August 31, 2012

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Jonathan Hadley!

August 31st, 2012

Jonathan Hadley
Jonathan Hadley

Last month in Portland, it was a wonderful pleasure to catch up with JERSEY BOYS first national tour’s “Bob Crewe,” Jonathan Hadley, who shared some fun stories from the road, along with some fascinating reflections about playing a role in one company for nearly five years!

Jersey Boys Blog: Great to see you again, Jonathan! Wow, you’ve been playing the Bob Crewe role in JERSEY BOYS a long time, haven’t you? I’m guessing about five years?

Jonathan Hadley: Great seeing you guys again, too! Well, first I played Crewe on Broadway when Peter Gregus went on medical leave for two months. Then, I started with the Vegas cast, when they were playing San Francisco during the holidays in 2007. The Vegas cast went on to Vegas and I went onto the tour. I’ve been on the road since January 1, 2008—four years on the road and almost five years in JERSEY BOYS. Wow! (laughs)…That’s crazy!

JBB: So, are you the cast member who has been with the first national tour the longest?

JH: Since Joe Siravo is leaving, Chris DeAngelis has been here the longest, and then I’m next.

But I’ve been on and off the road since the 80s. My first job when I got out of college was the original tour of Into the Woods with Charlotte Rae and Cleo Laine. I was three years old at the time (laughs).

It’s always a part of an actor’s life to go out on the road. This is the longest tour that I’ve ever been on. Nobody thought this show would be going on this long, so that’s a huge surprise. And, touring has changed so much. When I first started, there was no computer, no cell phones, no Internet. So, touring is so much easier now. You can maintain your life and still be on the road.

Before, when you left New York, you were gone. Now, with Facebook and all that, you can keep in touch with your friends and family and it’s easier to stay on the road this long, actually. It has been nice to see that change; it’s kept me out here longer.

JBB: Considering you’ve been on the road since you were three (chuckles), life sounds so much better for touring companies. Wow! Back then, you probably got to go home for a few days every now and then, if you were lucky, didn’t you?

JH: Oh, yes, and remember those calling cards? Just to call home was really difficult. Also, our stays are longer now. The tours never stayed in cities for as long as JERSEY BOYS does. So, it really affords an opportunity to really get to know a fabulous place like Portland or Cleveland (laughs), which they make fun of it enough in the show. I never make fun of it (chuckles)…

JBB Tech Half: So, Jonathan, since Frankie Valli says, “The road is the road,” we’ve been asking everyone what is their most memorable story or experience on the road. What’s yours?

JBB: Something that’s printable, Jonathan…(chuckles)

JH: There are some that we can’t talk about (laughs).

Nothing really pops into my mind, but I would say again, it’s the chance to explore things. For example, we just came from the Stampede in Calgary. I’ve never been to a rodeo before and that was fascinating to me! We all got the white hats and getting that kind of treatment is wonderful, and then exploring these things that you heard about, or never heard about, like the Stampede or Banff. I’ve never seen anything like that!

JBB Tech Half: You’re the fourth cast member that has mentioned Banff to us. It really must have made an amazing impression on everyone.

JH: There’s nothing like it; it’s stunning. And, for me, discovering places like Key West, I’ve never been there before, and then we played Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. So, I think it’s discovering parts of this continent from Florida to the Rocky Mountains. I think that’s the most memorable!

JBB: Sounds like you’ve had some incredible experiences on tour, but is there anything that really is a pain about being on the road so much, such as all the packing?

JH: I’ve gotten the packing down pretty well. I think the hard thing is laundry. Like the hotel I happen to be in now doesn’t have a laundry mat. Then, there’s coffee. If I can look out the front door of the hotel and see a Starbucks, everything is good. But, if there’s not anything nearby, then I panic (laughs). The rest of it, I have figured it out pretty well.

One person said to us that one thing that keeps the tour fresh is that every time we go to a new city, we not only have to keep the show fresh, but we have to search for life-sustaining things, like where the food is, where’s the coffee, and where are the restaurants. That also keeps us stimulated in a way. It’s not like doing the show and then going home, you have say, ‘How do I get home?’ (laughs)

Then, of course, the theaters change, so you come out of your dressing room, or come off stage and you say, ‘Where am I? Where’s the dressing room?’ That takes a couple days, usually.

JBB: You were truly amazing last night as Bob Crewe. Considering you’ve been doing the Crewe track for nearly five years, how has it evolved and how do you keep it so fresh?

JH: I think part of it is this: On the road, every three weeks, every six weeks, we get a whole new set of critics; we get a whole new set of press, so you’re always keeping it fresh for those new people. And that, to me really gives me these bumps, sort of reexamining the part, because I know I’m going to be reviewed, so I have to keep it fresh. That keeps me going.

There’s also cast changes, which are difficult, because we’re going to miss these people that we’ve grown to really enjoy working with. Like Joe Bwarie, it’s going to be difficult when he goes, but Nick Cosgrove is great. So, that changes how you play with the Frankies. Even during the week, having one guy for six shows and one guy for two, it does change how you interact and the character changes. So, I think that is what has kept me going.

