July 1, 2012

Part II of the Series: ‘Is There Life After Jersey Boys?’: A Profile of John Michael Coppola—A Jersey Voice Speaks!!

July 1st, 2012

JMC Jersey Voice

By Howard Tucker, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

All of us with the Jersey Boys Blog were so pleasantly surprised by the fan reaction to our recent profile of Mike Backes. Several fans were eager to share what their favorite JERSEY BOYS performers were now doing, and others were curious, but all suggested that we continue to feature these talents they’ve come to love from time to time. Indeed, many of the fan favorites are equally anxious to talk to the Jersey Boys Blog and update us on their careers. Without exception, all agreed that JERSEY BOYS opened doors and fueled careers as no other entertainment vehicle would have.

Our current article features John Michael Coppola (www.johnmichaelcoppola.com), who was in our Chicago cast of JERSEY BOYS as understudy to the lead role of Frankie Valli. John is currently touring the country in his sold-out one man show “A Jersey Voice: From Sinatra to Springsteen & Everyone in Between.” Some JERSEY BOYS friends and I plan to see his show on Monday, July 16 at the Westminster Arts Center at Bloomfield Community College, 449 Franklin St., Bloomfield, NJ 07003. (Yeah, yeah John…Bloomfield, not Fairfield, …still waiting for JLY or Scags to show up with those $25G’s.)

Howard Tucker: So let’s talk, my friend. First of all, there are a lot of John Michaels running around, so we need to emphasize you’re Coppola, and not Dias…I’m thinking “The Godfather”….just today, I received an e-mail asking if I was going to be at Dias’ show in Bloomfield. When I forwarded the e-mail you, you noted that Dias may be in the house that night, but not on stage!

John Michael Coppola: Yeah, that happens all the time. In fact, though I can only speak for myself, it was my time in JB that gave me the nickname of ‘JMC’ (for the obvious reason of differentiating between the two of us). Also, on one of our first days of rehearsal, Des McAnuff said “Whose idea was it to cast 2 guys named ‘John Michael’? True story.

HT: Let’s talk about the genesis of “A Jersey Voice”, John. Was this your first project after JERSEY BOYS or were there others in between?

JMC: One of the main reasons my family and I decided to settle in Chicago was the amount of wonderful opportunities to do what I love: be an actor!

I’ve had some great experiences since JB. A major highlight: The summer immediately following the closing of JB Chicago, I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Patti LuPone and George Hearn in “Annie Get Your Gun.” There’s a famous song in that show, titled “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Well that statement doesn’t ring any truer than when you’re in a rehearsal room witnessing 2 multiple TONY Award winners singing it…!

HT: Wow, I’ve seen both Patti and George in their Tony-winning performances and I can just imagine your excitement. And I know Patti’s cousin very well—but that’s a story for another day. So how did you get the idea for “A Jersey Voice?”

JMC: After subbing that year with Michael Ingersoll’s “Under the Streetlamp” (well before the group was on the trajectory it is now) I got the idea to do a solo fundraiser concert for my son’s school, which was raising money for a new playground. I brought my idea of my doing a solo concert to the school board and they loved it.

A few months later, while still in the planning stages, my good friend Jim Jarvis, who was (at the time) the Executive Director of Metropolis Performing Arts Centre got wind of the concert and asked if I wanted to bring it to their space. As luck would have it, the MPAC date wound up being two days before my son’s school’s fundraiser (the idea that launched the whole thing to begin with!) That was in February, 2011 and the concert has continued to do very well, indeed! I’ve played it at several Chicago area venues and at other fundraisers for schools and non-profits and of course am THRILLED that I get to bring it back home to the East Coast this summer!

HT: Why is it “A Jersey Voice: From Sinatra to Springsteen and Everyone in Between”? And why isn’t it “and Frankie Valli in Between?”

JMC: The original name for the concert was “A Broadway Voice: Songs and Stories from Beyond the Footlights.” Shortly after my debut, though, I knew it needed a change. The title didn’t really reflect the songs that were suggested in the evening (no real Broadway songs to speak of, with the exception being the JB canon). Also, when I realized that it could be something I could sell to other venues, it was suggested to me by one venue owner that the title should reflect what the evening would include in terms of artist or types of music so that a potential audience member would better be able to decide by looking at the title if he or she would be interested in learning more.

