Jared Gertner: Ya Never Know
When Jared Gertner was a high-school sophomore, he put on a lion-costume and won the first Best Supporting Actor Rising Star Award, bestowed by the Paper Mill Playhouse, in 1996. As an energetic Jewish boy in Jersey, Jared always found his niche performing with the Tony Award-winning regional company; and at age 17, Paper Mill awarded him with a scholarship to pursue theatre-arts at NYU.
Jared most recently won-over theatre fans as the bumbling wiz-kid William Barfee in Broadway's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Reporter Eugene Lovendusky had the pleasure of first-meeting Jared in the Spring of 2006, where he glowed in his "big-break" as Barfee in the San Francisco Bee company.
After 12 years, five-foot-five Jared is ecstatic to return to Paper Mill, this time as a leading-man (sharing center-stage with a cannibalistic plant) in the highly-anticipated production of Little Shop of Horrors... Just goes to show, ya never know!
Eugene Lovendusky: Hey, Jared! How great is it to be chatting again! You remember the good ol' days in San Francisco?
Jared Gertner: I know! That was 2-1/2 years ago, can you believe it? A lot has happened since then. It was an incredible time doing Spelling Bee in San Francisco; and I think secretly I hoped I would be doing it in New York. It was a dream to do the role on Broadway for a year. But when Spelling Bee ended, I thought to myself: "When will I ever be able to do a show I'm this passionate about? When will I get a role this exciting again?" The fact my next big job is Seymour at Paper Mill – it's great!
Eugene: Especially for a character-actor like yourself! Congratulations on your first leading-role at Paper Mill!
Jared: Thanks! They don't always write leading-men roles that can be played by character-actors – so this is great. I have a long history with Paper Mill. To go back there to work as an adult is exciting. I did Peter Pan when I was 14; and I did Big River there when I was 17. I also won their first Rising Star Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Eugene: What's the story there?
Jared: The Rising Stars are Paper Mill's awards for excellence in high school musicals, started in 1996. It's an unbelievable program; they model it after the Tony Awards. In my sophomore year of high school, I played the Lion in The Wiz (and I know you're having a fun time picturing a little Jewish kid playing the Lion). And I won the award for Best Supporting Actor. I remember that night so perfectly. Also, the Rising Star Awards have a scholarship program for high school graduates going to college for theatre – two years later, I won a scholarship to go to NYU. So, I had all this experience with Paper Mill by the time I'm 17 years-old. Since then, I've really been wanting to get back with them as a grown-up. I saw that they were doing Little Shop of Horrors, and I thought: "That's it! That's gotta be my way back there!"
Eugene: Incredible! What was your familiarity with Seymour and the wonderful world of Skid Row prior to being cast in this show?
Jared: I've always loved the show. I watched the movie all the time. I liked the movie a lot – it's one of the good ones that transfered well from stage to screen. I've never actually seen the production on-stage (which was exciting, to get to learn that!) But I always listened to the music growing-up; it was always one of those roles I imagined myself doing. During tech-rehearsal, I was standing on-stage singing "Skid Row" in my ugly cardigan, singing about being poor – and it blew my mind!