Jarrod Spector made his Broadway debut at the tender age of nine years old. Since then, he has dazzled audiences around America as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys and Barry Mann in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Now, Spector is bringing his life story to the stage with his new show, Jukebox Life. Broadway Wiz spoke to the Broadway star about the upcoming concert, his time on Broadway, and if there are any other Jukebox musicals he would be interested in starring in.
What made you fall in love with performing at such a young age?
I don’t have that many memories from being two and three years old, but I do remember that feeling of hearing a song and finding joy in sounding out the notes and navigating it and making it my own. So I guess that sort of very basic, almost primal love of music is the thing that made me enjoy singing, therefore performing when I was a kid.
I started performing long before I made the choice to do so. I look at my nieces, nephews, or friends’ children, and a lot of them are at the age I was when I started singing and performing on television. I was around 3, and it is incredible for me to think that these kids are capable of the conscious, mature thought process that it would take to make the decision that yes, this is something that I actually want to do with my life. I think you just kind of do what you can do and what seems fun at the time. Your parents teach you the song and put you on stage and if you are physically able to retain the words and the notes and you can stand up there and do it without throwing a fit and crying or freaking out, then you do it. I think that’s sort of how it went down for me.
You have to have a certain maturity. It’s not an easy thing, even as an adult. You can imagine the level of maturity that you have to have as a child to be able to get up on stage and sing and dance and act and perform in front of however many thousands of people. When you are young, you don’t quite know what you are doing either.
What was it like making your Broadway debut in Les Misérables?
I started Les Mis at the Forest Theater in Philadelphia when I was nine years old. I remember feeling unprepared for what it was. Gavroche comes out when the show transitions to Paris. It’s this bass‑heavy, ominous music and people around you are literally moaning because they are in rags. Gavroche has to sneak out in semi darkness, get to the middle of the stage and lay down and cover himself with a blanket as all of this smoke and dry ice mist is on stage. It can be a scary moment to do that for the very first time and just be told, “all right, get out there and do it.” I felt underprepared and under rehearsed but I just had to do it because I was taught from a very young age the show must go on. You just go out there and do the best you can, and so I did. I remember being terrified, but completely exhilarated and it was so much fun. When I was transferred to Broadway, I sort of had a vague understanding of what Broadway meant versus doing a show in Philadelphia or Chicago as I had done before. It wasn’t until I walked up to the August Wilson theater many years later to go into my first day of Jersey Boys that I really felt like wow, I am walking into a Broadway theater for work. It didn’t register when I was a child.
How did it feel to play Frankie Valli, someone who is so iconic?
I think that there are lots of pros and cons – mostly pros-to playing a real person. Especially when that person is still alive. When you are creating a role that no one has ever seen or heard of before, you have license and liberty to do with it pretty much whatever you want as long as it’s within the author’s and the director’s intentions. When you are playing a real person, you are sort of restricted, for better or for worse by that person, especially when they are famous and everybody knows what they look like, sound like, and they know their own personal association