September 2, 2007

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Jennifer Naimo!

September 2nd, 2007

Catching up with the Jersey Girls was one of the highlights of our New York trip last month! Before her Sunday afternoon performance, we had the pleasure of chatting with Jennifer Naimo about what’s been happening with her since JB’s big Tony win; her upcoming “Journey to Jersey Boys” cabaret (that was held on Aug. 13); and the excitement of playing Mary Delgado (and so many other characters!) from her days at La Jolla Playhouse until now.

JBB: Great to see you, Jen! The last time we chatted was right after the Tonys. Have there been any major unexpected surprises over the last year or so?

JN: Well, the selling out of the house every night; standing room every single night;
people not being able to get tickets; and now a fourth company of Jersey Boys has just been cast—the Las Vegas one. And, as we speak, in London, they’re auditioning there.

Who knew when I started out in La Jolla? You know, we thought it was special, our first run-through, but we thought, ‘Maybe it’s just us.’ But then, when the Southern California audiences started enjoying it, we thought, ‘This will do alright, but New York is tougher.’

So, just to see how people are loving it here, but there’s lots of tourists that come and love it, too. It’s just remarkable. But I love seeing the young people out there who are loving it, too.

I guess the prestige of it, too. When I see people and they ask what I’ve been doing, I say, ‘I’m in Jersey Boys.’ No matter who hears that, they say, “Oh, My Gosh, we’ve heard about that! We’ve seen that, who do you play?’

I tell everyone, ‘There are three girls; we play everything, but my main part is Frankie Valli’s wife.’

Then, after that big thrill, we won the Grammy. What else, now just a trip to Disneyland, right?!!?

JBB: “Journey to Jersey Boys” sounds like an incredible program that will really show how talented you guys are! How did you guys come up with this idea and could you give us a preview about the show?

JN: Actually Holly-Anne Ruggiero came up with the idea. She was Des’ assistant director up until a few months ago. She came up with the idea because Ars Nova is this great space that features new artists, and they approached her to do something with the Jersey Girls and Travis, too. It was a great opportunity for us to sing to an audience in a new venue!

The format is what we were doing before we even heard about Jersey Boys. My story is that I was waitressing–a singing waitress and I hated it. I overheard one of the waitresses say she had a call back on Jersey Boys. So, this is my story on how I got in on the audition in the first place. Then, it went ‘boom, boom, boom’—from the morning audition to coming back at 5 to audition for Des and the musical director, to a phone call an hour later that told me to come back the next morning to meet Frankie Valli. That’s how quickly I got cast for the La Jolla production.

When La Jolla was finished and I didn’t hear anything for a few months, my husband, Tim and I decided to try to have a child. Then, getting the call, ‘You’re going to New York…Kiss, kiss good-bye.’

Then, the program will show where we are now, what’s happened in the course of our journey here, what happens backstage, just a little inside each person’s story of their journey, and where do we go from here. There will also be songs that correlate with that journey—lots of pop songs and standards.

JBB: You’ve been with Jersey Boys since the very beginning in La Jolla. How do you think the show has evolved since the early days?

JN: There haven’t been major changes from La Jolla to here. They didn’t change a whole lot. They changed some cast, and nothing much with my character. I used to sing “My Boyfriend’s Back,” but now Sara sings it—she’s got such a great voice! I have a nine-second change from “My Boyfriend’s Back” to Mary’s scene in her robe. They also thought it was disturbing with me singing that song, and then going right into the Delgado scene. People were saying, ‘Was that Mary Delgado singing that a few minutes ago?’

There have been other little changes here and there, but nothing dramatic. The major changes are a new Frankie Valli, a new Gyp DeCarlo, and two new girls. Every now and then, then we get changes with the dancing. They test dancing on the companies on the road, and if something works well there, they might add it to ours.

JBB: Has Mary Delgado or any of your other characters evolved?

JN: She gets drunker now. Mary is a better drunk, now. She drinks stiffer drinks. My watch is always at 5 till 5. In Mary Delgado time, it’s always cocktail hour (chuckles).

I feel like I’m deeper into the character now, more in control and more comfortable in bossing Frankie around. Des always told me, ‘You are empowered. You have Frankie wrapped around your little finger.’

But also, it changes slightly depending on the audience. In the pizza scene, I like the audience to be verbal, and if they’re kind of quiet, then I think, ‘What did I do wrong? Why aren’t they laughing as much?’

JBB: Is it truly like a different show every night because of the audience’s reaction?

JN: It really is, because I feed on the audience. We’re all more enthusiastic if they’re with us. Sometimes when they’re quiet, then we’re shocked at the end when they’re standing on their feet. We’ll say, ‘This audience sucks!’ But our director said you can’t think that. I am affected a lot by the audience’s reaction, but you’re not supposed to be.

Sometimes it makes me meaner, which is good, for the Mary Delgado part. For the sadness on the stairs, I sometimes bring things that are happening in my life. It might not be necessarily what Mary Delgado’s thinking, but it may be something going on with Jennifer.

JBB: Since playing Mary Delgado, and all of the other parts, what have you discovered about yourself that you didn’t know before?

JN: I think the waitressing that I hated that I did before this prepared me to play Mary Delgado. When I was living here before, I would have great auditions, but sometimes the biggest feedback would be, ‘She needs more of an edge.’ I think I got the edge, now. I think by playing Mary Delgado, something clicked, where I don’t put up with a lot now.

Also, I’ve discovered that we’re able to do all that physical running around and changing of the costumes with such ease now. I think I’ve also learned how to make small characters important for the few seconds that they’re on stage.

As always, we had a blast chatting with Jen, and we would like to thank her again for this terrific interview! We wish her all the best on Broadway and in her future endeavors!


