A "Real" Job: Jerad Bortz '01

Jerad Bortz ’01 is ready for any role — even one behind the scenes.  by Kimberlyn David ’06

Inside the Gershwin Theater, the stage crew prepares for the 7:30 p.m. performance. Ushers stand by, and on the other side of the theater doors an excited crowd gathers, waiting.

At some point tonight a panoply of cacophonous humans dressed in flying-monkey costumes, harnessed to beams stretching across the front rows, will dazzle the audience. Jerad Bortz will be among them, singing with the ensemble cast of the Broadway hit Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz.

Bortz’s résumé boasts other major Broadway shows: Chess, Hair, Pirate Queen, and Mamma Mia! Along with persistence and a bit of luck, Bortz credits IC with much of his success to date. “Ithaca made me so diverse — I can do the acting, the singing, the dancing,” he says, pointing out that directors have often hired him because he has all three skills, making him a versatile addition to the production. And as a musical theater graduate, Bortz reached out to fellow alumni, making important networking contacts that paid off handsomely. Mark Price ’96 (see story) put in a good word for him before he auditioned for Mamma Mia!, and Jen Waldman ’97, who had already been cast in Wicked, helped him prepare for his audition for the show (she has since left the company).

Bortz joined Wicked in 2004 as an intern, quickly moving up to understudy for the entire cast. A full-time member of the ensemble who also covers the lead role of Fiyero, Bortz has a run-of-show contract. The job security and health insurance that come with his contract mean Bortz no longer hears, “When are you going to get a real job?” from his parents, who have always supported their son’s career choice but nonetheless worried about it. After all, what are the chances of anyone landing a permanent spot in a hit Broadway show?

Now that he has solid standing on Broadway, he’s thinking beyond being before the lights. “I still love performing, but I’ve unwrapped that box,” he says. “Now I’m ready to do something else.” That might be directing his own show. He and Steven Skeels, his partner, are seeking investment for their CPNY the Musical, a story of appropriated public space told through the character of a mentally ill homeless man and the forest animals he imagines are his friends.

In the meantime, Bortz is made up and in costume; it’s time to dazzle the audience.