J. Robert Spencer, has been Tony nominated for the Pulitzer prize-winning Next To Normal. He was the original Nick Massi in the Broadway-cast of the Tony and Grammy Award winning show Jersey Boys; and, currently tours the country in The Midtown Men. His new Christmas-single/song, “Waiting On Christmas,” was written at the suggestion of his daughter Raine and will be released Thanksgiving Day.
He literally went to the piano and this song just came out
T2C talked to this songwriter and performer to learn more.
T2C: You were a swing for the original Side Show in 1997. What was that experience like working with all those amazing performers and that fabulous score?
J. Robert Spencer: It was a fabulous score and I sat in the shadows and watched the process of putting on a Broadway show from the writers, performers, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner. Everyone was extraordinary to collaborate with. It was my first time and I felt like this was a step up. I also met my wife in that show. It was a spiritual once in a lifetime experience.
T2C: You were nominated for a Tony Award for your work in the Broadway musical Next to Normal. This was your second time working with Alice Ripley and first with Aaron Tevitt can you talk about that?
J. Robert Spencer: When When I was cast in the workshop for Next to Normal it was originally called Feeling Electric. I was cast as the therapist and Brian D’Arcy James was the husband. It was such a valuable time working with everyone. It was amazing and we felt this could be the next big thing. Again in the shadows watching greatness occur and many months later I saw Brian on the street. He says to me” I’m doing Shreck and Next To Normal will be at Arena Stage, you should call them up.” I called and got the role. Reunited at the Arena Stage was so crucial to the entire process of the creative team. We became so close and collaborative. We were all in the zone.
T2C: You played Nick Massi in the original Broadway cast of the Jersey Boys. How was that experience and working with Des McAnuff?
J. Robert Spencer: Before the auditions I watched The Soprano’s to learn the accent. I sang “Stand By Me” and half way through I was given Massi’s lines to read. I nailed the audition and got the role. Des knows how to make a show flow.
T2C: You are a voice actor, tell us about your work.
J. Robert Spencer: I was fortunate enough that there was an audition in backstage and I went in for a Japanese award-winning company and did “Grave of The Fireflies”. Turns out it is a cult hit.
T2C: You’ve appeared in several television series. What was your favorite and why?
J. Robert Spencer: My favorite was in Law and Order SVU. I switched Mariska Hargitay blood in a criminal case. I got the job on my daughters’ birthday. I got to work with Mariska, Chris and Ice T.
T2C: “Waiting On Christmas,” was written at the suggestion of your daughter Raine, saying to him that there just weren’t any new Christmas songs that stood up to the old ones. Musically what was your inspiration
J. Robert Spencer: My inspiration was love and Christmas and the old songs by Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and Andy Williams. When you are a parent, your songs become their songs. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, we play Christmas songs 24/7. My daughter said that there just weren’t any new Christmas songs that stood up to the old ones. I wrote than chorus in 5 minutes and my daughter said, “that’s really good daddy.” Old school nostalgia and adding St. Agatha’s fifth-grade girls’ choir from Portland Oregon helping lend their angelic voices made this helped make this work. I recorded the song at Rockhouse Productions in St. Joe Minnesota. The studio belongs to my touring manager Jeff Vee, the son of the late 60s’ singer Bobby Vee.
T2C: What is your wish for Christmas
J. Robert Spencer: That everybody lightens up and gives love.
T2C: What are you doing now?
J. Robert Spencer: I am touring with the Midtown Men.
T2C: What would you audience to know that I haven’t asked?
J. Robert Spencer: “That this song is about the season of giving. It is important. And with the essence of Christmas and the season of giving, a portion of the proceeds from “Waiting On Christmas” will be donated to help with the Annual Appeal for St. John’s The Baptist School in Milwaukee, Oregon.