Andy Karl in Jersey Boys (Photo: Joan Marcus)

20 Questions for Andy Karl of ‘Jersey Boys’

The Broadway powerhouse actor talks about his (mostly) normal life in Murray Hill and what it's like to play Tommy DeVito in the acclaimed musical

One of the handsomest performers on Broadway, Andy Karl has a voice that matches his good looks. He returned to the role of charming but dangerous Tommy DeVito in the long-running smash Jersey Boys, the story of legendary pop group Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons in February 2013. (He also played the role in 2011.) Previous to his current gig, he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for a totally different character — the exotic Neville Landless in Roundabout Theater Company’s critically acclaimed revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. You may remember him from his roles in 9 to 5, Wicked, Altar Boyz, The Wedding Singer and Saturday Night Fever. He also writes music and attended theBMI Lehman Engle Music Theater Workshop.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Andy moved to New York at a young age to pursue acting. In 2001, he married actress-singer Orfeh. They have co-starred in several stage productions, most memorably in Legally Blonde the Musical, she as hairdresser Paulette and he as her hunky UPS delivery guy. He’s lived in the Murray Hill section of New York for 13 years.

 

Andy Karl

Andy Karl (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

NY: What’s your favorite part of being Tommy DeVito?

Finding the charm in what’s “on the page.” He “reads” like an unsavory character.  Tommy did some bad things during his time with the Four Seasons and he was constantly pushing his power around to make everyone do what he said.  But he would have never gotten away with any of that unless he had his wit and charm. Think of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas: making everybody crack up while sitting in a bar one moment and then breaking a bottle over the head of the owner a minute later. He gets away with it because he’s a charming, funny beast.  That’s my favorite part of being Tommy … such a smart-ass.

NY: What’s your dream role?

I have had the opportunity to play some amazing roles, but the answer to this particular question changes as my growth as an actor does. Tommy DeVito has become a particular favorite of mine so you could say that I’m living the dream right now. I’ve also always thought there should be a musical of the movie Bedazzled starring Brendan Frasier.  The character work he does in that film is so “my cup of tea.” I’m just putting it out there.  There is also a role I’m fighting for now that I’ve been involved with and if it happens it will be a dream come true.

NY: What’s your warm-up routine like before a show? Do you have any lucky charms or unusual rituals?

Vocal warm ups (of course). I don’t wanna do them, but they are the only way to get through eight shows a week. John Lloyd Young [who plays Franki Valle] is an inspiration to me because he warms up in the dressing room next to mine every day, an hour before the show. I also go over my first monologue to associate my mind and body with a character who has his own particular style and speech pattern. I also play some music to get me into a mood that I can draw from to keep the show fresh every day (nothing particular; this week it’s metal, but other weeks it’s gospel or swing).

NY: What’s the most embarrassing (or funniest or weirdest) thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?

Here’s one for you teeth lovers out there. I play live guitar in Jersey Boys for a few songs so I’m constantly taking on and off my electric guitar, sometimes very quickly. See where am I going? One particular evening the strap of my guitar got tangled and was a bit shorter than usual, and when I was running out to begin the song “Sherry,” the top of the guitar slammed into my two front teeth and cracked them both in the shape of an upside down V. I finished the first act with pieces of teeth in my mouth and a shock on my face.  Happy ending, my teeth were fixed the next morning by Dr. Green on Madison and 40th streets.

NY: What do you do after a show to unwind?

Eat! Walk the dog. Talk to Orfeh (my wife) about her day. Watch television. Pretty normal.

Matt Bogart, John Lloyd Young, Drew Gehling, and Andy Karl

Matt Bogart, John Lloyd Young, Drew Gehling, and Andy Karl in Jersey Boys (Photo: Joan Marcus)

NY: What’s your favorite thing about New York?

I was talking to someone the other day about Manhattan, and they described the island as being a combination of many different villages packed together. I think that was a good assessment. That means every 10 or 20 blocks you walk around this awesome city, you find a whole other world of culture and demographic that is different and interesting.  Clusters of museums and restaurants and theaters and shops. And let’s not forget Central Park on a beautiful summer day playing softball or chillin’ on the grass. Dude, I love NYC.

NY: What’s your least favorite thing about New York?

Construction. Manhattan has that in spades. NYC will be perfect once they finish working on it … that was a joke.

NY: What’s one thing every tourist must do when in NYC?

There’s no way to answer that because there’s at least 10 things you must do.  But if you’re coming to NYC you must see a Broadway production. NYC is the hotbed of live theater, and it brings the best of the best productions, casts, crews, designs, creatives, music, dancing, acting from all over the world to this city. Buy the ticket, it’ll be worth it.  Or go to TKTS and get a discounted one.

NY: Favorite only in New York moment?

I found a vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase in the trash on the sidewalk a few years ago.  Gained major points with Orfeh for that one.

NY: Best/favorite NYC celebrity sighting?

I have a ton of them because so many celebrities keep coming to Jersey Boys. Clint Eastwood came by a few weeks ago. My favorite right now is meeting Michael Douglas when he came to see the show, and six months later I’m filming a movie with him.

NY: What’s your favorite New York restaurant?

Love me some Tony’s DiNapoli.

NY: What’s the best pizza in NYC?

Patsy’s or John’s for a gourmet pizza or Ray’s for the traditional slice.

NY: Gray’s Papaya or Magnolia Bakery?

Hot dogs make me ill; that’s just how my stomach is.  Magnolia wins by default.

The company of Jersey Boys

The company of Jersey Boys (Photo: Joan Marcus)

NY: Brooklyn Bridge or Chrysler Building?

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s good for the soul to cross over water. And the bridge is beautiful. Unfortunately there is some construction on it now … sorry … it’s still better than the Chrysler Building in my book.

NY: Where do you go for a post-theater … coffee, glass of wine, dessert, etc?

It depends on what I have to do the next day.  I usually want to get out of the part of town I work in when I don’t have to be there. But me and the boys will share an occasional glass in our self-made dressing room lounge.

NY: If family members were coming to the show, where would you recommend they eat around the theater?

Q2 Thai on 9th Avenue for some great Thai food.

NY: Is there a special place/spot in NYC you love the most?

I love to look at the city skyline from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

NY: What’s your perfect night out in the city?

Dinner out with Orfeh in Soho and taking a long walk home with her afterwards, grabbing a gelato and finding an undiscovered nook of NYC on the way.

NY: What do you most enjoy doing on a day off?

Writing a script or writing a song. There’s a lot going on in my head, creatively speaking.  Not always genius ideas, but some of them I believe in, and I like to get it down on paper.  Also, I like to get a chance to take the free water taxi from Pier 17 to Red Hook.You get to see the Statue of Liberty and go to the hip area Red Hook or Ikea.

NY: Cab, subway, bus or walk?

Citibike!