2015 Best Leading Actor in a Musical Nominee: Jared Walsh as Franklin Shepard in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's "Merrily We Roll Along"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

Note: If you were nominated a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Jared Walsh is an effortless talent as crowd-favorite, Franklin Shepard, in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's final production, Merrily We Roll Along. This Sondheim show and leading role is a difficult challenge for even the most talented performers. Jared Walsh brings his boyish smirk, his smooth vocals, and his relatable charm to this complicated role. In his Interview, Jared tells us about his Frank, the three best traits in a friend, and what inspires him.

Hi, Jared, and thank you for joining us. Can you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself and your work? 

Hey, Brian, thanks for having me.  I am originally from the Boston area and I have been in the theater scene for the past seven years or so.  I’ve been involved in productions both in the city, and as far west as Natick and Framingham.  I grew up in Braintree, and I went to school out at Westfield State University.  I’ve also been in a band, Barricades, for the past seven years or so, and we’re currently in the studio releasing our third recorded project; I’m very excited.

How did you get involved in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company’s Merrily We Roll Along?  Have you been involved in other F.U.D.G.E. productions?

Of course!  My fondest theater memories in this area heavily consist of my work with F.U.D.G.E.  I’ve been involved in five different F.U.D.G.E productions and it was F.U.D.G.E. that gave me the opportunity to break-into the Boston theater scene when I cast in their production of Violet.  Ever since then, until they eventually closed up shop, I made it a point to be involved in as many F.U.D.G.E. productions as I could. 

The production that I hold closest to my heart is Spring Awakening.  It was just the perfect cast at the perfect time and really was a wonderful experience that I will hold onto forever.

Who is Franklin Shepherd?  Do you identify with him?  Are there other Sondheim characters (from this show or his other shows) with whom you identify more?  Why?

Oh . . . “dat Frank.”  Frank is an opportunist who would do anything to get ahead and push everything and everyone aside for fame, esteem, and money.  He sounds like a peachy keen, squeaky-clean guy . . .

I wouldn’t say I identify with Frank, but I do at least understand his wants and needs to see the work that he produces be recognized and for it to be successful.  Everyone wants to have what they do to be regarded as important; it’s why we do what we do in life.  It is the process and path we take to get that success and recognition for which we are judged. I don’t think everyone necessarily wants fame and fortune, but there is value to be had into putting effort into our lives, relationships, and careers, and coming out with some sort of validation, or recognition for those efforts. 

Sondheim writes in such a brilliant way that even his most unattainable characters on the surface can be related to in some facet of their personality.  For example, I don’t necessarily agree with how Bobby goes about his life in Company . . . but I do absolutely relate to the want and need to love and be loved.  It’s so central in his character that you can’t help but to root for him to find what he’s looking for in the end.  “Somebody force me to love/Somebody force me to care”  is a lyric that sticks out to me that exemplifies that.

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller) and Franklin Shepard (Jared Walsh) in  The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company 's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit:   Matt Phillipps Photography  ).

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller) and Franklin Shepard (Jared Walsh) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

How do you relax?

Relax??? Relaxing and I don’t usually go together.  I constantly find myself on the go.  I teach, coach and play baseball, play in the band, perform in shows, tutor, and travel when I can.  My life is one ball of organization and planning . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you could list three best traits in a friend, what would they be?  What are three personality traits that you hope others would use to describe you?

Loyalty, understanding, and humor. 

I just hope people understand that I generally have what I think are their best intentions at heart, all of the time.  The most valuable thing we have in this life is time, and I choose to spend it with the people I love. It may come at weird intervals, or strange gaps in appearances because of schedules and general life-happenings . . . but I feel as though the people I keep in touch with, and the people I reach out to (even sparingly), know that I’d be there for them when they needed it.

What has been the scariest thing that you done onstage (either fear for your safety or just challenging)?

The scariest thing I do on-stage is dance.  I’m not a dancer.  I dread it.  Tell me to run a post pattern and catch a football one handed, while being draped by a defender . . . or to hit a fastball on the outside corner . . . my body is more than able to do those things. 

