Whadda you lookin' at?
Well, let's see. A guy in his 30s, about six feet tall, who is... er... flamboyant, as we used to say euphemistically in the 1960s. "Flamboyant" in the sense of Liberace, who was his musical contemporary. That would be Bob Crewe, producer of most of the Four Seasons' hits and the fifth wheel on their train to riches and fame.
We're also looking at an amiable actor who's actually 46 and thrilled to find himself wearing tailor-made clothes in a role that wasn't tailor-made for him but might have been. That would be Jonathan Hadley, who has come back to Charlotte for three weeks with the national "Jersey Boys" tour.
He's used to playing characters who could walk into the theater at any moment in real life: He was Marvin Hamlisch in "A Class Act," the musical about "A Chorus Line" lyricist Ed Kleban that was Hadley's Broadway debut in 2001.
The real Crewe said after "Jersey Boys" opened that "the way they portray me... is totally not like me. I know it plays well as a kind of comic relief. I've been a bisexual man all my life, but I always had girlfriends and guys in my corner, so to speak."
Says Hadley, "The character can't be so outrageous that four blue-collar kids from New Jersey wouldn't deal with him. They say in the script he's got the best ears in the business, and he turns out to be a lyricist, a manager and a producer. So the rest is icing on the cake.
"These people aren't saints, but you don't want to make fools of them. That's why (singers Bob) Gaudio and (Frankie) Valli are there for the casting; they want the whole picture to be satisfying. Gaudio is still very hands-on about making sure the Four Seasons sound is as intact as possible, so everyone sings backup backstage."
Does Hadley have solos?
He laughs. "Not here. After being in the business so long, I'm happy to let the young kids sing all the high stuff!"
He was a young kid himself when he got an Equity card, fresh out of Myers Park High School (class of '82) and N.C. School of the Arts. Theatreworks U.S.A. toured "When the Cookie Crumbles, You Can Still Pick Up the Pieces" across America, and the 23-year-old joined that musical about teenagers dealing with divorce.
By then, he had moved to New York, where he became one of the few stage actors in history never to wait tables. He's had nontheatrical jobs: working for the Census Bureau, walking around with a sign that read, "Hello. Is anybody out there?" for about.com.
'I have to pay the rent'
But he has long since settled into the life of an itinerant actor: traveling with shows ("Into the Woods"), working off-Broadway (the recent "Finian's Rainbow," where he played the mean sheriff of Missitucky) or looping dialogue for movies (assorted rednecks in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," Hispanic drag queens in "The Birdcage," kinder Southerners in "Because of Winn-Dixie").
"I never believed in a timetable," he says. "I never knew what was going to happen, but I knew New York was the place for me. It took me a long time to get to Broadway, but seeing this country on tours has been a joy. And seeing other countries, too - I went to Australia with 'Forbidden Broadway.'
"My only mantra has ever been 'I have to pay the rent.' I've kept the same apartment on Perry Street in the West Village for 17 years. It was quiet until 'Sex and the City' moved onto our street. Now I'm on the hippest street in Manhattan."
Touring is easier at 46 than at 26, he says.
First, there's job security: this show is booked well into 2011. Second, the Internet lets him keep abreast of his business and personal life: "I'm setting up a mini-Myers Park reunion for people coming to the show." Third, "Jersey Boys" remains three weeks or more in each venue, so he can get to know a city and doesn't live as much out of a suitcase: "We rented a house in Fort Myers, Fla., with a pool. Craigslist really changed touring."
But he looks beyond the itinerant life, and that's why he collected a graduate degree in directing from Brooklyn College.
"Studying directing, I discovered a lot of things I'd forgotten about acting," he says. "We had to take an improv class. I was dismissive at first, because I'd taught improv to high school kids. But it kicked my butt, and now I'm able to use that spontaneity to keep a show fresh in a long run."
Hadley also hopes having a degree will make him a more attractive candidate for a faculty position someday. If so, he'd carry on a family tradition: Charles Hadley, his dad, taught theater for decades at Queens University of Charlotte.
That's a ways off.
And when "Jersey" dies?
"I have no idea - and that's OK. The show closes, the film stops shooting, you start auditioning all over. You always think you're never going to work again, but after a long time, that's just your world. And I'm not a worrier."