August 31, 2009

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Chicago Cast Member Merissa Haddad

August 31st, 2009

Merissa Haddad

Before her Sunday, July 12 performance as Mary Delgado (and so many other roles), we had a marvelous time chatting with Merissa Haddad about her road to JERSEY BOYS, her favorites from the show, and the joys of following her dreams!

JBB: Merissa, your Mary last night was fantastic! So feisty! Our friends that saw the show with us last night kept talking about Mary!

Merissa Haddad: Oh, thank you so much!

JBB Tech Half: Your character sends a lot of requests to our website. That’s one of the most popular search terms: ‘Frankie Valli’s wife’ and the other one is ‘Francine Valli’.

MH: Really? Well, they had tragic lives. People want to find out more about them. Their stories are sad, but I love playing Mary because she was such an important part of Frankie’s life!

JBB: What else is it about playing Mary that makes you love the role so much?

MH: She couldn’t be more different from me! I love being able to dive in and play somebody and connect to somebody who is completely foreign to me. Of course, I have my feisty moments, but she’s a tough, tough Jersey chick. It’s a lot of fun; just a lot of fun to be able to go out there on stage and really play.

There’s no better way to explain it than to say, I am playing. I get to explore parts of me that I don’t really know. It’s a lot of fun!

JBB: Your ‘My Eyes Adored You’ scene was incredible last night—a real tearjerker.

MH: It’s so beautifully written. Mary’s scenes in particular—the pizza scene, the fight scene, even just the kitchen scene, when she’s coming in and grabbing the bottle and saying ‘asshole’. The part is written so well, that I don’t know if you could fail to execute it. Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman did a brilliant job with the book. Mary gets drama; she gets comedy; I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I really get both ends of the spectrum with Mary as far as what I get to do and how I get to play.

JBB: Here you are playing Mary Delgado in Chicago. How did it all begin for you? Did you always know that you wanted to be in musical theatre?

MH: Well, my story might be a little different than others. I didn’t start musical theatre until my junior/senior year in high school and I immediately fell in love with it. I had a passion in my heart for musical theatre. I grew up doing gymnastics, so I was always performing, but never sang or did the whole musical theatre thing.

I thought, ‘Wow, I’d really love to go to school for this!’ But, after talking about it with my parents, we thought it was probably a better idea if I went to school for something more conventional, so I went to school and became a physical therapist.

I was working as a physical therapist up until the day I left to come here. It was in 2005 that I decided I needed to follow my passion for the theatre. So, I started taking voice lessons and began doing community theatre for free. I was in Los Angeles at the time. Then, I kind of slowly started making my way up the ladder–started doing regional theatre. In 2006 I won an ‘idol-type’ competition, through which I landed the title of ‘LA’s Next Great Stage Star’ – and, more importantly was picked up by a wonderful agent.

I started cutting down my hours in physical therapy and balancing the two careers. My agent sent me on an audition for Jersey Boys. They kept calling me back, and that was actually to form the Chicago company, a few years ago. I made it all the way down to final callbacks in New York for Francine. They were only considering me for Francine at the time, and I didn’t get it. This went on for a year and a half. I kept going in, kept auditioning. They kept bringing me all the way back to the end, only considering me for Francine.

Each time, I felt like I was making progress and I was growing as an actor. The very last time that I went in, they were bringing me in for Francine and also the role of swing. This was a year and a half after they had very first seen me. So, I had grown up and they saw me read for the roles and they thought, ‘Wow, she’s grown into a Mary!’

They asked me if I wanted to join this cast as Mary. I’m very grateful to be here. It’s been an amazing ride. It was perseverance for sure that got me here!

JBB: How long have you been with the Chicago company?

MH: I got here and started rehearsing in November 2008 and my opening was December 9. I am loving every second of it!

JBB: What’s your favorite musical number in the show?

MH: I love ‘Fallen Angel.’ I think it’s a beautiful moment and ‘Who Loves You’ is so much fun!

JBB Tech Half: I like seeing the whole cast all on stage, all at once, singing and dancing. It’s the culmination of all this stuff that has happened. It’s kind of like a relief that success is theirs again and everything is okay. You can look forward to the future again.

MH: Absolutely! You’re right; it’s the only moment that the entire cast is on stage and we’re having so much fun! And we get to wear these glitzy, blingy dresses (chuckles)!

JBB: That’s one of my goals in life, to wear one of those glitzy dresses once! (laughs)

MH: They’re very loud! They make a lot of noise!

JBB: What about your favorite scene?

MH: Pizza. Hands down, pizza is my favorite scene. Each Frankie that I’m on stage with plays it differently. When I’m on stage with Dominic [Scaglione, Jr.], as opposed to John [John Michael Dias], as opposed to Steven [Goldsmith] and John Michael [Coppola], it brings out a different Mary in me, because they all bring something different to the role.

JBB: What about your favorite line?

MH: Wow, I would probably have to say my favorite line is, “Asshole.” It’s so funny! She’s giving Tommy a hard time for swearing in her kitchen and she grabs a bottle of liquor and walks out and calls him an asshole!

JBB: So, Merissa, your debut with Jersey Boys was back in December. What have you discovered about yourself that you didn’t know before being in the Jersey Boys Chicago company?

MH: Because I am relatively new to this business, especially at this level, I learn something new every day, whether it be personal or professional. Learning to cope with the uncertainty of show business can be quite challenging, but to my surprise, I have managed to focus on the present much better than I expected. I am so grateful for this opportunity that I have truly been able enjoy each moment. I have also learned that to maintain the 8-show week, making personal sacrifices has been necessary, but I continue because I love getting up there night after night. I’ve never had a job so fulfilling.


  1. Merissa Haddad is wonderful on the stage as “Mary” and in her other roles. It’s really interesting to see how she ended up following her heart.

    Comment by TeresaJ — August 31, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  2. Nice interview. Merissa shines throughout the whole show, but my favorite is her pizza scene, too.

    Comment by Jay — August 31, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  3. This was a fun interview. I’ve seen Merissa twice in Chicago and think she’s really great in all of her roles.

    Comment by Ken — August 31, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  4. Merissa is awesome and has such a spark! Her Mary is amazing.

    Comment by Rose — August 31, 2009 @ 11:49 pm

  5. Merissa is full of passion and absolutely brilliant. She followed the love in her heart and it shines on stage with every performance.

    Comment by Matthew — September 1, 2009 @ 1:35 am

  6. Merissa is destined for Broadway stardom. It’s already in the books. :-)

    Comment by The Universe... — September 1, 2009 @ 1:40 am

  7. Came out from her home state of Massachusetts with a group of friends and Marissa was terrific.(as well as the whole cast).Jersey Boys is the best musical I’ve ever seen!! Way to go everyone–

    Comment by Richard Guzzi — September 1, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

  8. Merissa is so good! She is really nice when you get to meet her as well. A great person and very open to answering your questions about the show. She is a great part of the Chicago Company!

    Comment by Dylan — September 1, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

  9. All of the women in the cast are great, but Merissa truly stands out. Her acting is amazing and her smile is contagious.

    Comment by BeckyK — September 1, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

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