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Broadway Q&A: Jarrod Spector of ‘The Cher Show’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |


From Frankie Valli to Sonny Bono, Spector has played real-life legends

Jarrod Spector plays Sonny in The Cher Show. The Tony-nominated performer has also starred in Beautiful, Jersey Boys and Les Misérables. Now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre, The Cher Show covers six decades of Cher’s remarkable career, features 35 hit songs and endless eye-popping sparkly costumes from Bob Mackie. The Cher Show also stars Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks and Micaela Diamond in the role of Cher at various times in her life, Michael Berresse as Bob Mackie, Michael Campayno as Rob Camilletti, Matthew Hydzik as Gregg Allman and Emily Skinner as Cher’s mother Georgia Holt. On April 15, Spector will be performing his show (con)artist at Sony Hall, with a ten-piece band and special guests Fosse/Verdon actress Kelli Barrett (who is also Spector’s wife) and Andrew Rannells. He talks about his career, which began when he was six, and playing music legends like Frankie Valli, Barry Mann and Sonny Bono.

Jarrod Spector as Sonny Bono in ‘The Cher Show’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Jarrod Spector as Sonny Bono in ‘The Cher Show’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Can you bring us to when you first heard about the possibility of playing Sonny in The Cher Show
Jarrod Spector:
In the fall of 2015, I did a show with my wife (Kelli Barrett) called This Is Dedicated: Music’s Greatest Marriages. The inspiration for doing that show was the fact that I was in Beautiful at the time playing Barry Mann. We looked at 18 different couples, and covered their music, and included tons of other stories. We studied Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Ike and Tina Turner, Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Of course, one of the couples was Sonny and Cher. To create the seven-minute sketch of them that we did in the show, we watched every Sony and Cher Comedy Hour, listened to all their tunes and started to learn about many of the songs Sonny actually wrote. Even ones he didn’t sing, like "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)".

A year later, in the fall of 2016, I got the first call to do a reading of a new show about Cher. Would I play Sonny? First of all, “Yes. I can’t wait.” The writer is Rick Elice, a dear friend who wrote Jersey Boys. I thought, “My God, there is no way that I could have been able to do this amount of work before this reading, that I have already done for months leading up to those concerts.” It felt very fortuitous that I had already put so much work into it. I had a lot of the externals down, like his voice, that makes Sonny a challenge. I already had so many basics. 

Sonny comes off far from perfect in the show. What qualities does he have that you really like? 
JS
: I know that he is a complicated guy. With respect to Cher, the way he might have been portrayed after the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour collapsed, is not necessarily kind. I wasn’t alive, but I imagine that people liked him quite a bit from 1965 until 1975 when they broke up. His onstage persona is goofy, funny and self-effacing. He is quite lovable, and he seemed to love her so much.

There are several things I love about Sonny. One of them is that he had that same drive and perseverance that Cher had. He comes from humble means. He moved from the mid-west to Southern California when he was a kid. With no formal training, he wrote many top 10 hits. He was not much of a singer, but somehow made himself a singer. He wasn’t much of an entertainer, but he made himself a very successful entertainer. He had no business background, and yet he made himself into a business mogul, and then a mayor, and then a congressman. Here’s a guy who kept reinventing himself. His drive, his hunger and his resourcefulness are not to be underestimated.  

And Sonny was able to make fun of himself in a unique way. 
JS
: In Cher’s eulogy, which was public, she said Sonny had the confidence to be the butt of the joke. Because he created the joke, and that humility, confidence and ability to be self-effacing and not take himself too seriously. It’s a trait of his that I admire more than any of the others. I don’t know anybody who would willingly find the thing about themselves that probably makes them the most insecure, and then go on television, into everyone’s living rooms every single week, and have their goddess wife use that exact thing to make fun of them. She made fun of his height, his mother, and he was okay with it. It was his idea, because he knew what would make them successful. He understood the dynamic that worked for them, and he was okay with whatever worked. 

Can you talk about your upcoming show (con)artist on April 15 at Sony Hall? 
JS
: I’m doing a concert at Sony Hall on April 15th that’s all about playing these various real life people, and the impact it has on me. You come out of a stage door, and someone thinks that you’re Frankie Valli or Barry Mann. They project their nostalgia for Sonny Bono onto you. That is what that show is about.

Didn’t you make your Broadway debut when you were 10 years old? 
JS
: Yes. I played Gavroche in Les Misérables in Philadelphia and Chicago when I was about 9, and then Broadway when I was about 10. I was encouraged by my parents to sing before I can remember doing it. I was trained by a vocal coach before I can remember going to that vocal coach. I don’t remember being 3 years old in a voice teacher’s office. By the time I was cognizant of what it meant to be a singer, it was just a natural part of me to sing. In fact, the first Broadway show I ever saw was Les Misérables. They cast me on the spot in New York, handed us three tickets, and we saw the show that night. I was petrified, but it was also unbelievable. 

And then you took a break from performing professionally. 
JS
: I sang through high school and college, and did shows, but decided to go to Princeton to study economics. My parents thought that at some point I would return to it. Maybe they had more faith than I did. But I thought that it was an unsure life. I just wanted something more stable, or at least I thought. When it came to my second year of Princeton, I was staring down the barrel of a life in investment banking or something like that. It just didn’t make sense to me, my brain short circuited, and everything went a little haywire. I was sinking all of my time into the Princeton Triangle Club, a musical theater group. I wasn’t getting any credits for that. 

My sister’s wedding was the summer after my second year at school at Princeton.  It was fortuitous.  I got up and sang with the band. They asked me if I would sing with them permanently. For the following year, I sang with this wedding and bar mitzvah band in Philadelphia. It was not the most glamorous job in the world. But it was a way to entertain, earn a living singing and connect with that part of myself. I thought, “Why am I fighting against this so hard?” Fortunately, the following summer I moved to New York with a couple of my best friends. I had one of the best summers of my life. I lived by myself in a studio apartment for a year, took classes and started singing and taking piano again, and became re-inspired. 

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in April 2019.

 

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