Jeremy Jordan '07 Two-Timing in the New York Times
THE drive from Times Square to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., takes an hour, but the journey that Jeremy Jordan must complete during the ride is much longer. On Broadway, where Mr. Jordan will soon spend his days rehearsing for the new musical “Bonnie & Clyde,” he is one of the outlaw lovers who terrorized and seduced East Texas during the hungry years of the Depression.
At Paper Mill he’ll turn into Jack Kelly, the scruffy teenager who leads a lovable band of turn-of-the-20th-century newsboys in a strike on the Lower East Side in the Disney musical “Newsies.”
“He tawks like dis,” Mr. Jordan said of Jack. Then slipping into a lazy East Texas drawl, he explained that Clyde Barrow speaks slower and softer, “with a little bit more of a twa-a-ng and a sideways lip.”
It’s not unheard of for an actor to jump from one cast into another during the theater season, but for Mr. Jordan it’s all been compressed. His theatrical version of two-timing means that during much of the world-premiere run of “Newsies,” which began previews on Thursday, he’ll also be rehearsing “Bonnie & Clyde.” He won’t have a day (and barely a night) off until “Newsies” ends, on Oct. 16.
“Are you O.K. with that?” Mr. Jordan remembers being asked by Jeff Calhoun, who also happens to be directing both musicals.
“I’ll make it work,” he answered.
Work is the operative word. After rehearsing “Bonnie & Clyde” from 10 to 5, Mr. Jordan will race to Millburn for the 7 p.m. curtain. “I can warm up on the way there,” he said. On two-performance matinee days at Paper Mill, Mr. Jordan will skip rehearsals altogether.
Mr. Jordan, 26, who grew up in Corpus Christi, Tex., came to star in both musicals through a bit of theatrical kismet. After graduating from Ithaca College in 2007, as a theater major, he was lucky to attract the attention of an agent. The next year he played Tom Sawyer in Goodspeed Opera House’s “Big River” and in January 2009 snagged a part in the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages,” then left to be the replacement Tony for the matinees of Broadway’s “West Side Story.”
Featuring music by Frank Wildhorn (“Jekyll & Hyde,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel”), lyrics by Don Black, and a book by Ivan Menchell, “Bonnie & Clyde” has taken a somewhat unusual route to Broadway, which allowed Mr. Jordan to come aboard. After a 2009 run at La Jolla Playhouse in California, Stark Sands, who played Clyde, left the show to join the cast of “American Idiot” in New York. When the Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, Fla., announced a second production for late 2010, the creators went hunting for a new Clyde. (Laura Osnes, who starred in “Grease” and “Anything Goes” on Broadway, has been Bonnie all along.)
Mr. Calhoun was impressed with his audition. “It was one of those moments when you recognize you’re in the presence of a star,” he said. And he had seen Mr. Jordan a few months earlier when Disney had cast the young singer as Jack for a reading of “Newsies,” based on the 1992 film of the same name. While the movie, starring Christian Bale, was a flop, it later enjoyed a rabid following.
Mr. Jordan was among those fans. “I was obsessed with that movie as a kid,” he said. Yet when a full Paper Mill production came through, “Bonnie & Clyde” was already Broadway bound. “I was a little upset,” Mr. Jordan said.
Then Mr. Calhoun called and said Disney was willing to offer him the role. Since he has performed the parts before, Mr. Jordan is not worried about the lines. Rather vocal strain is the biggest challenge. Both shows demand he sing 11 songs, 3 of which are solos or duets — “and none of them are low,” said Mr. Jordan, who is a tenor. “I’ll have to keep an eye on the voice.”
Originating a role on Broadway and headlining in the premiere of a Disney musical in the same season is a pretty heady accomplishment for such a young actor. At the moment, though, Mr. Jordan says otherwise. “I feel old,” he said. In “Newsies,” “I’m one of the oldest people in the cast.”