February 17, 2008

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Sebastian Arcelus—Part One!

February 17th, 2008

Sebastian Arcelus in his dressing room.

January 2008 started out on a high note for us—seeing Jersey Boys and having the opportunity to meet and interview Broadway’s new Bob Gaudio—Sebastian Arcelus before his fifth performance on Sunday afternoon, January 13! As we entered Sebastian’s dressing room, it was filled with congratulatory beautiful floral arrangements from his wife (actress Stephanie J. Block) and his colleagues! With the exception of the well-wishing flowers, you wouldn’t have guessed he was the new guy in the show—with his relaxed, at ease nature and his warm welcome!

In Part One of his JBB EXCLUSIVE Interview, Sebastian talks about his first time seeing Jersey Boys, the audition process, and meeting Bob Gaudio, along with how it all began for him as an actor, his early roles, and more.

Sebastian Arcelus: So, let me ask you guys first, how did you guys get involved with running Jersey Boys Blog?

JBB: Thanks for asking, Sebastian. Here’s the short story: I was a huge 4 Seasons fan, probably since Day 1, so when Jersey Boys opened at La Jolla Playhouse in the fall of 2004, I knew I couldn’t miss it! So, I suggested going to La Jolla to Dale (and he said, ‘Do I have a choice?’) Well, within five minutes of the production, I was completely blown away! At intermission, I turned to Dale and said, ‘Trust me, this show is going to Broadway and that guy (Christian Hoff) is going to win a Tony.’ By the end of the show, I turned to him again and predicted that JB was going to win Best Musical at the Tonys. So, on the way home, the techie genius, now JBB Tech Half, suggested we create Jersey Boys Blog because we could ‘capture a niche.’ So, we created the blog back in July 2005, covering everything related to the show. It’s been a blast!

SA: Hey, thanks for the background!

JBB: First of all, Sebastian, we wanted to congratulate you on becoming the new Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys! Tell us about how it all came about.

SA: Thank you! Oh, my, well, I’m still sort of blown away by the whole experience (chuckles).

You know, I saw Jersey Boys, I guess about a year and a half ago. I think it was the spring of that year before the Tonys, and I was blown away! I went with my best friend, who actually was auditioning for the show. So, he was actually going for a specific purpose, and I just went because I wanted to catch the show. Blown away, truly blown away!

You know, it’s one of those shows, where I sat back and I was like, ‘Well, I would love to be in that!’ At that time, though, I had shoulder length hair and it was blonde, blonde, blonde, and thought, ‘Well, I’ll never probably get seen for something like that.’

But anyway, this fall, I got a call from my agent saying that they wanted me to come in to audition for Bob Gaudio since Daniel was leaving. I just jumped out of my seat—at the sheer notion that I could even be auditioning for this show!

JBB: What about the audition process?

SA: Over the course of a few weeks, I went in several times for different stages of the team—casting and production team. And, as it turns out, I was actually leaving for my wedding, which was a destination wedding (to Stephanie J. Block). We got married in Italy. I was leaving at the end of the following week. So, over the course of the two weeks preceding our departure, I went in for the show four or five times. Last time I went in, I thought it went well, but I didn’t hear anything. Literally, we left on a Thursday for the wedding. And, on Wednesday during the matinee performance of Wicked, which I was doing prior to that, I got a phone call saying that they wanted me to come in that afternoon. So, I raced after the show back up to my apartment, got back into my nice clothes, reacquainted myself with the material, raced back down and auditioned.

Again, I thought it went very well. That was for a good deal of the production team. Then, I went off to the wedding, and of course, you know, I was getting married, so my mind was elsewhere, but still somewhere in the back of my mind I was like, ‘I wonder what they thought; I wonder what happened.’

Didn’t hear anything, and just before I got back from the wedding, I got another call, saying they wanted me to come back again, this time for Bob (Gaudio), ‘cause I hadn’t met him yet. A few days after I got back, I once again reacquainted myself with the material, got dressed up, showed up, and auditioned for Bob.

