November 10, 2012

JBB Exclusive: Catching Up With Kristofer McNeeley on Broadway!

November 10th, 2012

Kristofer McNeeley
Kristofer McNeeley

A marvelous treat for Jersey Boys Blog readers–a JBB Exclusive Interview with Kristofer McNeeley, who is playing “Hank Majewski” (and other roles) on Broadway through early next year!

Jersey Boys Blog: Great to catch up with you, Kristofer! How’s life on Broadway? Is this your Broadway debut?

Kristofer McNeeley: Hi Susie & Dale – You and your readers are such constant and faithful supporters of us on and off stage. I love getting to fill you in on what’s happening in my world, and I’m grateful you are interested. Broadway is remarkable. This is, in fact, my debut and I’m loving every second I’m on that stage and working with everyone at the August Wilson. I’ll be here with them until 1/27/2013 when Erik Bates will be back. He’s a great actor and friend and I’m proud to have stepped in for him.

JBB: How did the Broadway offer come about?

KM: As a younger actor I think I bought into the belief that a lifelong dream like playing on Broadway would come about after some kind of harrowing audition process or something stressful. In fact, I was just dropping my daughter off at day school and the “interest” offer came. 9 A.M. on a Friday and the last thing I was thinking about was NYC. What I’ve come to learn from that – or at least see differently because of it – is something I’ve heard my entire career: Relationships are EVERYTHING. I have been blessed in my career and I work hard to always show up. I always give my best to my work and to those I work with. Some days I do a lot better than others, but I always try to be better the next chance I get. My mother taught me that, as did my great grandfather. Work hard, always do your best, and treat people with respect. And, if you make a mistake, own up to it, move on and try to do better next time. I think that’s partly how the offer came about. The rest is timing, honestly. I know there are certainly many other great actors who could have done very well, I was just ready when they called.

JBB: Tell us about your first night as Hank on the Great White Way. How different is it from playing the same role on the Vegas stage for such a long time?

KM: It was pretty amazing. I remember a fair amount but much of it was an adrenaline blur. Even though I had only a three-day rehearsal period, I had such consistent guidance and support that I felt like I couldn’t fail – It was pretty glorious, for an actor who’s making his Broadway debut at 37 years old – it couldn’t have been much sweeter.

I have been blessed to play many great stages in my career, including the Hollywood Bowl twice, worked a bit in film and TV, had a band and many other fantastic artistic opportunities, but there is nothing like the Broadway community. It inspires me to be better. Cliche, but it does. The show itself can’t really be compared to Vegas – and the Vegas I knew and what exists now will also be entirely different. Theater is a community full of individual energy all being focused towards a common goal – like any ‘company,’ it’s different depending on the group of people in the mix. It’s always a welcome and interesting challenge for me, as an actor and in life, to see how I can fit into a new group. Fortunately, everyone at JB Broadway is a pro – and the common goal and purpose is very clear: to honor the creative team’s original intention and tell the most honest story we can. It was palpable my first night and still is every time I walk backstage for the places call.

JBB:We heard you were fantastic when you had the opportunity to play “Tommy DeVito” this summer! Tell us about playing such an amazing character on the Broadway stage.

KM: Well that’s lovely to hear – I know I had an out-of-body yet somehow entirely present experience. It takes a lot of energy to, as Tommy, take that audience into your hands and steer that ship, as anyone who has played the role will attest. But, luckily, I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. I was on as Tommy within my first month, so my head was still reeling from the cross-country move and going in as Hank. When I got the call I was surprisingly calm. I went over a few things in my head, sat still for a bit and centered myself, met early with our stage managers to confirm some technical moments, got dressed and took my place behind the fence.

Again, I felt completely supported by the cast and crew and I managed to stay fairly grounded and aware the entire show. I went back to actor basics – accepting the circumstances, getting my energy high, listening and responding, and, most importantly, sharing the story as faithfully as I could. I had a blast – walked home completely clear-headed and satisfied. It was a deep moment for me and I felt mostly thankful and humbled.

JBB: Any special stories or events that you’d like to share about the experience over the summer & fall?

KM: I do remember feeling very grounded as I began my first show as Tommy until I turned upstage to see Frankie for the first time, who happened to be played by the Tony Winner for that role, JLY. Wonderfully thoughtful and giving actor, committed and clearly deserving of the award. And there I was on the stage playing opposite him. That was pretty awesome. I’ve been lucky enough to work with many esteemed and award-winning actors, but never opposite the Tony winner in the role they created. That was a standout moment in my life and this experience.

JBB: What about any memorable on-stage or offstage stories about any of the roles you play?

In Vegas, we have a character named ‘Knuckles’ who is responsible for some key moments in the show – one of them being the third Brill Door. I always thought that would be a lot of fun, and was right. One of my very favorite parts of the show in NY is getting to play that scene. Actually, I’m finding myself really enjoying all my characters in the track in an entirely new way. Hank, Mika, Joe and the rest.

