Jeremy Jordan shoots to stardom

  • by Adam Sandel
  • Tuesday April 29, 2014
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There are big breaks, and there are overnight sensations. And then there's Jeremy Jordan. In the last five years, he's appeared in four Broadway shows, earned a Tony nomination, starred in a major motion picture, and appeared on a hot TV series. For good measure, his upcoming film is coincidentally titled The Last Five Years.

So how do you know the handsome 30-year-old with the killer pipes? In his Tony-nominated starring role as Jack Kelly in Broadway's Newsies, as Dolly Parton's rebellious grandson in the film Joyful Noise, as the brooding singer-songwriter Jimmy Collins on TV's Smash, or all of the above?

This week Jordan premieres his first solo show in San Francisco, performing May 1-4 at Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko. "The show is a combination of how I got to where I am, the bigger moments of my career, and some of my favorite songs," he says. "I'm more comfortable going onstage as a character, so I'm incredibly nervous but excited to be coming out there."

His first Broadway gigs in Rock of Ages and West Side Story in 2009 quickly led to Jordan being cast as Clyde Barrow in the musical Bonnie and Clyde, which premiered in Sarasota, Florida. Before that show arrived on Broadway, he was cast in Newsies, which would make him an overnight star.

As Bonnie and Clyde headed for Broadway, he was soon shuttling between the two roles, rehearsing as the singing bank-robber by day, performing as Newsies' high-stepping newsboy at night, while maintaining his 1930s wardrobe throughout.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, he starred with Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah and Keke Palmer in Joyful Noise, and was soon snatched up to star on TV's Smash. So what were the challenges of so much success happening so fast?

"It's been a blessing," he says. "The challenge is, how do you top the next thing and keep riding that train? The hardest part is saying no to things that I would've said yes to before. The challenge is also finding non-musical work, but I'll ride that musical train for as long as I can."

Surprisingly, the go-to guy for musical theatre came to that party rather late. A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, he was primarily a choir kid. "I wasn't much into musical theatre until college," he says. "I was musically influenced by alternative singer-songwriters. As an actor I admired Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, who played cool, charming characters with bite to them. They never seemed to sell out."

But Jordan especially loved one musical film that he owned on VHS. "As a kid I loved the movie Newsies. I connected with that character, so creating the role on Broadway fulfilled an inner-child dream. Getting to sing 'Santa Fe' as the Act I finale on Broadway was always a thrilling moment."

But the young Texan had no problem conjuring Jack Kelly's Noo Yawk accent. "You know when you're a kid and you have an acting voice? Mine was always a New York accent," he says. "I'd never been to New York, but that street-urchin voice came naturally to me. I could turn it on like a faucet �" and it was from Newsies!"

Jordan's native drawl came in handy while working on Joyful Noise with Dolly Parton. "She is the sweetest, kindest woman you'll ever meet," he says. "When she's in the room you can feel her presence; any negative energy gets sucked out of the room."

He was surprised by the polarized opinions that TV fans and critics had about Smash. "On the set, it was wonderful. We had a blast, and everyone got along. But I'd never experienced such a dichotomous reaction," he says of the now-cancelled show that some loved, some hated, and some loved to hate. "Everyone had ideas of what they thought it should be. There'd be glimpses of it, then the next scene would go in a totally other direction. There were so many people involved, and it passed through so many hands that no one could agree on the direction."

Jordan recently wrapped the film The Last Five Years , based on the cult hit musical by composer Jason Robert Brown. Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, it's a deconstructed love story about a novelist and an actress, in which Jordan stars with Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect 's Anna Kendrick.

"It's really remarkable and incredibly different as a film," he says. "It's shot in an indie-film kind of way, it's told 95% through song, the timelines intersect, and it's a strange collage of the roller coaster of relationships. It's both complex and relatable."

He has high praise for Kendrick, his chart-topping, Oscar-nominated co-star who'll soon be seen as Cinderella in Disney's Into the Woods. "She's great fun, she can drink me under the table, and she can do no wrong �" literally."

Jeremy Jordan's staggering success in the last five years makes one eagerly wonder what the next five years will bring.


Jeremy Jordan plays Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., SF, May 1-2 at 8 p.m., May 3-4 at 7 p.m. Tickets: $45-$60: or call (866) 663-1063.