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After three years of playing Bob Gaudio, a.k.a. that guy who sings “Oh What a Night,” in the blockbuster Four Seasons musical Jersey Boys, Daniel Reichard decided to take a break from finger-snapping and side-stepping to play the ebullient title character in Leonard Bernstein’s opera-musical Candide at New York City Opera (playing now through April 20). He spoke to Vulture about leaving one of the biggest musicals ever, his Bob-obsessed fan base, and being typecast as a perpetual virgin.
Why did you decide to leave Jersey Boys?
I honestly can’t believe I even stayed as long as I did, but there was always something outrageous happening — the last show I did, Lauren Bacall was in the audience! It’s a hard thing to turn your back on. But I was saying those speeches so many hundreds of times, there were times when my mouth was moving and my body was running across the stage but the words had lost all meaning. It was like, “Okay, this might be a good time to kind of … challenge my brain.”
So how did Candide come to you?
The casting director had seen me play the part when I was 20 years old at the University of Michigan, and because of the success of Jersey Boys, he called and told them to check me out. I got cast after just a couple auditions. It’s funny — the two least grueling auditions I’ve had in my life were for Jersey Boys and Candide.
What was the Jersey Boys audition like?
It’s a cute story. I came in — and this is for the show Jersey Boys that no one had ever heard of, not “the pre-Broadway production” — so I said sure, but I didn’t really feel that excited. I sang “Oh What a Night,” and as I was leaving, I said, “Oh, I play the piano too.” A couple weeks later, the show was mine. If you could believe it, I wanted to stay with my gang in New York City so much that I was trying to get another job so I didn’t have to go to California for three months! But, well, I didn’t get another job, so I had to do this louuuusy show called Jersey Boys [laughs].
Was it hard to switch gears when you were getting into another character for Candide?
The only thing that’s hard about shaking Jersey Boys is that I still say “sawng” and “lawng” and “pa-rents.” I think part of the reason I’m so happy to be doing this now is that I feel like I’m losing myself in something totally different and so funny. They’re both very young and naïve and grow a lot through their journey. But Candide is whipped and flogged, his lover is killed three times over, he’s kidnapped by the Bulgarian army. Bob Gaudio just ended up making a lot of money from records.
Well, they’re similar characters in a way — they’re both definitely virgins.
You’re absolutely right. That’s a good point. I seem to specialize in these very innocent-hearted characters, which is funny because I have an innocent side but I can be a bad boy too. I’m a Gemini, though; that’s to be expected.
Is there a specific Bob fan base that you think will be following you to Candide?
Well, there were always the Frankie people, who liked the guy with the high voice; and the Tommy DeVito fans, who liked the bad boy; the Nicks, who like the kinda dangerous, mysterious type. And then the Bob people, who like the good boy, the wholesome, hardworking, driven…
Seriously! But at the stage door, these women would make me lean in and they’d whisper, “You were my favorite, but don’t tell anyone.” And I was like, “Don’t tell anyone? I’m gonna tell everyone! Don’t be ashamed that I’m your favorite!” —Rebecca Milzoff