October 3, 2008

Thank you, J. Robert Spencer!

October 3rd, 2008

Photos: 2-3: Courtesy of September: BroadwayWorld.com; Photo 4: Courtesy of Lulu Thompson; Photos 5-6: Courtesy of BroadwayWorld.com; Photos: 9-11: Courtesy of BroadwayWorld.com; Photo 12: Courtesy of Audrey Rockman; Photo 13: Courtesy of Lori Leone; Photo 14: Courtesy of Kathy Bartsche.

Sorry if I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but saying goodbye to Jersey Boys Broadway cast members is not an easy thing to post to JB Blog. It’s been nearly three weeks since Bobby Spencer played his final performance as Nick Massi and I had every intention to post something in a timely fashion back on September 14, but it’s been tough to say farewell to Bobby. This past Sunday, as we were at the stage door, following the spectacular final performances of Christian Hoff and Michael Longoria, it was a wonderful surprise to chat with Bobby before he joined his castmates for their celebration.

Although I followed The Four Seasons’ music since Day One, my friend, I didn’t know that much about the enigmatic Nick Massi, who left the group in 1965. That all changed after seeing J. Robert Spencer’s magnificent performance as Nick Massi back in the fall of 2004 at La Jolla Playhouse! A year later on Broadway, audience members were in for the ride of their lives as Bobby brought the mysterious Nick to life. Never will I forget Nick finally telling his side of the story as he told the audience, “I’ve been quiet up until now” in Act Two! Nick’s explosive sit-down scene in Gyp’s basement will always be one of my favorite moments in the show. During the finale, the audience erupted as Bobby stated, “But if there’s four guys, and you’re Ringo…”

On a return visit to Broadway following JB’s big Tony win, our first cast member interview was with Bobby. Considering we were rather new at this and this was our first interview with an actor, I kept thinking to myself, ‘This guy is starring in the hottest show on Broadway….hope I don’t screw up….we’re about to interview a big Broadway star…’ –All those neurotic thoughts that a relatively new blogger would be thinking, right? Within 30 seconds of chatting with Bobby, all neurotic thoughts had disappeared. This guy was truly down to earth, incredibly funny, and so amazingly candid as he talked about his early dreams of being a rock star, his extraordinary experience with Jersey Boys from La Jolla to the Tonys, and the challenges and joys of playing Nick Massi. As we were finishing up, Bobby was thanking us for “such a great interview”!

Interviewing Bobby while in NYC during the spring of 2007 was definitely one of the highlights! This was shortly after the birth of his son, Geddy! It was incredible to share in Bobby’s joy as a new dad, the big news that he was writing, directing, producing, and starring in his first feature film, “Farm Girl in New York,” and more insights into playing Nick Massi! Three months later, we returned to NYC for the Tech-Half’s birthday! What better way to celebrate than with another JBB Exclusive interview with Bobby? As he welcomed us, I said, “Bobby, I can’t believe you’re doing another interview with us!” (I’m thinking, ‘With what’s going on with this guy, how can he spare the time to hang out with the bloggers?’) Bobby said, “ANYTIME, you’re in town, I want to see you guys and do an interview!” For a Jersey Boy, is that style or what??? During this interview, it was so much fun to find out more about what was going on with his son Geddy, news on “Farm Girl in New York,” and how Jersey Boys and Bobby’s portrayal of Nick had evolved since his days back in La Jolla.

Okay, we were getting to be ubiquitous in NYC in 2007, as we returned for the big Jersey Boys BC/EFA October event! On our first day in town, who do we run into on 52nd Street? You guessed it, Bobby! During our chat, he shared the news: “Farm Girl in New York” had been selected to premiere at the Big Apple Film Festival in November! Bobby asked if we “wouldn’t mind” posting the news on the blog! Hey, this was “breaking news”! The minute we got back to the hotel, we posted the exciting update on the blog!

Updates from Bobby on what has been going on between our visits to NYC are always a treat! In August, however, when his number popped up on my cell phone, it was the news I had not been looking forward to hearing: Bobby called to let us know that his final performance in JB would be September 14.

During our last JBB Exclusive interview with Bobby, he reflected on the tremendous opportunity and experience of creating the role and starring as Nick Massi in Jersey Boys from the very beginning. He also had some terrific updates to share: He and Jenny Lynn were expecting a new baby in November; the news of FGINY receiving a national distribution deal; his upcoming Boston holiday concert, “Joyful Noise: Handel’s Messiah Rocks” that will be aired on PBS during the holidays; and the excitement of the new film that he producing and starring in, “Heterosexuals.” Sharing in Bobby’s excitement about “Heterosexuals” on the phone that evening was one of my high points as a blogger:

Susie, I wish you were here right now, I’m driving into Brooklyn and they’re in the middle of filming right now—it’s awesome! I can see the lights from the set from all the way down the street!

