February 19, 2008

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Sebastian Arcelus—Part Two!

February 19th, 2008

Sebastian Arcelus at the stage door.

In Part Two of his JBB EXCLUSIVE Interview, Sebastian Arcelus talks about the transition process he has undergone playing Bob Gaudio; his biggest challenge thus far with the role; his Opening Night performance; and what he has discovered about himself in his short time with Jersey Boys.

JBB: Had you crossed professional paths with any of the Jersey Boys cast members before joining the cast?

SA: I have actually known Michael for several years now. I saw him in a production of Avenue X. He was spectacular! And this was, I don’t even know, years ago. I knew Daniel as well, actually. He and I had crossed paths around town here and there, too.

JBB: When the news came out that you were going to star as Bob Gaudio, the JBB Forum went a little nuts in their discussion as to how you would play Bob Gaudio in JB after playing Fiyero in Wicked. Has it been an incredible difference playing the two characters?

SA: The roles are drastically different. In Wicked, I was playing this laid-back, rebellious prince in this sort of grand fairy tale, and here I get to play someone who’s more grounded and sober in his approach to life. A complete 180 for me. It’s really, really exciting and enriching.

JBB Tech Half: How did you make that transition from one show to another, considering you didn’t get to perform in previews and you weren’t an understudy. How were you able to just jump right in?

SA: I’ll tell you, it’s always, I think, hard to replace in a show as opposed to getting the opportunity to help build it from the ground up. For that very reason, you don’t have the same sort of rehearsal process where you’re all sort of discovering, researching, and risking together…falling flat on your face and picking each other up, and finding ways to make things work, developing a chemistry and a rapport with each other.

The thing about replacing is that you have to come in and find a way to dig in as deep into the project as you can (and that’s very important for me) and make it your own, while also fitting into the mold of what has come before so that you service the play itself and your fellow actors as best as possible.

The lazy approach, I guess, would be to approach it thinking in some way that they’ve done so much of the work for you…and, in a way of course, they have! They put it together from the ground up…and, I mean, getting to watch Daniel perform was a major treat; I think he’s phenomenal! Simply put, he brought Bob Gaudio to life on stage. And of course, you want to have been able to have gone through that rehearsal and discovery process yourself as well…but, as a replacement, you don’t get that…and still you don’t and can’t allow yourself the lazy approach…instead, you dig in…in your own way. It takes a bit to find your own rhythm and such…but that’s part of the nightly discovery process as well.

They actually have an amazing book of dramaturgy downstairs in the stage management office. You can really get into that time period, and a lot of great research is right there and available for you. It’s invaluable. I did my own research, too, as best I could on The 4 Seasons, on Bob, on the time period…and then you just try to pick up as many stories as you can along the way.

Ultimately, it was bizarre, ‘cause I basically ended Wicked on a Sunday, and I was in rehearsals here on Tuesday. All in all, I had just over three weeks to get into the show.

JBB: Wow, Sebastian! How did you manage this challenge in three weeks?

SA: I guess you have to sort of compartmentalize the process for yourself. There’s the first day—the dialect coach, learning some music, and learning a few dance moves…so, you sort of get that in your brain…

You know, I had one foot still in Oz and one foot in Jersey. It was a bit of a whirlwind.

Then, you watch the show for the first time and sort of take it in, for what it is…which is remarkable. You’re not yet focused on Bob specifically. I think over the course of the first few days, you just have to train your mind to think differently and to start picking apart the show specifically—for steps, for lines, for movement, for where you are on stage, and just look at it from a technical standpoint. Once I got to the end of that week, I felt like I had a pretty good notion of the piece as a whole from each of those specific parts. You know what I mean?

Then, you enter the next week, and you say, ‘I’m going into my second week, knowing my material. I certainly need more time for dancing. We’re going to start adding people and I’m going to start doing some more deep research.’ So, by the end of that week, you’re feeling like, ‘Alright, if I had to get thrown on, I feel like I would make my mistakes, but I think I could get there.’

That week also included the big hair chop, which, I tell you, as stupid as it sounds, took me a giant leap in terms of really feeling like I was in that time period.

And, in that third week—and this was, by the way, still watching the show every night—was really about research and really about starting to sink into the character and feeling who this man is.

