Cory Jeacoma started singing in kindergarten and never wanted to stop. He recently finished the Jersey Boys tour and now he returns to New York City to play Bob Gaudio in the new off-Broadway production. We spoke to him about his musical theater roots, his best memories and mishaps with Jersey Boys, and living the New York dream.

When did you fall in love with theater, and how did you know that you wanted to be a performer?
In kindergarten, my teacher did a spring variety show and we would sing musical theater songs, like Grease and Sound of Music, so I caught the bug of music then. I loved the attention as a little kid and when I got older, my mom noticed that I was singing along with the radio and could tell that music was important to me. In fifth grade she told me to do the talent show and I sang “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” (as any fifth grader would.) I caught the bug from there. I played Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book– it was my first theater experience and I couldn’t stop. Then I was doing high school shows and then the community theater shows (about six a year) and a little cabaret, and I couldn’t stop.

In high school, all of my friends were applying to schools for musical theater, and I realized you could go to school and make a career out of it. I started really digging in and getting my hands dirty and doing readings and workshops, and meeting some incredible, incredible artists that I grew to respect and admire. It’s cool that I am finally getting the chance to build a platform for myself to do what I love and share it with people. It’s incredible.

Do you remember the first time you saw Jersey Boys?
I remember seeing it and just being in awe. It was one of the first shows that connected with me in a way that I realized musical theater has something for everyone. There are shows for every person, but this is the guys’ musical; Jersey Boys was about four dudes and that was sort of what I was. I’m just an average dude and it’s a show about four average dudes who hustled and made a name for themselves, and it stood out to me. Especially the role of Bob Gaudio, this earnest, forward-thinking young guy who had a song in his heart and a passion in his body that he needed to release, and he did incredible things with it. That’s something that I admire. He never lost sight of himself throughout the process. So I thought, I want to be a part of this. I saw the show six or seven times before I even got an audition, and whenever someone came into the city and wanted to see a show, I took them to Jersey Boys.

What is it like to play such an iconic man? How much research goes into the role when you’re portraying a real person and how much of yourself do you try to bring to the character?
It was very daunting until a couple of months ago when I finally met Bob. My biggest goal was to meet Bob Gaudio, and it was also my biggest fear to meet Bob Gaudio. Not because he is some scary guy, but because I admire him so much and I want nothing more than to do justice to his life and to this story he lived. Four months ago during tech for New World Stages, they told me Bob was going to be working with us through the last week of tech and I literally pooped my pants. I was trying to play it cool, “He is going to be here watching me play him, yeah, that’s normal.” It was wild. He was the nicest guy in the world, and he gave me a stamp of approval. He said, “You can’t ask me, because I was living it, but I bet you if you ask Frankie he would say that you remind him a lot of me when I was your age,” and I just about fell on the floor . He said that I should be proud, and I was proud. That was a huge milestone in my life, just a huge moment when this man that I admire so much and that I spent upwards of 300 performances portraying said, “yes, you are doing all right, kid.”

Do you think it’s easier or more difficult than playing a fictional character?
They both come with their challenges. With a fictional character, you have to create this person. You have to literally create a believable, living, breathing person who has a personality and traits that people can relate to, and you have to sort of tie yourself into their emotional life and p