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Broadway veteran Jonathan Hadley will be up north this summer at the Depot Theatre in Westport.  Photo: Depot Theatre
Broadway veteran Jonathan Hadley will be up north this summer at the Depot Theatre in Westport. Photo: Depot Theatre

Broadway star heads north to manage the Depot Theatre this summer

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Broadway actor Jonathan Hadley returns to the Depot Theatre in Westport this summer. Hadley takes the reins at the theatre as its Interim Producing Director in a slightly abbreviated summer season.

Todd Moe talks with Hadley, who appeared on stage at the Depot in the 1999 production of "Born Yesterday," about his love of summer theater in the Champlain Valley.

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Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

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Jonathan Hadley: It's just such a beautiful setting, as you all know that live up there, and a beautiful theater and you know, built in 1876, I love the history of that along with the fun of doing summer theater. So that was my introduction and I had a great time in the production and I visited a couple times and then my life took me all over the place acting and directing around the country, then this opportunity came up this summer to be a producing director and I jumped on it. I just think it’s a great time to spend up there.

Todd Moe: So you’ll be wearing, what, a couple of hats?

JH: Well my title is “Interim Producing Director” so I think that’s about 500 hats. We’ll see what a hat entails.

TM: So talk a little about the summer season and what it kicks off and are there a couple of shows that you’re really looking forward to?

JH: Well all three of them, we have three shows of the season, we start July 11, start performances, and the season goes through August 31. And we perform pretty much Fridays through Mondays, there’s always a show. Sunday matinees at 5 o’clock for those who want to drive down from Canton, you can get back in the evening.

We start with "My Way" which is a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra. Sort of a great journey of all his, almost all his 1,300 songs he recorded. I had no idea it was thirteen hundred songs until I started researching this.

We follow that with a show called "Greater Tuna," which if there are any Texans up there, I met a few Texans in Westport, they’re going to love it. It’s a show about a little town in Texas, and its two actors who play kind of different roles and it’s a hoot, it’s a lot of fun.

And we end the season with a show called "Pete 'n' Keely", which is a two-character musical about these kind of cheesy lounge singers and it’s a reunion special set it 1968 on CBS where they come back together and give a big variety show. And it looks like yours truly, on this phone, is going to be playing the role of Pete in "Pete 'n' Keely" so I’m excited about that and terrified as well. It will be fun.

TM: There is one sort of unique aspect about the Depot and that is that you’re in an old train depot and it's still an operating train depot right?

JH: Absolutely, it's hysterical. Every night, I think the Amtrak trains are getting longer, if you want to know my opinion! But every night a train comes through about, well, it's hard to time them, but it's usually just before intermission so the show has to stop and they’d bring the lights down to half and the actors sort of sit on stage and the train comes through and literally rattles the station so the show has to stop and then the train goes through and then the show picks back up. And it's just charming and crazy, I love it.

TM: And even better when it times just perfectly with intermission I’m sure.

JH: And that really happens of course, it's always in the middle. And it's so charming and I’ve been doing my research and I think this is the only professional theater that I can find in the world that’s in a working train depot. And of course it's in the Adirondacks, you know it's in that beautiful setting so it's just unique and what it is as a theater. That’s one of the reasons I love it.

TM: Now is this summer kind of an abbreviated season for the Depot?

JH: Well in a way, in the past they’ve started a little earlier and gone a little past Labor Day. But this year they decided to truncate it a little bit. I say “they”- we have a terrific board who really does most of the planning. Thank goodness I don’t have to do that — not one of the hats I wear. And they’re kind of keeping it in the meat of the summer season which is July 4 to Labor Day.

So they’re just doing three shows — they’ve done up to as many as five in the past. But just keeping it a little bit smaller this season and I think the shows are quality shows and we’ve cast some terrific talent out of New York and we have some local talent as well that we’re using which I’m thrilled about. So we’ll be fun.

TM: Let me ask, Jonathan, why you agreed to wear these various hats this summer in Westport. Is it you as an actor and a theater person with a vast experience, is it just something that you really decided to take on and this was a bit of a challenge this summer?

JH: That’s it, it’s the challenge. About seven, eight years ago I got a MFA in Directing and I’ve been splitting my time between directing and acting and teaching in New York. And then I got cast in a little show called "Jersey Boys," I don’t know if you’ve heard of it…

TM: Yeah, little show.

JH: Yup, and I did that on Broadway and then I went out on the road with "Jersey Boys," and I toured with it for five and half, almost six years. In fact I just got back from Korea and Kuala Lumpur where we did "Jersey Boys." So it was a great, great experience but I felt like I wanted to get back to my other love, or other aspect of theater that I love which is directing, and I needed a break from being on the stage. And this opportunity came up and I thought “this is a terrific challenge and a great place to work.”

If everyone checks out the website, we have a reading series during the summer…which is going to be some plays that might be a little more controversial and we’re going to try to do some readings and see what the audiences think, maybe put them in the season for next season. But other than that I hope you all come, we’re going to have a great time this summer and come visit the Depot.

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