When it comes to dancing, I just can’t seem to move my body the way that I know it can or that it should.  It’s terrifying.  Most of the shows I’ve auditioned for have had little dancing . . . and that’s on purpose.

What is one message that you would want to give to millennials in theatre?  In their professional and personal life?

Keep going.  Don’t stop.  It’s cliché, and it’s boring and it’s sort of a copout answer but it’s true.  I’m guilty of it myself sometimes.  I feel as though I’ve missed opportunities, or have been hesitant to take a risk . . . but no one is going to give you anything, in anything you do.  If you want to go out and get something, certainly use your resources but you have to go get it for yourself.

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller), Frank Shepard (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in  The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company 's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit:   Matt Phillipps Photography  ).

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller), Frank Shepard (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

What inspires you?

Seeing the people I love do the things that they love to do.  Eloquent, I know.  For real though, I am just flabbergasted by the people I’ve grown up with from home, and the people I went to college, and those I’ve met since then.  They’re doing awesome things in their lives and it is what inspires me to do what I’m passionate about.

Tell us a funny audition or performance story. Make us laugh.

I was fortunate enough to be called back for the national tour of Once.  I had to sing “Say It to Me Now,” and I just did my best to mimic Glen Hansard from the movie version. When I finished, the casting director looks at me and goes: “Wow . . . you’re really comfortable up there, huh?” He meant singing in my upper register, or, as I call it, yelling on pitch.  I came back with “Well, yeah, I’m playing Gabe tonight in Next to Normal, I have to be.”  They all laughed and it certainly made me feel good about the audition.  Sadly, nothing ever came of it, but it made me happy to make them laugh.

Do you have any resolutions or goals for 2016?

Spend my time with the people I want to be around.  It’s all I try to do.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

My band, Barricades, just finished up our third album.  It has yet to be named, but we’re hoping an official release some point in the near future!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Nothing really, just stay classy!

2015 Best Leading Actress in a Musical Nominee: Andrea Giangreco as Mary Flynn in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's "Merrily We Roll Along"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Photo Credit: Sarah Ernst

Photo Credit: Sarah Ernst

Andrea Giangreco could have stolen the show as the expressive, alcoholic and passionate Mary Flynn.  However, her biggest strength as a performer in this show was her deep collaboration with her fellow cast mates, particularly with Jared Walsh as Franklin Shepherd (also a 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Nominee) and Adam Schuler as Charley Kringas.  In this way, Andrea not only held her own as a strong performer, but she made the people around her look and sound better.  Andrea brought the best out of herself and her fellow stars in this gorgeous farewell production for The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company.

In her Interview, Andrea tells us a bit more about her character, Mary Flynn; the strangest thing that she has ever done onstage (hint, it involved heights); and her newest project (we can't wait, Andrea!). 

Hi, Andrea! It is such a pleasure to talk to you after many years of admiring your performances onstage.  Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hey Brian! Thanks for the nomination!

I’m from Burlington, Massachusetts, and I have been performing since my freshman year at Burlington High School. I went to Salem State University for Communications and I currently work in Healthcare. I’ve done shows all over the Greater Boston area! 

Tell us about Mary Flynn.  Who is she?  What was her role in the musical Merrily We Roll Along?  Why was she special to you?

Mary Flynn is a writer and theatre critic and best friend of Frank Shepard and Charley Kringas. In her youth, she dreams of being a writer, and achieves success fairly early after her first novel is published. She is also hopelessly in love with Frank, but doesn’t want to ruin their friendship by confessing her true feelings. Instead, she turns to the bottle to drown her emotions. Throughout the show, Mary acts as the glue that holds the bond of Her, Frank and Charley together. When Charley and Frank start in on each other, she’s there to smooth everything all over.

Mary was special to me because I found a lot of similarities between the two of us. I’m not saying that we are carbon copies, but I found it easy to relate with what she was going through because of my own personal experiences.

I wasn’t very familiar with this show before Joey DeMita cast me, and I don’t think I realized until after we closed that Mary Flynn was the dream role that I never knew I wanted. Working so closely with Jared Walsh (Frank) and Adam Schuler (Charley) was a dream. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look for shows where we could play best friends again. I’ll never forget singing “Our Time” at the final performance.