JBB: When you say ‘watching the show,’ were you in the audience or backstage?

SA: Both, but most of the time in the audience. Both Daniel and Dominic were lovely enough to let me trail them a couple of times so I could get a sense of the backstage traffic, the quick changes. And by the end of the third week, you’re in Jersey! Once you get some costume fittings, once you start to feel like you’re a part of the cast, you know people a little better, you’ve gotten to talk a little personally with then—where you’re from, who they are. And suddenly, you feel like a part of the company, as opposed to just the new guy.

But still, no matter what, you still don’t know what it’s like until you get that first shot on stage. I’ll tell you (chuckles), as much preparation as there could have been, there is nothing compared to what that was like. I could have prepared for a month and a half, and I still would have had that feeling.

JBB: Is it just so incredibly overwhelming?

SA: It is, let me tell you. My wife, Stephanie, was having a conversation with a fellow Broadway actress, who was contacted by a psychologist who was doing a study on what it is physically and emotionally and chemically for performers to go through “opening night,” and what the effect is on the body and the mind. Through her studies, she likened opening nights to being in a head-on collision at 40 miles an hour. I would say with this show, it was probably 75 miles an hour, ‘cause it’s like being shot out of a cannon. It is a fast-moving train…

The thing is, Bob’s not in it for the first 30 or so pages, and once he’s on, it’s like it doesn’t stop! That second half of the first act—I felt like I was just in a whirlwind!

But everyone was incredibly supportive, so wonderful. We had a put-in the day of, where, you know, I sort of made my mistakes, and so then I was a little more relaxed for the evening, but nothing prepares you for the audience and just the elements themselves. Literally, I never have had such a thrilling experience, emotionally, as that. I think that with time, I have and will continue to sort of settle into it, but nothing replaces that first sort of go at it, regardless of how it goes. You’re just like out there, and there’s no going back.

And, I didn’t know—he had mentioned that he may, but I didn’t actually know that Bob and Judy were in the audience, as were some of the producers and in the second act, Rick and Des came by, too. So, they were there! (laughs)

JBB: So, on your Opening Night, all the big wigs came into the August Wilson to see you?

SA: Yeah, it was thrilling. It meant a lot to me that they were actually able to come. And then, I got to speak with them afterwards. It was a remarkably special experience. I’m still reeling from it, and I woke up the next day and felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

JBB: Although you’ve been a member of the Jersey Boys company and playing Bob Gaudio for a very short time, is there anything you’ve discovered about yourself that you didn’t know before?

SA: What I can tell you is that I’ve been really fortunate over the last several years to be able to do amazing pieces of theatre. I’ve had interesting experiences in the theatre—the successes and the failures, as they were. And, through all that, you discover new things about yourself and about the way you approach life, and, ultimately, I will say that being a part of this show so far (it’s been so soon and so quick…I almost still don’t believe that I’m a part of the company of Jersey Boys, much less one of The 4 Seasons)…it has absolutely, without question, sort of reinvigorated my soul in a new way, and as cheesy as this sounds–my creative spirit. It’s an amazing piece of theatre to be a part of. I could not be happier to go to work; I could not be happier to be taking the stage as Bob. So, I think, if anything, it sort of solidifies that feeling that I’m doing what I want to do.

I think, you know, you also have to sort of adjust to what it is. Every role is different and every show requires different forms of preparation and always requires a great deal of focus. I’ve tried to be very diligent…and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some shows that have the capacity to really change you…and quite literally spark that creative spirit inside an actor.

We’re treading on special territory—it’s holy ground. Not only for us, but for a lot of people, and you have to make sure to approach it that way.

So, as far as learning something about myself (and I suppose I already knew this about myself but…), I think I’m focused. They actually make fun of me downstairs. I’m the ‘studious Season,’ I guess. You know, I came in, and I was working. And you know, you walk in and everyone has this amazing humor, and because you’re so focused on a thousand things, it’s like you’re just one step behind the joke. So, you’re like, ‘They’re going to think I’m so lame.’ (laughs)

JBB Tech Half: Well, no, you’re Bobby Businessman.