  1. You certainly have that edge now, Jen–that’s why Lulu Thompson and I like you so much for Mama Rose in “Gypsy” when that revives again–and you’d be perfect with Peter Gregus cast as Herbie! But you and I have met personally a few times, and Mary’s bravado and bossiness immediately turns to Jen’s graciousness at the stage door. Tim is also a delight, and it’s quite a coincidence that I do some business in Pasadena.

    I loved “Journey to Jersey Boys” (and I got in last minute on the waiting list as I had a prior commitment–no name dropping at Ars Nova!!) Your “Movin’ on Up” not only brought back memories of George and Weezie, but told a bit of your own story, “Now we’re up in the big leagues…getting our turn at bat…it’s you and me baby…ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!” Marvelous choice!

    You make an interesting point that Mary is so well-defined a character that a first time viewer could be confused when “she” sings “My Boyfriend’s Back.” I feel the same with Peter as Bob Crewe, and a friend I took for the the first time questioned me at intermission as to why “Bob Crewe” was in the Fairfield/Bloomfield scene.

    You and I also share a “letter Y” story. My very first time at “Jersey Boys” was the same day I interviewed for a new position with my current employer. The job description had the misspelling “analize”, which coincidentally I misspelled in a 6th grade spelling bee–and never admitted to anyone!! (I did go on to become county champion speller though in 7th and 8th grades!). As soon as I heard your “letter Y”, I said “it’s a sign”, e-mailed you and you were so sure too that I’d get the new position. Well, it didn’t happen, but that particular job was eliminated several months after the interview.

    You’ve indeed been a key to the success of “Jersey Boys”, Jen, and I wish you and Tim continued happiness and success.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — September 2, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

  2. Hi Jennifer. I have met you at the stage door a couple of times. It’s great to learn more about you and your career. You certainly bring so much to the show…I just couldn’t imagine it without you. I especially enjoyed your performance at Ars Nova in “Journey to JB” and that dress you wore was a knockout! I, too, have one of those confusing scenes in the show…it’s when Gyp DeCarlo turns into the priest!

    Comment by Gary — September 2, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

  3. Jennifer is special for many reasons. First, she makes me laugh everytime I see Jersey Boys. One of my favorite parts is the restaurant scene with Frankie. What she says and how she says it is so masterfully done. There are so many parts in the play where the writers have done such a spectacular job in making the characters come alive and the audience feeds off this humor. Secondly, I am so thrilled everytime Jennifer emails me. If you respond on her blog, she will always find the time to follow-up with a personal email. Thirdly, she always has a warm welcome and hug for you at the stage door. I know she must miss her husband, Tim, incredibly since she has been in NYC. I am so glad that I attended the performance of “Journey to Jersey Boys.” Jennifer really brought the house down with her rendition of “Moving On Up!” She has a wealth of talent, as do the other girls in the play. I will end by saying without the “Jersey Girls” there would be no “Jersey Boys!”

    Comment by Beverley Micciche — September 2, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

  4. Jennifer,

    The first time I met you at the stage door was May, 2006, matinee. You came out smiling and just batting your gorgeous eyelashes. I was so impressed by your bubbly personality and your genuine friendlines toward all the fans, you became one of the reasons I came back. It was about 3 or 4 shows later that I realized how many different roles you play and your amazing ability to switch your characters at a moments notice.

    You remember me everytime I see you. You are always smiling and I want to say that your husband is a LUCKY man having you as his bride.

    Can’t wait to see you again on September 15. YOU ARE THE BEST! IE

    Comment by irene eizen — September 2, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

  5. I love you, Jen!!


    Comment by JLY — September 3, 2007 @ 12:10 am

  6. Oh Jen, what can I say? I so agree with everything said here. I’ve loved this show since LaJolla and I cannot imagine JB without you!! You bring your whole being to every character you play and I’ve watched Mary grow & become stronger. Your energy, your sensitivity, your incredible voice!! Your kindness to everyone at the stage door….you are so very special. I could go on & on & on! But ya know how I feel about ya…YOU’RE THE BEST!! I love you my friend! Nothing but the best for you & Tim always! Blessings! Love you, Wanda

    PS you know I love that pizza scene, my favorite!! See you soooooooon!!!

    Comment by Wanda — September 3, 2007 @ 8:17 am

  7. It’s the little things that make an actor special, and a person special, and Jennifer has those special qualities in both. Not too many actors can take a one word line and make it her own: Frankie – “That’s an unusual frangrance, what is it?” Jennifer: “Soappp.” Also let us not forget “Nice job DAD.” And her smile and conversation at the stage door is always special.

    Comment by David Cace — September 3, 2007 @ 8:50 am


    Comment by jennifer — September 3, 2007 @ 9:00 am

  9. Jennifer, I was so pleased to finally meet you after “Journey to Jersey Boys.” When you are onstage, whether in the spotlight or in the background, you are still centerstage…you command the attention of the audience with obvious pleasure. And we are thoroughly entertained with your singing, dancing, acting and personal revelations. I appreciate the time you spend with your fans. Beverly told me how sweet you were…and she was right! And your husband was as warm and welcoming as you. Talent, energy and warmth…trademarks of a JB actor!

    Comment by LuluThompson — September 3, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  10. Shoot, I was out of town when this was first posted! I’m so glad I went back and read this! I love ya, Jen and I can’t wait to see you again. Hope all is well at the theatre, you can tell Sara that I’ll send more cherry sours — you three can be expecting a package from me soon!

    Comment by Courtney — September 7, 2007 @ 11:47 am

  11. Aw, JEN!! You are too cute! I love how your soo dedicated to the musical. You are phenomenal!

    Comment by A — September 7, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

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