JMC: While the set list was also being changed during this time, and I added a tune by Springsteen I saw the opportunity to use his hometown and that of the other namesake in the title (Mr. Sinatra) as the perfect combination of being both alliterative AND practical: not only were they from Jersey, I WAS TOO! I lived in Bloomfield (not Fairfield…couldn’t resist) during the time I actually booked JB, so not only was my voice a genuine ‘Jersey Voice’ but (some of) the artists I was representing in the show were as well. Adding “and Everyone in Between” allowed me the license to do tunes by other artists, regardless of whether they were from Jersey or not. The ‘in between’ isn’t just Valli. It’s also Joel, Martin, Sedaka, Diamond and many others. To put ‘Valli’ in the title would make people think that I’m doing a Frankie Valli (or Four Seasons) tribute show, but I’m not.

HT: Other JERSEY BOYS alumni are presently touring the country, and it seems many are similar, but each brings something different to the table. How is your show similar and how is it different?

JMC: Well the first and most obvious answer to ‘what makes my show different’ is that I’m just one guy instead of four. Quite frankly, I don’t mind it this way. Since I self-manage and book at the moment, it’s much easier to coordinate my schedule than to add three other bodies into the mix. I’m also finding it to be a benefit as some venues like the variation from “four guys with mic’s.”

Where my show is probably most similar is with regard to genres and band instrumentation. I’m doing songs from 1940s through today and I use a seven-piece band. However, I have been making it a point to hire local musicians for venues out of town. And I don’t mean picking up a horn section as many artists do, but the whole band (with the exception of my music director)! I do this to help support the economies of the localities in which I play. I hire more local musicians than other artists with a seven piece band normally would, and those local musicians then spend their wages locally for groceries, gasoline, etc. It’s a win/win for everyone involved. To prepare for this I have all of my music charts and LIVE concert Mp3′s on an online cloud drive so that the musicians I hire in each location can download and learn the tunes before I arrive making rehearsal a snap!

HT: I love the idea of local musicians. That makes it much easier for you to just hop on a plane, even on somewhat short notice. The local guys also help organizations meet strict budgets in this struggling economy.

JMC: Exactly right. While all of our musicians get paid, we do keep expenses across the board at a lower price point with regard to travel, hotel, fees, etc. That is the goal of my concert: Giving these venues the same quality entertainment that they would get from larger groups but at a more reasonable cost.

You noted that you know people all over the country. I’m sure they’re happy for the work and happy to catch up with you. You told me before our interview that for your upcoming gig in Iowa, some of your musician friends might “have to drive for an hour.” C’mon John…..I live in Staten Island and work in Manhattan…I drive an hour just to get to the ferry!! Are you OK with the travel itself? Does your beautiful family accompany you at times?

JMC: It’s a blast being able to employ my friends across the country. I’m currently in talks for dates in Florida, Atlanta, GA Richmond,VA and San Francisco, CA. Having friends in these locations make it a lot easier to coordinate as they are great musicians who know other great musicians.

I don’t mind the travel…it pays well! Sadly, since my wife is a very busy yoga instructor in the North Shore area of Chicago, she can’t ‘jet set’ with me, nor can my son (if I brought him with me, who’d watch him?). They will both be coming back to NY with me, naturally, since all of my family is there and we’re making it a mini vacation. The Iowa gig is in a remote area of the state and so some of the ‘locals’ aren’t so much. In fact, I had trouble finding enough ‘locals’ that three of my Chicago band guys are road tripping out there! It should be….uh…fun..!? (For sure…it’s going to be a blast actually.)

HT: So Rachel can finally teach me how to sit on one of those folding chairs cross-legged??

You’ve received all glowing reviews for your one man show as we all see on your www.johnmichaelcoppola.com. What are your future plans? Vegas? Broadway? On your website, I see appearances in “Grease”, “For the Boys”, “Annie Get Your Gun”, and of course JERSEY BOYS.