(From left): Charley Kringas (Adam Schuler), Franklin Shepherd (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) make a pact for their future friendship in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps)

(From left): Charley Kringas (Adam Schuler), Franklin Shepherd (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) make a pact for their future friendship in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps)

Why do you think Merrily We Roll Along continues to resonate with audiences?

At its core, the story is relevant because it deals with making sacrifices and hard choices in order to achieve success, and how those choices affect your future.

How do you pick your roles and auditions?  What projects inspire you?

As I mentioned earlier, I want to have a very diverse resume. When I started acting, I admired the actors who could do anything—Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis and Gary Oldman come to mind. When I look for auditions, I always keep in mind that I can do a lot more than just belt my face off. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of executing that. I’m dying for the opportunity to play an ingénue though! Get this girl a love story!

Projects that inspire me are always seeded in originality and creativity. I had the pleasure of working with Andrew Barbato and Cellar Door in Stoneham on multiple occasions, and I was always would leave rehearsals in awe of how creative he is. We performed ALICE! in the basement rehearsal space under Stoneham Theatre, and [Andrew] would change that very blank space into quite literally, Wonderland.

I also really give a lot of credit to theatres who try new things and out of the box ideas with their storytelling. I hope I get to see Hamilton and Deaf West’s Spring Awakening. I love directors who are unafraid to throw out the “typical” and “generic” staging of shows and go in a completely different direction with it. I know it’s hard to break the mold, but I’d love to see more of this happening!

What are some of the best performances or productions that you saw in 2015?

I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Cumming as the Emcee in Cabaret last winter, and, to this day, I get chills remembering how unbelievably good he was. He was on stage for the majority of the show and was always so invested in what was happening on stage, even when the story line didn’t directly involve him.

I also loved Titanic at Woodland Theatre. I had a lot of friends in that show and I always love seeing them on stage. Woodland always produced beautiful shows; I’m sad that I didn’t get the chance to perform more with them.

What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t know how surprising this is, but I played the trombone for a long time in school. SO—if anyone is looking for an actor/singer who owns a trombone—I’m your gal!

If you could have dinner with two people, who would they be?  Why?  What would you eat?

I have such a long list, but, in the theme of musical theatre, I’d love to meet Julie Andrews and Angela Lansbury. Even before I wanted to get involved in theatre, I admired these women. They created brilliant characters on stage and screen, and, in “real life,” they seem humble and hysterical. Picking Julie Andrew’s brain about bringing Mary Poppins to life and hearing stories from Angela Lansbury during her run in Murder, She Wrote would make for a fun dinner party. I would bring pizza and beer to one of their English Countryside Manors (I’m assuming they live in English Countryside Manors).

What is the strangest or most odd thing that someone has asked you to do onstage?  What happened?

When I was in Godspell at Marblehead Little Theatre, Sarah Ernst (our fearless director and choreographer) asked us to spend a better half of “We Beseech Thee” simultaneously jumping and singing on a trampoline. I faced death MULTIPLE times as I was not very good at multi-tasking singing and jumping simultaneously. I almost bounced straight off our stage and into the laps of the audience during one performance! Also, I couldn’t gauge how high to jump to stay safe, and almost collided with the light right above my trampoline every night.

 If you could perform in any other Sondheim show, what would it be?  Who would you play?  Would you want anyone to perform the show with you?

Easy. Sweeney Todd. I’ve wanted to play Mrs. Lovett since I started performing back in high school (I have Angela Lansbury to thank for this—I’ll do that over dinner). And If I could have ANYONE be in the show with me, I would want Harrison Ford as Sweeney Todd—just because.

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuler) is comforted by Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps)

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuler) is comforted by Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps)

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Yes! I was just cast as Pennywise in Urinetown at Longwood Players in Cambridge. The show goes up in May. VERY excited about this role and the cast and production team is so stupidly talented. Don’t miss this one!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Keep supporting Boston theatre!