Broadway’s Jarrod Spector has been living that jukebox life from the ripe age of three. Inspired by the music of his parents, Spector’s journey has taken him from Star Search to the Great White Way. Starring in hits such as Jersey Boys and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Spector has dug deep into the lives and careers of music history’s greatest talents with his roles as Frankie Valli and Barry Mann on Broadway. This November, he returns to Feinstein’s/54 Below with a new solo show, Jukebox Life, that will leave audiences full of nostalgia and pure bliss.
StageBuddy had the incredible opportunity to catch up with Spector before his solo show and explore where his jukebox life began, his career on Broadway, and why this music continues to tell the story of our lives.
Let’s start at the beginning. Where did the jukebox life begin for you and how has it shaped your journey?
Jarrod Spector: The title comes from a fan who was waiting by the stage door at Beautiful – it was toward the end of my time there. She had seen me in Jersey Boys and Beautiful and said, “What’s it like to have this incredible jukebox life?” That name stuck and I started to think about what that means to me. I’ve been in two jukebox musicals for the past 10 years. A jukebox musical represents all these different ways of inserting songs into a library -- into a story -- and how a songbook frames a story. In my own experience, I’ve had lots of little coincidences where music and life sort of overlap. The first song I ever learned was “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” by Bobby Darin, which also happens to be the first song that Frankie Valli knew all the words to and I sang it every night in Jersey Boys. Another one is when I met my wife, I was obsessed with The Last Five Years and "Shiksa Goddess" – so the show is a lot of moments like that.
What is it about this type of music that makes it so special?
I didn’t grow up as a musical theatre aficionado - - I grew up with pop and rock and R&B. All of this music is very much of my childhood and parents – it's what I grew up listening to. I relate to this style of music in such a deep way because I have such a history of it.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Definitely Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow. You grow up listening to what your parents listen to – it was a lot of Bobby Darin in my house. Also, Chicago, the Beach Boys, the Beatles. My favorite singer is Freddie Mercury.
Being part of Jersey Boys and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical must have felt so natural for you….
Being in these shows is sort of a homecoming. With the case of Jersey Boys, I knew every song in the show. I didn’t necessarily know that Frankie sang every song until I went through the songbook in depth. With Beautiful, in thinking from more of a songwriting perspective, I didn’t know that Carole King wrote all the songs she did and the Mann-Weil songs, I never would have known all of their songs. It’s so fascinating that those four wrote all of those amazing tunes!
Talk about the mood you want to set for your solo shows.
I’ll admit that I did a lot of work as a child – I did Ed McMahon’s Star Search and my parents had me singing from the time I was three years old. I have so much home video! I have ardently fought against it being involved in my adult life (laughs), but this particular show will be the first time I’m going to embrace all of that and will use some of that multimedia to set the precedent and where this jukebox life started -- from the time I was three years old singing “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and letting that set the precedent for the rest of my life and the rest of the night. I use all of these songs in every which way a jukebox musical uses all of these songs – to recreate an event or as sung dialogue – that’s what I will use to help tell my story. I’ll also talk about other jukebox musicals that never make it past the rehearsal room or to a stage – I actually met my wife doing a jukebox musical. Having been in these musicals, I’m sort of free to talk about them.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the evenings?
I certainly hope that they enjoy the music and have a good time. I think that the term “jukebox musical” is a bit of a misnomer in many ways. It’s important to remember that these songs tell the stories of so many lives – music is such an important part of so many people’s lives. Songs from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s are hugely important to people’s journeys and are not just woven into the musical landscape but are the fabric of our lives and memories. I hope that people relate to the show in that way as well.
Is there a jukebox tune that’s like the soundtrack to your life?
There are a few and I definitely reference them in the show. Singing “Give My Regards to Broadway” at three years old is definitely one! Since then, my life was significantly changed when I met my wife and “Shiksa Goddess” tells the story of my life, at least currently.
Spector’s performances will take place, Tue, Nov 1: 7 p.m.; Wed, Nov 2: 7 p.m.; Fri, Nov 4: 7 p.m.; Sat, Nov 5: 7 p.m.; and Sun, Nov 13 at 9:30 p.m. For more, visit: https://54below.com/events/jarrod-spector-jukebox-life/