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ShowTickets Q&A: Mitchell Jarvis of ‘Rock of Ages’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

“You're going to have the most fun you've ever had in the theater.”

Mitchell Jarvis recently reprised his role of Lonny, the wisecracking, mullet-wearing narrator, in the 10th anniversary run of Rock of Ages. The 1980s rock musical opened on Broadway in 2009, ran for six years and became one of the top 30 longest-running shows on the Great White Way. In fact, before transferring to Broadway, Rock of Ages made its New York debut at New World Stages, where the revival is currently playing. The cast also includes Kirsten Scott as Sherrie, CJ Eldred as Drew, PJ Griffith as Stacee Jaxx and Matt Ban as Dennis. Rock of Ages centers around a young couple who have made their way to Los Angeles to pursue their rock and roll dreams. Their story plays out against the cool backdrop of songs from Journey, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Styx and Pat Benatar. Mitchell, who made his Broadway debut in Fiddler On The Roof with Rosie O’Donnell and Harvey Fierstein, also starred in Getting the Band Back Together.

Mitchell Jarvis as Lonny in ‘Rock of Ages’ at New World Stages (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Mitchell Jarvis as Lonny in ‘Rock of Ages’ at New World Stages (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Can you talk about your history with Rock of Ages?
Mitchell Jarvis: I was initially cast in 2008 to do the Off-Broadway production at New World Stages. At the time, I was 29. And now, I turned 40 in November. It almost feels like an institution at this point. Every time I do it, it’s like coming home.

What qualities does Lonny have that you adore? 
MJ: He’s like Puck. He's the classic jester character who can be the go-between for the modern audience. He can look at the nostalgic past and comment on it. And there are no rules. I can kind of do whatever I want with it.

The role becomes a vehicle for all of the pop culture references that have molded me. There's a little Chris Farley in there. There’s are little Will Ferrell. There's a little Kramer. There's a little bit of everything I have always loved about comedy. I'm able to bring it all to the table. What's fun about revisiting it 11 years later is that enough time has passed to reinvent the wheel a little bit. I can make it just a little bit more refined. And I'm starting to call myself the “Ted Neeley” of Rock Of Ages. I'm sure I'll be doing this until I'm 75 years old and coming up with new bits.

Can you talk about your Broadway debut?
MJ: It was in Fiddler on the Roof. The production was directed by David Leveaux. I was there the last nine months with Harvey Fierstein and Rosie O’Donnell, and the last group who was at the Minskoff Theatre.

I remember getting the call. It was 2005 and I was at a softball game, playing for the Actor's Federal Credit Union softball team. My then agent called and said, “Hey. How do you feel about being on Broadway?” I said, “Sure, I'd love it.” And he replied, “Well, you got a show.” I was in the ensemble, and covered Perchik and Motel. It was a crash course in how to get plugged into a long run of a show.

Why do you love Rock Of Ages?
MJ: It’s pure nostalgia. And right now, nostalgia is sort of king. It's fun to come back to it. It's almost like the eighties are the new fifties. It’s a bygone era, and we are embracing the goofy qualities of it. Ones that were fun and silly. I’ve never seen this show not succeed. I've seen a lot of productions that I haven't been in, and they are like Teflon. You can't mess it up. If you roll with it and have fun, it’s infectious. And for the audience, you're going to have the most fun you've ever had in the theater.

Do you remember the first Broadway show you ever saw?
MJ: The first time I came to New York, I saw Titanic. I grew up in mostly in Minnesota from third grade on. I didn't come to theater, or even think about doing it, until my junior year of high school. I was pretty late to the game. But I saw a rock opera production of Romeo and Juliet by Terrence Mann at the Ordway Music Theatre in Minnesota, starring Patrick Wilson. I read his bio and thought to myself, “I think I can do what he does.” Also, his bio said he went to school at Carnegie Mellon. I thought, “Oh, I'll go there.” So, I stupidly applied for all of these schools I had no business applying to, and I wound up getting in. I never looked back.

For more of the best of Off-Broadway this season, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in October 2019.

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