His first impression, I thought was wonderful. I was standing in the elevator shaft area, sort of vocalizing, trying to quell the nerves, while they were next door in a small room. The elevator doors opened, and out comes this tall, imposing figure and in such a relaxed manner, he said, ‘Hi, I’m Bob.’ I could have been anybody. But so I said, ‘Hi, I’m Sebastian,’ semi-meekly. (chuckles). Bob then said, ‘Oh, well, you’re the reason I’m here.’ I said, ‘That’s good; I’ll try not to disappoint.’ (laughs)

And then, I auditioned, and a couple hours later I got the call, and I was out of my mind EXCITED! I mean, so excited, I can’t tell you! Not only is it thrilling to be a part of this show, as you know, but it was a very exciting shift for me, creatively. And of course…playing a real living human being that is part of a true and compelling story, and to be a part of a show, that not only is built around such popular music that we’re all so familiar with and love so much, but also that still plays to me like a “play with music.” I felt like I was getting to dig myself into a good acting role with incredible performers that I had an enormous amount of respect for…because I had obviously seen the original cast.

So, anyway, I was so excited and thrilled at the notion that I could move on to such an incredible piece. Folks at Wicked actually said to me in their congratulatory moment, ‘You know you’re leaving the most popular musical on Broadway for the other most popular musical on Broadway.’ And so, the notion of being able to go from one hit to another such phenomenon–I’m a pretty lucky guy.

JBB: Many Jersey Boys Blog readers have asked us to “find out more about Sebastian.” Tell us about yourself. Did you know from the time you were a kid that you wanted to be an actor? Did you always have Broadway dreams in the back of your mind?

SA: Well, I grew up not that far from here on Long Island. It’s sort of the mirror image from Jersey…similar and yet…different. Anyway, I grew up in a very European/Latin American household. My father, step-father, and step-mother are all from Uruguay, my mom’s Italian and Russian…so my two brothers and I certainly grew up in a culturally diverse and very fun home and environment.

I always sang…at that age, it was basically…if you’re a guy and you can sing, you’re in the choir. And I loved it…as well as being a part of the musicals at school. But it was very much just something I did at school. I didn’t venture out into anything professional. In the meantime, I was also playing on the soccer, basketball, and baseball teams…and, of course, student government and all that. While the passion for theatre was real and very present, I never let myself think that it was actually available to me as a professional career option.

I went on to Williams College…and my political studies continued. Summers were spent working in offices and such…not at summer stock. But my studies started shifting (along with the majority of my extracurricular activities) towards the “dramatic.” That is, where I once studied foreign relations or political systems, I started focusing more on political personalities and such, while also rehearsing a great deal in most of the student-run musicals and in one of the school’s all-male a cappella groups.

After an amazing back-packing trip to Europe the summer before my senior year…I knew that my heart really wanted to be creative and give performing an honest shot. The rest came about after a whole hell of a lot of work and effort…

JBB: Tell us about some of your previous roles. What role would you consider your “big break”?

SA: Well, I was lucky in that once I got out of school and decided to go in whole-hog…I did get to work a lot…wherever I could my hands on some anyway. And there was a lot of unpaid theatre in that journey…but, I’ll tell ya, some of my most enriching and inspiring musical experiences too. Some of those shows included Death of a Salesman, Grand Hotel, The Who’s Tommy, West Side Story, Cabaret, How I Learned to Drive, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change…among others…

As far as a “big break,” well, I guess there are two answers to that question for me. The first answer would involve not quite a big “break” but an extremely big creative “break-through” for me, I think.

I was playing Huck in a production of Big River up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The director of the show was also the artistic director of a theatre (also in New Hampshire) called the Weathervane Repertory Theatre. They were doing seven different shows that summer…and, most notably, a production of Adam Guettel’s Floyd Collins. The day after our first rehearsal, he asked me to come up for the summer to play Homer Collins in Floyd as well as a number of other roles in that summer’s line-up…and we shook on it. That handshake to me symbolized a lot. Not two days later, I got offered the lead role in a popular show in a very reputable regional theatre with a budget about 25 times the size of Weathervane’s…and I turned it down. I shook this man’s hand…and he had offered me something special…his trust to play a major role in a show that meant the world to me both artistically and creatively…and I’m so glad that I did. That experience changed my life…in so many ways.