The audience, for the most part, is quite sophisticated in NYC and they are invested in being in those seats in a way I hadn’t experienced before. They are expecting and ready to see a fully-developed character, even if it’s only for a line or two. And we are telling a story so many of them can directly relate to, so there’s that pressure for even more authenticity. I love that challenge.

JBB: Your Broadway stories have been amazing, Kristofer, but I imagine it’s been so tough being away from Ali and your two daughters.

KM: I may be giving away a new piece of information here, but when I was first approached I turned to my wife and I said, ‘I don’t think I can do it.’ I wasn’t prepared to leave my family, but she looked right back and said, ‘You need to do what’s best for you and for us – and maybe that means going.’

She’s always able to get to the real point of anything that confuses me or conflicts me – and she was right – it was the best decision for my family and it is essential to us that our daughters see us fulfilling and realizing our dreams. It’s essential because we will instill in them that, with hard work, focus and an the desire to always do better, pretty much anything is possible. All that said, it’s been really painful to be separated from my girls – all three of them. Luckily, we get to break it up a bit with visits here or there and video calling is amazing. My wife, Ali, and I did agree that this is the ONLY time we will do 6 months completely living apart. It’s okay and wonderful this time, but never again. Not 6 months. Whether that means we all go or pass on the work, we have to set a limit to preserve our family’s time together.

JBB: A while back on JBB, we posted news about your evening-long Master Class in LA! Please tell us about the workshop & what these types of workshops offer aspiring actors?

KM: Actually, I had to postpone the Master Class due to another commitment. I will, however, be continuing to private coach in NYC and will be teaching regular classes again in the LA area when I return in February of next year. I have been a teacher in some form much of my adult life, whether directing or teaching volunteers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center or private coaching.

It only made sense to open my own studio last year and provide a forum to share what has been passed on to me from my mentors and help actors wade through all of the nonsense and get to the heart of their work. To find the joy and commitment. To set goals and master skills which will help them reach those goals through consistent and focused practice. I am working with students from 16 years old to 40 and that’s just who is in my class at the moment. There is no age limit or credential requirement to do the work. The only requirements are a real passion to take a natural ability to emote and to listen and tell a story and to hone those skills into captivating and interesting work for the camera or stage. I am as passionate about teaching as I am about performing and seeing a student have those “ah ha!” moments is pretty spectacular. It makes me a better actor as well.

You can visit my website, and follow me on Twitter at @kmcneeleyactor to register for class and keep abreast of what’s happening in my world – both in the classroom and in my work as an actor.

JBB: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers, Kristofer?

KM: I’ve blessed to see the world, make lifelong friends, and improve my work as an actor and musician beyond measure during my five years with Jersey Boys. Who knows what the next chapter will be, but I can say for certain that I am better for the experiences I’ve had with this amazing production. It will always be an important part of my career.

Thanks, again, for inviting me to chat. And thank you to all of your loyal readers and fans who come again and again to support us. You are, after all, the reason we are able to do what we love and we are grateful for that. I know I certainly am. See you after the show!

JBB: You’re welcome, Kristofer! It’s our pleasure!


  1. Great interview, Susie and Dale. Literally got goosebumps when I read the paragraph about how rightfully thrilled and honored he was to be on stage with JLY!

    Comment by Howard — November 10, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

  2. Wonderful interview Susie! Kristofer is one of my favorite actors and I loved seeing him on Broadway! I was lucky enough to see his one man show in Vegas a couple years ago and talk about talent! I wish him and his family all the best!

    Comment by Krystal — November 10, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

  3. Great interview, Susie and Dale! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Kristofer first in Vegas and now in NY. He is a major talent and sweetheart off the stage.

    Comment by Pamela — November 10, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

  4. I really enjoyed this interview – as I do all of your interviews. As a fan, I appreciate the sacrifices stage actors are willing to make for their craft. It obviously takes a special passion. And like Howard, I too enjoyed hearing Kristofer’s perspective of being on stage and working with JLY.

    I’d love to hear more about…’the NY audiences and the investment they have in being in those seats in a way Kristofer hadn’t experienced before.’ I’m curious how that feeling is conveyed/ translated. I’ll save that question though for the next time I’m at the stage door; definitely before the end of January!

    Comment by Audrey — November 11, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

  5. Great interview. I had the pleasure of seeing Kristofer play Tommy in Vegas. It was a surprise to see him do it in NY and he was terrific.

    I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be away from your family for such a long time. Thank goodness techology is what it is today.

    Thank you for the lovely comment about JLY.

    It’ll be an experience to remember for many reasons including the storm. Enjoy the rest of your time in NY and congratulations on your Broadway debut.

    Comment by Tiggerbelle/Linda — November 12, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

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