Busting out of Broadway, Jersey Boys has become a huge hit across the country in its touring show. Winning multiple Tony Awards in New York, this production has found a home here in Chicago. After seeing this production, I went for a drink with one of the boys, Michael Ingersoll.
Jerry Nunn: Your character is from newark, N.J. Where are you from?
Michael Ingersoll: More specifically, the band is from Belleville, N.J. I am from Dayton, Ohio, and went to Miami University there. I was in Chicago seven months before I landed the role of Nick Massi in Jersey Boys. I toured with the show nationally, then came back to Chicago.
JN: How did you get involved with the show?
MI: That's a real interesting story. I was in a show with Pegasus Players called Tick, Tick … BOOM! Hedy Weiss wrote in her review of the show that I should start learning the role for Jersey Boys. She thought I had a real shot at the first national tour. The musical director for the tour of Jersey Boys was Googling one night, read the review and put me on the list to audition.
JN: Sounds like it was meant to be.
MI: That's how I got in the door. They originally called me in to read as Frankie and I began working on my falsetto. They liked my reading and had me try out for Nick. It's a lesson to dive in with whatever you have got and let them decide.
JN: You were an original member of the national tour before you joined us permanently in Chicago. Where did you enjoy playing the most?
MI: L.A. There was a huge following there. That was the era when were on Jay Leno and the Emmy awards. We had a great time.
JN: You play the part of Nick Massi. how are you the same or different from your character?
MI: Physically, we are different. He is quiet in Act 1 but then takes the reins in Act 2. I like the fact that people listen to him and he chooses his words carefully. I am also a person like that. He is an alcoholic, obsessive guy so I try not to do those things as much as possible. But it's fun to try those things on and play 'make-believe' with someone that is different than from myself.
JN: How is it working with the other Jersey Boys? Is there any craziness backstage?
MI: There is a real brotherhood there. We bust each other's balls mercilessly. It's a tough room backstage with lots of jokes and pranks. Although when someone leaves the group for whatever reason, these tough guys get a quiver in their stomach; it can be an emotional event.
JN: The musical director, Bob Crewe, was openly gay, which is wild for that time period.
MI: All those macho guys cared about was his contribution to the music. He actually wrote 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' about his lover after waking up one morning. This was way ahead of its time.
JN: I got the connection but I thought that [ was ] just me being gay. [ Laughs ] Besides that, I kept thinking how it's a perfect show for my parents and their generation. on the other hand, there was a young girl behind me singing along to all of the songs like she was on american Idol. how would you convince someone to the see the show if they are not sure about it?
MI: I would say that this musical is not what they are expecting. Many people think we are a commercialized oldies jukebox review. Our play actually is a mixture of 'VH1 Behind the Music,' 'The Sopranos' and a rock concert.
Guys my dad's age are surprised to find themselves tearing up, cheering or being enthusiastic. It's an American dream story. We get a standing ovation every night in over 700 shows. What that means is that it's earned. People are excited about the story and their response is to be touched by the show.
JN: What was your experience like in the movie Walk the Line?
MI: Brief; it was a day [ -long ] shoot in a bigbudget movie. It's satisfying when you see the film. It was great to have a speaking part in a Golden Globe-winning film. How cool is that?
JN: Speaking of cool, you had an opportunity to hang out with Tony Bennett. how did that come about?
MI: Yes—it was backstage at the Emmys, with Tony Bennett and Al Gore in the green room. It was amazing to be there. I even met Kevin Bacon on the red carpet. I am one degree from him now!
JN: you have a solo show at the metropolis Performing arts Centre, correct? how is that going for you?
MI: It has exploded. I perform songs from the era of Jersey Boys, along with pop songs from Billy Joel to Patsy Cline. It has been selling out, which is incredibly humbling, and I am very grateful for my audience.
Jersey Boys is at Bank of America Theatre,18 W. Monroe St.; tickets are on sale through Jan. 11, 2009. See www.michaelingersoll.com and www.jerseyboysinfo.com/chicago. Leaps and bounds.