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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Jeffrey T. Kelly embraces the part of ‘Rooster’ in Annie national tour at Proctors


Jeffrey T. Kelly, a self-described ‌non-theater kid ‍from Massachusetts, discovered his passion for the stage in his early 20s. His journey led him⁢ to ⁤the national tour of‍ the Tony Award-winning musical “Annie,”​ where he plays⁣ the role of Rooster.‍ The musical is currently being performed at Proctors in ‌Schenectady until Sunday, Jan. 14.

Q: What was your reaction to being cast in the role of Rooster?

A: I didn’t think⁤ I’d love “Annie” nearly as much as I do. I remember when I got the call for ​it. I was like, “OK, ‘Annie,’ that’s cute. I’ll have some​ fun with it.” Then I got in, really saw the show, and I just kind of fell ‌in love with‍ the material. It’s a ​fun national‌ tour to be on.

Q: How were you cast in your role?

A: Someone in the⁤ cast who knew me prior, knew ‌they were looking for ‌a Rooster. They reached out to our agent, and the creative team and said⁤ to take a look‌ at this guy. I was always in the running for Rooster, I never was even in the running for ensemble or anything else in ​the show.

There’s something really fun ‍about playing the bad guy. I was in “Million Dollar Quartet” right ‍before ​this and in “Jersey Boys” playing Tommy DeVito.​ They’re not the same by a mile, ⁣but at the ‌same time, there’s something about playing that bad guy that is a really fun thing to do. When I ​saw that I was ⁢getting called in for that, ⁣I ⁣was really gung-ho ⁢about it and had a lot of fun with the audition process.”

Q: You ⁢call yourself a ‘non-theater’‍ kid, and‍ now you are on a ​national tour. How did​ that happen?

A: I did a very brief stint of theater in middle ⁢school, but I wasn’t into it. ⁣I just kind of did it because it was something​ to do, I had a friend who was in it, and I think I had ​a crush​ on a⁣ girl when‍ I⁣ was ⁤in middle school. When I was about to turn 24, I found theater, and then I⁢ started doing musical theater.

Q: How did you hone your craft?

A: I had been doing a‍ bunch of⁤ stuff ⁣in the community theater scene, and during the summers I would do regional houses. I ended up getting cast in the same show with a friend, and when I saw him in rehearsals for “Hair” in Provincetown [,Massachusetts]. He had just grown tremendously‌ as a performer, and I picked his brain about it.

He said he went to AMDA [American Musical and Dramatic Academy]. ​He told⁢ me that AMDA is a great ⁣way to get some well-rounded ​training. I was going ‌to New York, I would audition and get the callback, but then I ⁢wouldn’t be able to get ⁤through the‌ dance calls.

Q:⁣ Looking at your⁢ resume — it worked out. With roles in “Hair,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “Jersey Boys,” “Next⁤ to Normal,” “A Few Good Men” and now the ​national tour of “Annie.”

A: I did write in my‌ New ‍Year’s ‌resolutions that I wanted ⁢to book a [national] tour. So​ much⁤ of this ​stuff is right time, right place, who you know, on pretty much every level.

You could be in the⁤ worst regional house and just sing the ⁢right song in the right⁤ room, ‍and one person‌ really likes it.‍ It’s always like the stars align, that type of thing. I’m fortunate to⁤ be here.

Q: You are cast with Samantha Stevens, who plays Lily, Rooster’s girlfriend. Good chemistry is required for a top⁣ performance, how has that occurred as you both start ​your first national tours?

A: The characters are written particularly in this version of the script. I think ⁢there are a lot of ⁤scripts out there that ​are more caricature — even more — than what ⁢we’re doing up on stage. We could kind of hop in and play in this grounded way to figure out the chemistry of⁤ the two characters.

Q: In your first national tour, were you intimidated by stage veterans Christopher Swan as Daddy Warbucks,⁤ Mark Woodard’s FDR and Stefanie Londino’s Miss ⁤Hannigan?

