KALAMAZOO — A Michigan “Jersey Boy” is coming home to his alma mater for one night only. Western Michigan University alum Eric Gutman, most recently on stage in the Broadway, Chicago and national touring companies of the smash hit “Jersey Boys,” will help Miller Auditorium announce its 2009-2010 season with a special free show beginning at 7:30 p.m. Monday. The title is “Oh, What A Night” and Gutman, speaking from his home in Royal Oak, Mich., promises it will be just that. It’s not the first time he has taken part in the season introduction. He was a part of two “Forbidden Broadway” casts that entertained potential audience members.
A student in the excellent WMU music theater program, Gutman “always knew I wanted to do this,” he said. “My heart was set on it.” After graduation in 1999, he headed for New York city and auditioned for “Forbidden Broadway.” “I got cast and went with it,” he said. For five years he “was happy doing what I was doing.” Among his credits are “Forbidden Hollywood,” “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” However, “When you love something as much as you do and it’s constantly a struggle, the love kind of fades away,” he admitted. “It was hard to see friends of mine who were immensely talented and just couldn’t catch a break.”
He moved to the West Coast but, eventually, found himself back in Michigan with wife Sarah, focusing on something other than an acting career. But when the call came for the Chicago company of “Jersey Boys,” he couldn’t resist. “I called in sick at my job in Detroit and went to the audition,” he said. “I sang one song and they said they had nine roles I could play.” They weren’t kidding. During his time as one of the “Boys,” he was in the ensemble and covered the leading roles of Bob Gaudio, Bob Crewe, Tommy DiVito and Nick Massi as well as several featured roles. Confusing? “Never” Gutman said. “Besides, we had cheat sheets back stage.”
In addition to singing and dancing and learning the “tracks” for each role, he plays a number of instruments including guitar, bass and mandolin. Has he seen the last of Frankie Valli & Co? “I hope not,” he said. ” If they call again, I would love to go.”
Now the parents of baby Riley, the Gutmans live in Royal Oak where he is the owner/operator of Two Kings Tickets, which handles tickets for concerts, sporting events and theaters all over the world. But on Monday, he will be wearing his performing hat for an hour-long show that will include 11 songs and stories about life on the road. Take it from someone whose been there.
NOTE: After a video season announcement and the show, a number of Kalamazoo’s best restaurants will provide a buffet in the upper lobby. Tickets are free but reservations are requested (limit of four) at (800) 228-9858 or (269) 387-2300.