And then, I got a chance to visit my hometown, which is in Charlotte, North Carolina.

JBB: I recall posting an excerpt of an interview you did back in Charlotte. What was it like playing in the city where you grew up?

JH: Having all my friends and all my family come–boy, that kept it fresh, because I knew I was performing for my high school chorus teacher and stuff like that. That really keeps you going! Then, you have to sleep for about three weeks after that (laughs).

JBB: Was it a bit nerve-wracking?

JH: Oh, absolutely…something you’ve done over and over and over again, and suddenly, you’re very conscious of your body and what you are saying.

Everybody loves it! It’s such a great show to bring to people who’ve never seen theater, or who have never seen me or any of us. They just love us and they love the show. It’s fun to bring a certain gift to people.

JBB: It’s such a gift!

JH: One story I will tell you: When my nieces first came to the show: They live in South Carolina; I live in North Carolina (spoken with a Southern drawl). They are really back in the South, really conservative, church-going kids.

I had to say to my nieces, ‘Now, y’all, Uncle Jonathan is going to have to curse in this show.’

My niece, who was about 14 at the time, said, ‘Well, you don’t say the F-word, do you, Uncle Jonathan?’

I said to her, ‘Well yes, I say that a lot. It’s not necessarily my choice; it’s my character—that’s how he speaks, that’s how he expresses himself. He’s from that part of the world.’

She said, ‘Here’s what you do Uncle Jonathan. Before you go on stage, you say a little prayer, then you go out there and say what you have to say. You come back, and say another little prayer.’

said, ‘Well, Rachel, Uncle Jonathan is going to be praying a lot!’

She said, ‘Now, that’s okay…’ (Laughs)

So, I use that story when the kids come.

JBB: That is a hilarious story, Jonathan. Honestly, I should have expected that. We’ve gotten a few blog comments, such as, ‘Such a great show, except for the F-Bombs.’

JH: In some cities, they modify the script. They actually take the G-D’s out—in Memphis and Nashville. In Tulsa, we took the G-D’s out and the Mother F’ers. Dallas was upset about the prostitutes; they got letters about that.

Once we talked about it, my nieces were fine about the cursing. I did have to say, ‘When I’m in that car and shoot the guy, I say all the curse words (laughs).’

JBB: Did she still find the scene funny, because that one really gets such huge laughs from the audience?

JH: She did and her big question was, ‘Well, how did you remember all those curse words?!’ (massive laughter) That was one memorable moment (laughs).

JBB: This is so interesting about the language in the show.

JH: All the modifications are done by Rick and Marshall. I think when we first played Dallas, if I remember right, it was the first time we got complaints about the language. So, they fixed pieces here and there.

JBB Tech Half: Mark Twain said, ‘There are damn few words everyone understands and I intend to use all of them.’

JH: (Laughs) That’s really good. I’ll remember to tell the nieces that one!

JBB: After nearly five years with JERSEY BOYS, what have you discovered about yourself that you didn’t know before?

JH: I’ll tell you, this might be too heady, but I’ve found that there’s a lot of freedom within boundaries, and I never thought about that. When you’re younger, you want to do whatever you want and that’s cool. In this show, you have your lines, you have where you stand, and you put a thing down here every night, but there’s actually a lot of freedom within that. It’s like a canvas and you’re coloring in different parts of it, or maybe you use just a shade different tonight than you did last night. To me, it makes a huge difference—the audience won’t know and of my fellow actors probably won’t know—but if I say a line a little differently, I can say to myself, ‘Ooh, that was cool.’ Then, it’s a new performance for me that night. So, that’s kind of kept it interesting.

It’s fun; some nights you’re on autopilot, which absolutely happens and the some nights you’re coloring all these different things. That’s been cool, but I know what the boundaries are, and that’s a secure thing that actors don’t usually have, so I’m enjoying that!

JBB: Wow, that’s so profound and interesting, Jonathan.

JH: Oh, good, it’s a little deep (chuckles)…but I’ve had so long to think about it. It’s an interesting experience. I don’t know if we’ll ever get this again—we might and we might not—to be in such a long run. So, I’m enjoying it!

JBB: It’s so obvious that you’re enjoying it, Jonathan!


  1. Great interview as usual, Susie. I remember his recognizing me in the lobby back in Fort Lauderdale back in April, 2009. What a class guy!

    Comment by Howard — August 31, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

  2. Thank you for this wonderful interview! I adore Jonathan Hadley!! I have enjoyed the performances by the Bob Crewe actors in the 2nd National Tour cast and the Broadway cast, but Jonathan is, by far, my favorite Bob Crewe. Not only is he EXCELLENT in that role, but he’s also incredibly nice at the stage door.

    Comment by Shell — August 31, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  3. I have had so much joy seeing Jonathan in JB many, many times and meeting him at the stage door(s) has been a memorable experience. Can’t wait to see him again…and I hope he remembers this M&M lady. Love ya Jonathan…

    Comment by Gladys (Phillygalg) — September 1, 2012 @ 4:03 am

  4. Wish you the best. Sorry we missed you in ATL. Maybe soon.

    Comment by Cousin Tim — October 6, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

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