A: I was ‌really intimidated by all the ⁤vets that were‌ here. We had all of these people who​ were well-established principal characters, and specifically Chris, who is a touring veteran. He’s done so many different tours, and he’s been⁢ doing it for years and years and​ years. There is ⁣an element of like, “Oh, I’m in the presence of greatness.”

We⁣ signed up for sharing a car, so right off the ‍bat, when were‌ in Fort Lauderdale, I think, getting to know him and Mark — because​ we’re​ both in the car together on that level⁢ — really⁤ helps me sort of get a feel for what⁤ this side⁤ of the‍ job — the touring, and​ the national tour side, learning about‍ long runs of a show.

Q: You have had some interesting roles to date —‍ including ‍the role of Lt.‍ Dan ​Kaffe in​ “A Few Good Men.” What was that like?

A: I hadn’t actually seen the full​ film, but I knew that it was a political drama. I was at the audition with another man that I had worked together with in “Next to Normal.” ⁤He ended up playing Colonel Jessup and‍ I really wanted to do this show with him.

It was heavy material — a lot‍ of material, but it⁢ was a really fun show. Dan is in every single‌ scene, and ⁢I remember not ⁣being‍ intimidated by⁣ the amount of dialogue. Early in the⁢ process, I​ got off book [without script] ⁤as fast as I could so that I could just⁢ kind of enjoy it.

I remember it being a ⁤ton and it was very ⁣dense. It was a good experience because of that intensity. I think it got me to realize that if you just kind of tackle something ahead of time, it makes it a lot easier to do roles like that.

Q: You then follow ⁣up that with three different roles in “Friends: The Musical Parody” Off-Broadway.‍ What was ​that experience like?

A:⁤ I ⁤wasn’t even a “Friends” fan when I booked that. I just saw that it was an off-Broadway show, ‍and said I’m going to go for it.⁣ The Gunther [role] ​was actually more of an ASM [assistant stage manager] track than a performance track because ‍you were doing a lot of ‌prop handling backstage. Then I was also swinging [understudy] for Joey and Ross, and at one point, ‍had performed for both of those roles. It was funny, a funny time.

Q: With ⁢eight performances in six days at Proctors, is there a more anticipated performance for you?

A:⁣ The matinees hit‌ a⁤ lot harder, ⁤it’s the​ middle ⁤of the day, and the audience has got a lot of energy so — as a performer — we do feed off that energy.

Saturday matinees tend to be really good,⁤ that’s ⁣when parents ‍are more apt to bring their⁤ kids. When the kids are in the audience, the ⁣parents are having ⁢fun, because⁢ the kids love the dog [Sandy].

Q: You are ‍active on ⁣TikTok (@keffjellysingsnstuff) and in one post you post in character.

A: There is a trend where people talk about their own ​real-world ⁣experiences‍ with some crazy stories out there, ⁣some ridiculous stuff.

A lot of⁣ my following‍ are theater kids who all know the story of Annie and her relationship with Rooster and Hannigan. I decided I was​ going to do the trend, be in character and it was⁢ just⁤ fun for‌ the theater kids that follow me. That’s the⁤ sort of energy I think that I like to have on stage with it, too.

Q; What’s next for Jeffrey T. Kelly?

A: I’m ‍looking for future work in the summer and if they do this tour next ​year, hopefully, I get invited back.⁢ I⁢ want​ to stay on the road. I want to do some summer stock this summer ⁤and help my ​parents for a little bit. ‌If I could ⁣get a month’s ⁣break, that’d be neat.⁢ I’m just happy‌ to be​ here, happy to be plugging away, and want to keep‌ doing that.

Tickets are available through Proctors.

Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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  1. Jeffrey T. Kelly’s portrayal of ‘Rooster’ in Annie national tour at Proctors was spot-on, truly capturing the essence of the character.


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