JMC: As far a future plans go, I’m just chugging along with this little engine that could. As you mentioned, I’m still pursuing theater here in Chicago as well, so no plans on moving anywhere permanently (unless a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up came along). My wife and I have always sort of been ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it’ kind of people. Why worry about what’s not in your control, right?

HT: Do you have a preference of singing over acting or vice versa, or do you hope to incorporate both in your future career?

JMC: I actually prefer acting over singing, hands down! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy performing the concert and I put my heart and soul into every performance. But when you can move others with words without music–I find that there is more craft in that. People are moved by a beautiful melody (with or without lyrics). But to do a monologue and have an audience laugh, gasp, cry, respond, etc…wow!! For example, it was heaven to me to hear the silence during the pauses in some of Frankie’s monologues in JB. You can hear a pin drop and you can see the folks engaged and all you’re doing is talking to them (and they’re convinced by what you’re saying)! Absolute heaven!

HT: I see you were a recipient of the very prestigious David Award on November 26, 2011. What is that award?? It doesn’t have anything to do with our very own Four Seasons historian David Cace, does it??

JMC: Nope. David Cace had nothing to do with it (laughs)! It was bestowed upon me by the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. They give away many awards each year to those of Italian heritage in many different industries (banking, hospitality, entertainment, etc). Mine was given to me as ‘an individual of Italian heritage displaying professional leadership in the field of Entertainment.’ My folks actually flew in from New York for the awards dinner. It was very special to receive it. I’m blessed to be doing what I love and I also love being Italian. To have a token that represented my pride for both was a true honor.

HT: Congratulations John!! You’re in good company with our other stars of Italian descent being recognized…..Frankie, Bob, Tommy, and our newest star, Dominic Scaglione—who tells me he may be at your July 16 concert! This has been so rewarding, John. Thanks so much for your candor. Anything else you’d like to add?

JMC: Thanks, Howard. I’m looking forward to seeing you and all the other fans at my concert. It’s going to be a fun night!

HT: You’re most welcome, John. I look so forward to accompanying the other JERSEY BOYS fans to see you in Bloomfield (yeah, I know the next line!) on Monday, July 16. It’ll be a wonderful evening.


John Michael Coppola


  1. What a great interview, Howard!! My ears perked up when he mentioned San Francisco. Hopes he makes it out here.

    Comment by Linda L — July 1, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

  2. Great interview Howard and John Michael. There seems to be a lot of great talent out of the Chicago cast. The show sounds amazing…one of a kind! I love the fact that you travel light and find your musicians in each touring city. That is not only wise but a genuine act of kindness to help out in this economy. John Michael, if you make it to south Florida or Atlanta…you can count on some news fans checking your show out…as Howard has friends all over and we all trust his opinion. Hope to see you soon!

    Comment by Carolyn — July 2, 2012 @ 8:06 am

  3. Another great article, Howard!! I feel like I really got to know JMC from your insightful questions and his expansive answers.The depth and breath of talent with former and current JB cast members never ceases to amaze me! Hope to catch one of JMC shows.

    Comment by Pamela — July 2, 2012 @ 10:55 am

  4. We have been following JMC from the begining of his solo show. The only thing bigger than his talent is his heart.
    I help at an AIDS clinic in Elgin and Aurora Open Door Clinic. http://www.opendoorclinic.org we have been very lucky to have JMC perform for us many times in our Cabaret for A Cause and in our BIG event “All Things Chocolate” He never turns us down and cares so much about people and helping. We have seen him in For the Boys and hopefully in another play soon to be announced for next year.
    We Larry and I are very lucky to have the Coppola family as friends and will travel far to see him. Don’t forget Chicago people he will be at the Addison Fest this Auguse presented by Oshows, Ron Onesti.
    We are sou proud of you John. Keep up the good work and never forget the small people when you make Broadway….I will be stagedooring……….
    Love Ya

    Comment by Rick Kautz — July 2, 2012 @ 11:41 am

  5. Unfortunately, I never got to see John Michael in JB, but have heard some nice things about him. I hope he brings his show to San Francisco, I would definitely go. Thanks Howard for another great interview. You just keep going and going, huh?

    Comment by Tiggerbelle/Linda — July 2, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

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