SA: There you go (chuckles)! And I approached it that way. You know what? I went to college for political science, so I have a degree in U.S. involvement in Latin America in the 20th Century. So Latin American politics, government, and economics…so I actually approach things a lot like a businessman in a way.

JBB: Even though you’ve been in the role such a short time, thus far, what is the biggest challenge of playing Bob Gaudio?

SA: I suppose the biggest thing so far…is that you just want to do him…and the 4 Seasons…justice. These are real, living beings…these are men that we know, that the audience knows, that they have grown to know and love over decades. You can’t take that lightly. And I certainly do not. I would say it’s more than a challenge…it’s an honor.

JBB: What about your favorite scenes and numbers in Jersey Boys?

SA: There is something about the beginning of “Rag Doll” that just cannot be described…that moment when it all sort of comes full circle…and we rise up together (I guess, both literally and figuratively) and sing together as a group accepting the highest honor…

Of course, that first time we gel too…when the “sound” kicks in…man, there are so many favorite moments…Bob’s “social movement/Dawn” speech about the band and who they represented and reached…”Walk Like a Man”…”Beggin’”…Gyp’s basement…too many to count really. Can you tell I love my job?

JBB Tech Half: Sebastian, is there anything you’d like to say to the Jersey Boys Blog readers?

SA: I have a tendency to ramble (chuckles). No really, though…I hope you enjoy the show as much as I have been. And I look forward to meeting so many of you in the coming months…

Sebastian Arcelus’ performance as Bob Gaudio immediately following this interview was truly amazing! It was unbelievable that he had been in the role for under a week—as he fit so well as “the last piece of the puzzle.” Thank you once again to Sebastian for taking so much time this marvelous and insightful interview! We wish him all the best in his new role as Bob Gaudio and in his career!


  1. Sebastian, I was in the audience the night of your first performance. I had seen JB three times before
    with Daniel Reichard in the role and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But then you sat down at the piano and belted out Cry For Me and simply brought the house down. And we all knew the part of Bob Gaudio was in great hands.

    It was also the first time I’d seen and heard Michael Longoria as Frankie. What a voice on that guy! Once again it was another absolutely thrilling night spent in the spectacular company of the Jersey Boys and I can’t wait to come back again.

    Comment by Pat Horowitz — February 18, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

  2. Thanks so much for this in-depth interview! I’ve seen Sebastian in both Wicked and Jersey Boys (a bit over a week ago for the latter), and, as good as I thought he was as Fiyero, he far outstripped that as Bob. It was fascinating to read what he had to say about his professional growth during the period leading up to and beginning this role. (By the way, he told a shorter version of the “handshake deal” to a bunch of fascinated high schoolers about two years ago during a discussion on ethics and professional integrity, something they–and I–are not likely to forget.)

    Thanks again–

    Comment by Wendy — February 18, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  3. Wow! Part 1 of Sebastian’s interview was really interesting, but Part 2 was even more so! It was cool to hear about the process an actor goes through when he takes on a new role and how much he loves what he is doing! Thank you.

    Comment by Eric — February 18, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

  4. If you get the chance to meet Sebastian outside the stage door like I did, you will be even more impressed. What a great guy! He’s very sincere and likable.

    Comment by Gary — February 18, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

  5. I just saw Sebastian for the first time yesterday. When he sat down to sing “Cry for Me” I knew right then the selection of him to replace Daniel was right on the mark! I recently had the opportunity to speak to the real Bob Gaudio on Daniel’s last night, and he was so enthusiastic about Sebastian and how he was going to be an awesome addition to the show. After seeing Sebastian yesterday, I must say that Bob Gaudio was absolutely correct, and Sebastian has definitely succeeded in earning the distinction of being one of the Four Seasons!

    Comment by Beverley Micciche — February 18, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

  6. Great interviews with Sebastian! We have tickets for early April and can’t wait to see him play Bob Gaudio!

    Comment by Jenn M — February 20, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

  7. omg this just makes me want to see him more and reading the comments as well… can anyone tell me how long he is scheduled to stay because my friend and i are going mid june or early july and we really want to see him

    Comment by nicole — May 31, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

  8. Sebastian, you met me, and my mom just before the wednesday matinee on july 30th and you took us backstage! thanks so much! cant wait to see you again!

    Comment by Andrew — August 11, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

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