The Weathervane actually turned out to be a huge asset in helping me with my next (and, I suppose, more literal “break”). I got cast as a swing in the Broadway production of Rent. I covered six roles, and, after doing a different show in rep every night at the Weathervane, I felt so much more prepared to succeed in that capacity at Rent. And, as far as my two and a half or so years at Rent (where I was contracted both as a swing and as Roger), they were truly remarkable. To suddenly be on stage as Roger…singing “One Song Glory”…in a show that changed the face of musical theatre…it doesn’t get much better than that.

JBB Tech Half: Wow, you had an amazing ride in your early career! In addition to your acting roles, you’ve also done a substantial amount of voiceover work for cartoons such as Dora the Explorer! and Go, Diego, Go! How did you become involved with this and tell us about the voiceover process on cartoons. Do you have a favorite or most interesting voiceover role?

SA: Oh, doing voiceover work has been wonderful. It all came about by chance really…an audition and then suddenly your voice is on TV reaching 2.5 million kids every Saturday morning. And growing up, who doesn’t want to be a Disney voice?! So, it’s been a real treat to be able to take on so many different kinds of roles and voices…everything from robots to penguins to little kids to parents and ants! Getting to be in shows, too, that foster bilingual studies and a sort of cultural awareness…that’s been so special and fulfilling.

Thank you so much to Sebastian Arcelus for Part One of this amazing interview! In Part Two, Sebastian will talk about the transition from going from one show to another; his biggest challenge thus far with the Bob Gaudio role; his Opening Night performance; and what he has discovered about himself in his short time with Jersey Boys.


  1. Great interview! Thanks for finding out more about Sebastian Arcelus and his background. I especially liked hearing about his first meeting with Bob Gaudio.

    Saw the show last month–a few days after you did this interview and thought Sebastian’s portrayal of Gaudio was excellent!

    Looking forward to Part 2. Will it be out soon?

    Comment by Eric — February 17, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

  2. Thanks, Eric. Part Two of Sebastian’s interview will be posted tomorrow.

    Comment by Susie — February 17, 2008 @ 11:09 pm

  3. Great interview, Susie. Interesting that he did a handshake deal also that led him to the Bob Gaudio role. The stars were definitely in alignment.

    Comment by LindaL — February 18, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  4. I really enjoyed this interview with Sebastian Arcelus! Got a chance to see his performance in “Wicked” a while back and thought he was very good, but thought his performance as Bob Gaudio in “Jersey Boys” was fantastic!!

    Great “handshake” story–reminds me a lot of the “Jersey handshake” scene. Thank you.

    Comment by Ginny — February 18, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  5. Wow! Thank you for the interview Susie and Dale! Congratulations Sebastian!

    Comment by Krystal — February 18, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

  6. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Sebastian Arcelus perform the Bob Gaudio role in “Jersey Boys” just a couple of weeks ago, and he was absolutely wonderful in the show. His acting was phenomenal and his singing sublime! As I told him by the stage door immediately following the show, “he did Daniel (Reichard) proud in taking over the role.”

    I eagerly await Part 2 of this interview and the chance to share Sebastian’s perforance (as well as Michael Longoria’s performance as Frankie Valli) with my wife, who saw the original Broadway leads on three occasions with me. I happened to be in the city on business that day and stuck around to purchase a lone ticket and see the show with the new members of the cast that evening. It was fabulous and just as amazing as the first time I had seen it!! The show remains a must-see with the additions of Sebastian and Michael in their respective parts.

    Comment by Len Gersten — February 18, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

  7. I was part of the Weathervane Theatre experience that Sebastian talks abut. In fact I played his Dad in Floyd Collins and still today think it is the best Weathervane production in the 16 years I have been there. We also were part of the Music Man Quartet that year. We were all thrilled when he got “Rent”. Then began following this young man’s career which, in my mind, is zooming fast and furious. Meeting him accidentally on the street one day after the Weathervane and all his success, I found him to be that rare genuine sort of guy that you respect for his humility as well as his talents. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    Comment by Guil Fisher — July 22, 2013 @ 9:26 am

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