Seven Questions For Jersey Boys’ John Salvatore

The longtime performer on alter-ego Bob Crewe, how yoga changed his life and an onstage slip of the tongue

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

You’ve played the role of producer Bob Crewe in Jersey Boys since it opened in Las Vegas seven years ago. What about that character appeals to you?

I love his creativity and that he’s so multifaceted. He was such a genius. Not only was he a writer, but he had an incredible ear for sound and sound production and managing and [how he would know what would be a hit]. And he was also very spiritual and astrological—he made a lot of decisions based on where the moon and sun were. I also believe in that. He had an incredible ability to match everybody and bring them all together—all four guys [in the Four Seasons] had different ideas, and he was able to morph them and make them work together.

Crewe was gay but usually discreet about his sexuality. Your portrayal is more flamboyant. How much leeway do you have?

Some of it’s my choice. They do watch how far it goes. As an actor, it’s very easy to go over the top. A lot of those lines can be interpreted to be snarky. And they’re not. He was very elegant and was a gentleman. I have some license, but I know they don’t want me to go too far, and nor do I. The director comes in and says, “You have to think of this as a play with music. This is not a musical comedy, so you have to be very careful of going over that line.

Last year’s Clint Eastwood-directed movie didn’t have the critical or commercial success the stage play has had. Any opinion as to why?

The show is so well directed that it’s more like a movie than the movie was like a movie. The transitions are so seamless onstage that the lights never really go down—it’s always going, it’s always moving. The movie didn’t do that, and the movie didn’t capture the sound of the music. [In the play] the story is the star; the music becomes almost secondary. People go not expecting to hear a story. The sound of the music and impact of the music in the movie were lost; they didn’t use the technology that they could have—somehow it was very flat.

John_Salvatore_by_Krystal_Ramirez-2_WEBSeven years in, how do you keep it fresh night after night?

My biggest fear is not being in the moment— hearing myself sound the same way and saying lines and just not connecting. This is where yoga comes in. Bikram yoga is 26 postures in a series. You’re teaching the same thing with similar dialogue every day and a lot of time to the same students. To be really in it and connect with the students—with the characters—is a whole different ballgame. They both help each other. The yoga helps me in the show, and the show helps me in the yoga.

It helps concentration, determination, focus, self-control and patience. Left to my own devices, I’d get up in the morning and go, “Screw this. This hurts; that hurts. I have two torn rotator cuffs, I have a double hip replacement. I’m like lawn furniture left out in the rain, for Chrissake.” But the only time I’m not really in that pain is when I go through the pain [of yoga] to kill the pain. I don’t feel right unless I do it.

How did you get involved in yoga?

I started it 15 years ago in New York. I was on the StairMaster in the gym, and a girl (a dancer in the business) said, “You should try this yoga. I know you love to sweat.” I went, and the room is heated up to 105 degrees and at 40 percent humidity. She was right; I got hooked right away. I felt like I was on another planet. I was blown away by it on so many levels. Through the body my mind calmed down. I have been sober for 22 years now and in the mind sometimes of [those] afflicted, there’s a lot of chatter. So yoga calmed that chatter down a little bit. I went, “Oh, this is it. I get this now.”

When did you go all in and become a certified instructor?

I was auditioning for the ensemble of the original company of The Producers, and it got whittled down to where I was at the very end of it and put all of my eggs into it—I wanted it so bad. And it didn’t happen by a hair, and I remember being so completely devastated. I thought, “This is not right: I should not be this upset about this one thing to where it’s really destroying me. There has to be something else.” That’s when I decided to go [through] the training—let me look somewhere else now for a little bit. Not that I was dropping show business at all, but I thought, “There’s gotta be more.”

What has been your worst gaffe onstage?

Sometimes your tongue gets tied. Last night another character asked, “When?”

And my line was, ”When Mercury’s in Taurus.” I tripped up and said, “When Mercury’s in ki-taurus.” And some of the guys backstage thought I said, “clitoris”!

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