BWW Interview: Javier Colon to Play Title Role in BARNUM
Fairfield County native, and winner of season one of "The Voice," Javier Colon, will be starring as one of Bridgeport's favorite sons this summer when he portrays the Greatest Showman on Earth in the musical Barnum at the Fairfield Museum Commons the weekend of June 27 - 29. Produced by Fairfield Center Stage in conjunction with the Barnum Festival and the Fairfield Museum and History Center, Barnum is a retelling of the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, who served in the Connecticut legislature as a representative for Fairfield and as the mayor of Bridgeport, prior to becoming one of the biggest names in the circus industry with the founding of the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
In a recent interview, Mr. Colon discusses his surprising musical theater background and what it means for him to return and become a part of the Barnum Festival, which has been an important summer tradition in southern Connecticut for 71 years.
Having grown up in Stratford, do you have any recollections or fond memories of the Barnum Festival? Is that what led you to this show? How did this all come about?
"I do have some memories of the Barnum Festival. I used to go a lot as a kid. We used to go and enjoy all the sites and see all the families and it was awesome. I grew up in Stratford, where Barnum and Boston Avenue split, so I always grew up with his name kind of everywhere we went. He was Bridgeport's favorite son. When Christine Brown, one of the producers of the show, approached me about playing Barnum, I was excited to be playing this guy whose name I grew up with. At this stage of my career I've also been looking forward to doing more musical theater and pursuing theatrical opportunities, so it was kind of a perfect fit."
Having made your name with The Voice, have you had a lot of musical theater experience? How is it being in a musical now versus being on the recording artist side of things?
"I had two dreams growing up when I was a kid. One was to be a recording artist; to be able to write songs and release them and make albums and the other was to be on Broadway. It was in 7th grade that I fell in love with musicals. Our teacher took us to see Cats which was the first show that I saw. But once I saw Les Miserables I thought - This - this is amazing. I wanted to be able to do that. I did all the musical theater stuff in high school. I was a theater major at the Hartt School of Music in West Hartford. I switched my major to Music Education but I still did some theatrical stuff in college.
Once I got out of college, I got in the Derek Trucks Band and my life took that path, but I still missed it. I joined Derek Trucks in 2000 so it's been 19 years working as a professional recording artist, but I feel like it's time to see about that other dream that I put on hold to do the recording artist thing.
With Christine [Brown] as well, I did Big River two summers ago right here in Fairfield, reprising my role as Big Jim that I performed in high school. To be able to do it with a professional theater company was surreal. I'm excited to get back into it. I've done some Broadway auditions and had some callbacks which is encouraging. I know - like some others who are in the business - that it takes time but I'm undeterred and excited to see what the future holds."
Your daughter is in Barnum with you?
"My daughter is my little thespian. She loves all things musical theater, from Hamilton to Dear Evan Hansen, to Annie...she loves theater. She was bitten by the bug, doing things locally in community theaters and in school. She plays violin, she's in the school choir. So basically, she's a version of me in school, but she's starting at a younger age than even I did. I'm excited to be able to do this with her. To drive down to rehearsal together, we get a little daddy-daughter time. We listen to music and prepare our minds for rehearsal. It's great having someone in the family that loves music as much as I do."
Do you have any words of wisdom for our younger generations about pursuing their dreams?
"I get this question a lot for those who want to pursue this business. My advice is to take lessons and learn from whoever will give you the time to show you things you may not know already yourself. Try to work on your craft as much as you can and get out there. Be a part of your community and show people what you can do. Make as many friends and acquaintances as you can; do as many shows as you can because you never know who is going to be in the audience or who might end up helping you down the line.
A quick story: I did this summer program back in 6th grade called Funworks. My mom forced me to do it. It was a summer program that had science, outdoor activities, and a little drama piece as well. At the end of this program they would do a musical performance. In the drama program there was this gentleman named Eric Nyquist who was an assistant. I thought he was so cool. He played the guitar and sang and I thought I wanted to be like that guy. Fast forward to when I was in high school. Fairfield Teen Theater was doing Big River and they were looking for someone to play Jim, and Eric suggested I come to audition. I got the role, and met someone playing in the pit. We formed a band together which lasted until I got into the Derek Trucks Band. Our drummer went off to work as in an engineer in a recording studio in L.A. and helped me to get my first record deal. That never would have happened had it not been for my mom sending me to Funworks in 6th grade. Back then Eric inspired me and created the friendship we still have today and is a big part of how things worked out in my life.
You never know where your break is going to come from. It could be from somewhere where you least expect it. Someone could say something that could change your life. I'm living proof that doing things when you're young could have a huge difference down the line when you're older and trying to make it in the business."
You can see Javier Colon in Barnum at the Fairfield Museum Commons July 27 - 29. Combining elements of traditional musical theater with the spectacle and razzle dazzle of the circus, Fairfield Center Stage's production will also feature comedy legend and Trumbull native, Lisa Lampanelli, as the Blues Singer, as well as 50 other singers, dancers, acrobats, and magicians, including The Amazing Andy. In addition to the cast, there will be a 12-piece onstage orchestra. A splendid time is guaranteed for all at this family friendly, free summer musical-in-concert. For more information please visit Fairfield Center Stage or call 203.416.6446.