Special showing of Orlando Fringe's 'best solo musical' at Theater at the J
In his first musical theater role, Eric Gutman's only lines were "Woof, woof."
He was in the second grade and had been cast as Dorothy's dog Toto in his elementary school's version of "The Wizard of Oz." That's when Gutman realized that he loved to perform.
After graduating from Western Michigan University with a degree in musical theater performance, Gutman began pursuing his dream-to perform on Broadway. And then, one day, while working a desk job, Gutman got the call: He would be part of the cast of "Jersey Boys"-the Broadway musical sensation that tells the story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons-when it launched its first national tour in 2006. He immediately broke down and cried.
Gutman, a Detroit-area native, would go on to appear in six different roles in nearly 1,200 performances of "Jersey Boys" over the next three years, including one year on Broadway. So, why would he voluntarily leave the award-winning, record-breaking show to move back to Michigan?
That's the premise behind Gutman's exceptional one-man musical, "From Broadway to Obscurity," a high-energy, hilariously entertaining look at his transition from Broadway star to suburban dad. The show, one of the Orlando International Fringe Festival's smash hits this past May, returns on Saturday, Nov. 19, at The Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando in Maitland for a special "Evening to Benefit Theater at the J."
"I absolutely loved Orlando," said Gutman, 38, who received the Fringe's award for Best Solo Show-Musical. "So I was honored that the Fringe and Theater at the J wanted me to come back for this."
The 75-minute show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission; $50 for VIP tickets, which include a reception with light hors d'oeuvres at 6:30 p.m., prime seating during the show, and an exclusive meet-and-great with Gutman after the show.
Amanda Giese, who runs Theater at the J with her husband, Kerry, was thrilled to partner with the Orlando Fringe to bring "From Broadway to Obscurity" back to Orlando.
"I'm so happy we were able to bring Eric back here, so more people can see him," Amanda said. "He's so talented and funny, and he's one of the nicest guys ever."
Gutman, who lives in suburban Detroit with wife Sarah and daughters Riley (7) and Sydney (6), left "Jersey Boys" on Broadway in 2009, while Sarah was pregnant with their first child. But three months after Riley was born, Gutman was asked to return to the Jersey Boys' production in Chicago for six months. He then left the Chicago cast to once again join the national tour, which just happened to be in his Detroit hometown, as a favor to a fellow actor who was expecting his first child. When the Detroit performances ended six weeks later, in January 2010, Gutman had sung "Walk Like a Man" for the last time.
Three years later, a friend-the managing director of a local performing arts center-asked Gutman if he would do a cabaret show for her theater. Gutman asked if, instead, he could write his own show, and 10 months later, "From Broadway to Obscurity" premiered at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.
Since then, the show has had runs in Illinois, California, Texas, Minnesota, Florida, and Winnipeg, Canada. But, despite rave reviews, Gutman has no desire to perform off or on Broadway, and he has no regrets that he left the Great White Way for suburban Huntington Woods, Mich.
"I'd be a liar if I said I didn't miss it; the Broadway community is pretty special. " he said. "But I wouldn't give up my life now for that. There's nothing I'd rather be doing than raising my beautiful daughters with my beautiful wife."
Tickets for "From Broadway to Obscurity" are available for purchase at orlandojcc.org/broadway, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Theater at the J. For more information, call The Roth Family JCC at 407-645-5933 x282.