What was your first exposure to Broadway and musical theater, and how did it influence you?
My first memory of Broadway was my mother taking me to see the TAP DANCE KID. It starred Hinton Battle and Alfonso Ribeiro. I loved it. I just remember watching this little kid tap his little tush off and thinking I WANT TO DO THAT!
What’s the first Broadway show you saw? How old were you?
See above. It was The Tap Dance Kid. I would say I was around 7 or 8.
How do you keep track of your different roles?
Not sure I understand this question. Do you mean when a person swings a show? I’ve been a swing before so I can share that if you want, but I play Mendel “The Rabbi’s Son” in Fiddler so fortunately it’s not so crazy. I do understudy Motel. The biggest challenge is going many many weeks sometimes months and not going on for the role you cover. You just have to keep working on it yourself periodically. We have understudy rehearsals approximately once a week and I also usually run through the show on my own every few weeks.
How do you recharge when drained? How do you maintain necessary confidence?
NAPS! NAPS! NAPS! I was never a big napper. My wife is and always has been. I used to make fun of her. Now with two kids, a Broadway show, a small company to run…I am pretty beat most days. I make it a point to nap between shows for at least 20 minutes. I also try to eat foods that make me happy and have lots of snacks around. Hunger and exhaustion do not make for good theatre. Well, maybe in some instances, but not for me. To maintain necessary confidence, I hang up post-its reminding me that I’m awesome. I’m not kidding. I looked at one last week. It said, “Rehearsal was great. I didn’t think, I committed and just had fun.” I looked at that to pump me up for the first time I went on for Motel.
What surprised them most about working on Broadway?
I think what surprised me most about working on Broadway was how it’s just like theatre I did as a kid, but on a much larger scale. I mean, it’s the biggest stage in the world, no pressure, right? But the truth is you get together with new people, some old friends, you rehearse together, eat together, wait for cues together and you laugh a lot. It’s a big family. We’re all just kids playing and finally getting paid a lot more than community theatre. There is no better place to feel special than with a Broadway cast. Especially if you have a cast like I do right now with Fiddler. They are just incredible.
What is your pre-show routine, and what is backstage like for you?
My pre-show routine is probably most relevant on matinee days. I always bring an egg sandwich and a banana on matinee days. I get to the theatre a little early to enjoy my sandwich, and maybe even catch 10 minutes of a TV show on my iPhone. I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV at home. So it’s nice to relax a little. Around 15 minutes in, I get dressed and warm up the voice and body a little. I almost always joke or share some funny story with my roommate Nick (Fydeka) and our neighbors Michael Bernardi (The Innkeeper) and Karl Kenzler (The Constable). They are great neighbors and friends. Almost always share a laugh before the show with them. I also like to share a hug with Sarah Parker (one of our dancers just before we line up under the stage) and a shoulder tap with my good friend George Psomas (Avram) just before we make our very first entrance for the show.
What’s your favorite part about Fiddler and the company you work with?
My favorite part about Fiddler are all the little miracles and beautiful surprises that have come with this show. Getting the Gypsy Robe, going on for Motel, The Tony Awards, Easter Egg hunt in our theatre led by our amazing stage manager Bess Glorioso…these are amazing moments. As I mentioned earlier, this company is amazing. I am considered a Broadway veteran at this point. This is my 9th Broadway show. I have never felt so much love and respect from a cast as I do from this cast. They just continue to shower me with love and accolades. Just the other day, Sarah shared that the ladies were talking about me. (That’s always good news. Even as a married man it’s nice to know ladies are talking about me.) She said that they all have so much respect for me and aspire to be just like me. They admire that I show up to work all the time, I don’t really complain, I have a wife and children, I run a small biz, and I do it as they say, “with a smile on my face.” To know I am inspiring these amazingly talented new kids is all I could ask for. Add on the fact that I get to work with vets that I admire like Danny Burstein, Bartlett Sher, Sheldon Harnick…it just doesn’t get any better.
Do you have any other nicknames besides Shecky?
Funny you should ask. My very first stage name was Jeff Crystar. Terrible, right? I got the Crystar from my favorite comic book when I was a kid. “Crystar the Crystal Warrior.” OY! No, Shecky is all I need. It’s a perfect fit.
What was it like winning the Gypsy Robe? Do you have favorite show you performed in?
Winning the Gypsy Robe