J. Robert Spencer: Musician, Singer, Actor, ROCK STAR

Catherine • October 14, 2014 • Comments (0)

I just love singing rock ‘n’ roll, jamming with these guys and having a good time on stage. Every actor is a show-off; we like to take people on an emotional journey.

J. Robert Spencer

Midtown Men’s J. Robert Spencer talks ‘Jersey Boys,’ concert at Majestic Theater

The Midtown Men are set to perform in Gettysburg on Thursday

By Robyn Fisher
For The Evening Sun

When four of the original cast members of “Jersey Boys” sang their last notes at the August Wilson Theatre, they knew their visit to the 1960s was not over.

The bond that formed among the four men while they were on stage together for 1300 performances of the Tony and Grammy award winning musical developed into a shared dream. And together they formed the Midtown Men, a musical group with sharp choreography, tailored suits and harmonies that could take audiences back in time.

The group, composed of Tony Award winner Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, Michael Longoria, and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer, is set to perform at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg on Oct. 16.

Relaxing in his rocking chair at home in Oregon on a rare day off, Spencer, 45 years old and a member of Central York High School’s class of 1987, took some time to reflect on his journey from local theaters to the bright lights of Broadway and beyond.

Q: You have been touring across the country with the Midtown Men for five years now. How does it feel to be coming back to the area?

A: I’m a big Civil War buff, I’ve always had a fascination with that area and it feels really nice that I’ll be able to do a concert in a place where I spent so much of my life. I was actually born on Abe Lincoln’s birthday, Feb. 12; we’re exactly 160 years apart.

Q: You recently portrayed Lincoln in ‘Bayonets of Angst’ in the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival.

A: It was great because no one has ever seen me doing anything remotely close to Abbott and Costello and here’s this funny, bluegrass/Mel Brooks kind of musical comedy. I was on Broadway playing these dramatic roles in ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Next to Normal’ and over Facebook, I receive a message asking me if I’d be interested in the role. Reading over the script, I start laughing so hard that my wife (actress Jenny Lynn Suckling) notices tears streaming down my face.

With Midtown Men, we control the business and our schedule and if there’s a time when someone can take off for a quick creative spell then we’re going to be able to work that out. It’s a blessing to be able to do what you love.

Q: Back in 1992, you had a brush with potential rock stardom when your band from college was offered a record deal.

A: I think that’s what every kid thinks about when they play the drums for the first time. I didn’t know if I was going to be an actor or a musician, but I was definitely going to be an entertainer. So there I was supposed to be a rock star, but the guys in my band got cold feet and I was just like, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I decided I needed to get back in control of my life, so I cut my hair, went to New York, and then I started getting theater gigs. And there I was, no longer a wannabe rock star, I was a Broadway actor playing a rock star. How crazy is that? Not only were we playing the Four Seasons on Broadway and portraying the lives of these stars, but walking out the stage door, it was like the Beatles had arrived. That was the crazy wonderful response every single night from 2004 to 2008; every night was like Wembley Stadium.

Q: You’ve gone from portraying a character in a role to being on stage as yourself. How have you made that transition?

A: I think that there is something to wearing really well-tailored, expensive suits, but I just love singing rock ‘n’ roll, jamming with these guys and having a good time on stage. Every actor is a show-off; we like to take people on an emotional journey.

Q: What’s new for your upcoming visit to the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg?

A: We’ve added a lot of new tunes to the mix: Ronnie Spector, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, the Rascals, the Beach Boys and a lot more. We’ve got some of our classics that people love, but it’s an all-new show. We have incredible seven-piece band with us, and while we’re on the road, we make every second count. We’ll sometimes try new things in the morning before sounds checks and make it happen that night.

Q: There was a time when listening to a record was an activity, not just background ambience. For the generation of people who grew up without oldies music playing on the radio, explain the significance of this era of music.

A: This music is timeless. The songs, the arrangements, the choreography, they were designed to entertain. There is an emotional recall that people have when they think about the sixties. That music was a huge part of our lives growing up, listening to it on the radio with our parents. When you have the power to bring that kind of emotional recall back into someone’s life, it is the most rewarding and beautiful thing that you can bring to an audience. And over these past five years of performing, we’ve seen the love of that music spread over to all of these other generations.

If you go

What: Midtown Men performance
Where: Majestic Theater, 25 Carlisle St., Gettysburg
When: 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 16
Tickets: $79, $72, $65
More: Call 717-337-8200 or visit gettysburgmagestic.org

Category: Concerts, J. Robert Spencer, Media

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