Front & Center
Jessica Stone is Cecily Pigeon in The Odd Couple; Daniel Reichard is Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys.
Stone plays Cecily Pigeon, who lives upstairs from Oscar and Felix with her sister, Gwendolyn (played by Olivia d'Abo). The women agree to a dinner date with the men, but it goes disastrously wrong. "I love the situation of a group of people trying really hard to keep the ball up in the air and to keep things polite and festive when everything is crumbling around them," says Stone. "It's really funny." While she had never seen the play staged before, she remembers seeing the movie years ago, and she revisited both the original script and the film prior to her audition. "I was surprised how poignant and sweet a lot of it is," she remarks. "It's not just a sitcom on stage; it's a rich little story with really great characters."
The actress first became interested in a theater career at a young age. "My parents are divorced, so I would visit my father in New York City," she explains. "He took me to everything. I would see Annie and then Andrei Serban's The Trojan Women at La MaMa. This is when I was seven. Now, Andrei Serban when you're seven is not so compelling. Annie, however, changed my life."
Stone got her big break in the 1994 Broadway revival of Grease, playing the role of Frenchie. Other credits on the Great White Way include How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Design For Living, and The Smell of the Kill. Off-Broadway, she's appeared in the Drama Dept. production of June Moon and Krisit at Primary Stages. She married fellow actor Christopher Fitzgerald in 2003, and the two are extremely supportive of each others' careers. "We both understand what the weird demands are," Stone comments. "Acting can be a stimulating, exciting life; it can also be awful and, at times, humiliating. I think it's really helpful when your partner knows that better than anybody."
In addition to acting, Stone has also made recent forays into directing. She started out by assisting Odd Couple director Joe Mantello on a Williamstown Theater Festival double-bill of Edward Albee's The Zoo Story and Harold Pinter's Dumbwaiter in 2001. She has also served as assistant to such directors as David Warren, Christopher Ashley, and Nicholas Martin, the last-named on the 2004 Broadway production of Match. Have her experiences behind the scenes affected her behavior as an actress in rehearsals? "What I've learned is to try not to be so needy and annoying," she replies. "Actors can be very self absorbed!"
Following a run at the La Jolla Playhouse, the show is now in previews on Broadway at the newly renamed August Wilson Theater, and Reichard is thrilled by the fact that it marks his Main Stem debut. "So many things are happening at once," he remarks. "It's very exciting -- almost overwhelming."
Audience response during Broadway previews has been electric, as it was in La Jolla. "Right from the first read-through," says Reichard, "you could tell that it was something special. Never have I seen a director so incredibly well prepared as Des McAnuff was; he came in already knowing every single chair move, who would be moving it, and on what word. Everything was carefully planned out. When we opened, there was an incredible response, and it just continued. People came to see the show 10, 15, 25 times. They went absolutely insane. It was like they started to believe we really were The Four Seasons."
In the show, Reichard plays Bob Gaudio, who is still very much alive. "He was often thought of as 'the fourth season' because he was the final person to join the group," says the actor. "He was previously in a group called The Royal Teens; he wrote the song 'Short Shorts' at age 15 and it hit #2 on the charts, if you can believe that. When the Royal Teens thing started to die, Joe Pesci -- the actor -- introduced Bob to Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, and Nick Massi, who were struggling in their own way. He joined them and they started off doing covers of songs by more established groups until Bob wrote 'Sherry.' Then 'Big Girls Don't Cry' followed, and 'Walk Like a Man.' Those were their first three hits."
Over the past several months, Reichard has had the chance to get to know Gaudio: "The first time he saw the show was in previews in La Jolla. I hadn't met him during the creative process, so I was really nervous. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, 'Hi, Bob.' He turned around and said, 'Oh -- hi, Bob!' We were a little shy with each other at first, but now we're more comfortable. The bonus is that he's producing our cast album. It was amazing to see this rock and roll Hall of Famer standing in front of a giant recording console, saying 'Let's hear that again!' "
Reichard hopes that people won't dismiss Jersey Boys as a so-called jukebox musical without seeing it. "One thing I've learned is that you've got to judge a theater piece on what it is," he says. "If you've seen a bunch of jukebox musicals and you hated them, I can understand why you'd have an attitude against them. But this show really isn't a jukebox musical; it's more of a play with music. Almost all of the songs are done as performance numbers. There's no character named Sherry! The story of The Four Seasons is told in a very emotional, very intelligent way."