It’s hard to believe that it has been over four years since Bobby began his incredible journey as Nick Massi in Jersey Boys and it has been a wonderful honor getting to know Bobby as an actor, a singer, a musician, a film director/writer/producer, as a dad, and as a friend. Although we will never, ever forget Bobby’s fantastic portrayal as Nick, we wish him all the happiness and success in the world with his family and in his upcoming endeavors! Thank you, Bobby!


  1. wow! — thanks so much!

    Comment by elaine grace — October 3, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  2. Great write up! What a great surprise to also see Bobby last Saturday after the show @ the stage door. I will never forget getting the chance to say my-goodbyes-till-we-meet-again in person! I remember giving him a big hug & saying that this was the first time that I had ever seen him @ the stage door of the August Wilson “without his hat”…he laughed…and I will treasure that “SMILE”. All the Best J. Robert Spencer…my one & only Ringo with hotel bars of soap & no towels…what a classic!

    Comment by NewJerseyLasagna — October 3, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

  3. Thank you for giving “Ringo” his due, Susie. Bobby is indeed a class act. I got a real kick out of his exiting the stage door with “Hi, Bobby Spencer.” After about the tenth time, I told him, “Bobby, I’ve seen the show a hundred times; I know who you are!” And he’d always laugh, each time I compared him to Hillary Clinton wearing a name tag at a local event.

    One moment I’ll never forget was, after exchanging a few e-mails with Bobby, I pick up my phone at work with my monotone, “Good afternoon, Howard Tucker speaking”. The voice on the other end is an upbeat, “Hi Howard. Bobby Spencer!”

    I first thought it was someone playing a joke. But even after I realized it was the genuine article, I tried to heed my friend Charles Alexander’s advice, “When you speak to these stars, don’t monopolize the conversation. They want to talk about themselves, not listen to you!” Timidly, after Bobby asked me his question, I asked, “Bobby, may I say a few more things, and then I’ll let you go?” The response was, “Howard, I have a dentist appointment at 4 PM (it was about 2 PM), so speak as long as you want!” And I did take Bobby up on his offer! When would I ever get another call from a Broadway icon?

    Bobby most defined himself to me by his answer to my Sept. 14 e-mail wishing him luck and apologizing for not being there in person. His response, “Hey, Howard, this isn’t the end. We’ll stay in touch. Love and peace. Bobby.” Who’s better than that??

    Comment by Howard Tucker — October 3, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

  4. Susie, great post taking us down memory lane with Bobby. The thing I remember most was that he was as sweet and funny the first time I met him, November of 2005, as he was the last time I saw him on Sunday at the stagedoor. No pretenses with him…always a gentleman with a great smile. I also recall Bobby and his sign language/gestures at the JB BC/EFA event when he wasn’t talking & was trying to preserve his voice. The next night at The Rockers concert, he made it a point to stop at my table and say “Hi” in person and apologize for the voice rest the previous night. I must say it worked because he sounded fabulous that evening! Thanks again, Susie.

    Comment by LuluThompson — October 3, 2008 @ 10:26 pm

  5. We need an OBC reunion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Fran gatto — October 4, 2008 @ 11:58 am

  6. I agree with everyone when they speak of Robert’s humanitarianism and kindness when he meets his adoring fans. Also, since I’ve seen him numerous times at stage door during my NY/NJ trips this past year, he just lived and breathed his devotion to musical theatre plus his deep love for his fans.

    The first time I met him at the BC/EFA benefit in NY, I was bummed to see he was not in the cast lineup for that Sunday show and worried that he would not show up at the Marriott Marquis later because of illness. I had a soft spot for the “Nicky” character since I started watching Jersey Boys and anticipated seeing him onstage and at the benefit. To my pleasant surprise, Robert did show up at the gathering and was his cordial self and played his throat soreness off with sign language and a small note apologizing for his inability to talk. He signed my Jersey Boys book, posed for a photo with Joe Long and shook my hand, thanking me for my support in sign language…..

    What a class act, and we’ll definitely miss him! Thanks for the memories Robert!

    Comment by Mike B. Magbaleta — October 4, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

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