broadway contract, so they do have that in common, I suppose. The reactions both of these shows received on a nightly basis were nothing short of earth-shattering! Both shows became such phenomenal successes on their own terms (until Cabaret and now Chicago), and that production of Grease was the longest running revival in Broadway history. I think the two shows do share this in common – they both (no comma) provide their audiences with a great ride…and a Rock n’ Roll ride at that!

Coming Soon: Part Two of Howard Tucker’s JBB EXCLUSIVE Interview with Douglas Crawford!


  1. I’ve been anxiously waiting for this interview! Doug is amazing — incredibly talented and so kind. I loved reading about his experiences and learning more about him and his journey. Saw him in Chicago and he was great. Hope to see more of him.

    Comment by Mary — February 9, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  2. Just another amazing interview, Howard, and one that Doug’s fans have been waiting for. Doug is a very modest but extremely talented actor and it’s been a joy watching him perform. Being of a certain age, I am a huge Three Dog Night fan and watching him perform “One” on the YouTube video was a real treat. I can’t wait for Part II of the interview.

    Comment by Linda — February 9, 2010 @ 11:23 am

  3. Great interview Howard…so personable!

    Comment by Carolyn — February 9, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  4. Another great interview, Howard. As Doug said, you always do your homework, and then some!Its clear that Doug really felt comfortable with you. What an interesting journey to Jersey Boys he’s had. Im looking forward to the second part of the interview.
    x, PS

    Comment by Pamela — February 9, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

  5. Great interview Howard! It was great to learn more about Doug’s background and I look forward to part 2!

    Comment by Krystal — February 9, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  6. Another fine job, Howard. You just keep getting better and better!

    Comment by Gary — February 9, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

  7. Another Howard Tucker masterpiece! Bravo Howard! Douglas Crawford is totally a positive and giving spirit! I wish him continued success and hopes he will continue to be a positive/giving spirit! Looking forward to Part 2 of your conversation/interview! Rock on Howard and Doug!

    Comment by Chiara — February 9, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

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