Introduce Yourself(ie): Getting to Know Jersey Boys' John Rochette
November 9th, 2015
by John Rochette
BroadwayBox continues its coverage of Jersey Boys 10th anniversary with John Rochette, a homegrown NJ native from East Hanover, a graduate of Rutgers University, and an alumni of the Jersey Boys tour. Rochette makes his Broadway debut in the Tony-winning tuner as Norm Waxman, the loan shark that ultimately brings down Four Seasons founder Tommy DeVito. Below, BroadwayBox talks with Rochette about growing up Jersey, his experience in The Blue Man Group and how he went from subway performer to Broadway.
1. My go to diner order:
Go to diner order? EASY. Taylor Ham egg and cheese on a bagel. What's Taylor Ham? It only seems to exist in Jersey! The rest of planet Earth seems to be baffled by it. It's also called pork roll. It's pinkish red and salty and always served with eggs, mostly on breakfast sandwiches. Almost like thicker fried Bologna. Everyone in Jersey has eaten a million Taylor Ham egg and cheeses in their life. Myself included.
2. My favorite TV show or movie set in my home state of Jersey:
My favorite movie about NJ is definitely The Wedding Singer—that Adam Sandler movie. I love everything '80s rock, and Sandler is definitely a Jersey icon and proud native. I mean, come on, Happy Gilmore.
3. Favorite spot down the shore:
My favorite spot down the shore has to be Seaside Heights. Exit 82. (You speak in Parkway exits in Jersey.) It's definitely where I have the most memories. Sadly, it got pretty beat up from Sandy. And once they rebuilt some of it, there was a fire. Awful. But it'll bounce back! Jersey's resilient! It's where the show Jersey Shore was set, but that show really only represented the nightclub life down there. I was never into that. Seaside to me was the Boardwalk, and water slides, and throwing a football on the beach, and playing carnival games with friends, and the DJ on the Himalaya playing "Pour Some Sugar On Me" as we went backwards.. Also, in Jersey, you say you're "going down the shore." Wherever you are in the state, you go DOWN the shore. Period.
4. Jersey bar I've had the most fun at:
My favorite Jersey bar is also in Seaside. EJs Bar. It's kind of an old beat-up weird dive bar. But a decent size. And right on the boardwalk steps for the beach. Back in the day it had $1 beers, $1 hotdogs, juke box, pool table, ping pong table, huge wrap around bar, tons of weird plants hanging from the ceiling, wood paneling. And always playing a good Jovi song. Like your buddy's basement. And honestly, isn't life about feeling that same joy you had while hanging in your buddy's basement when you were a kid?
5. Favorite memory from the Jersey Boys tour:
Favorite memory from the Jersey Boys tour? That's tough. Man, the stories I could tell you.. Honestly the best part was when I was hanging out with my buddy Timmy Quinlan in our Airbnb'd apartment in Edmonton, Canada. I got the call from my girlfriend at the time telling me she just BOOKED THE JERSEY BOYS TOUR! The girlfriend was Leslie, and she's now my wife. Leslie Rochette. We met at Gateway Playhouse in Bellport Long Island years earlier doing Happy Days the musical. Thank you director Keith Andrews. Our matchmaker... Anyway, Jersey Boys was our dream show, and we'd both been chasing it for years. And fate somehow allowed us to slowly but surely both book it.. Fate, and Merri Sugarman. And all the great people at JB. We toured the country together for over two years. I recently just moved to the Broadway company and she's still out on the tour playing Francine. She's the best. A New Orleans girl. Seeing the country and the world (Japan too) with her was an absolutely dream. We're the luckiest.
6. My badass inspiration for loan shark Norm Waxman:
My character, Norm "the bag" Waxman, is a loan shark that Tommy ends up borrowing way too much money from in our show. It's assumed he's connected with the Jewish mafia, who at the time were loose allies of the Italian-American mob. What many people don't know is that the Jewish mafia were tough dudes. In fact, Italian mobster, Lucky Luciano, considered the father of organized crime in the US, was once quoted saying that the Jewish Mob "taught me how to dress." They were a big part of bringing the very well dressed, but dangerous as hell, vibe to organized crime in the 20th century. That being said, I want Norm to be very sharp, very smart, very calm, but also pose a threat. I try to play him like a Jewish Charlie Sheen. With a pinch of John Waters (my pencil thin mustache).
7. My most important makeup/makeup removal lesson learned from Blue Man Group:
Haha. Make-up removal! Good question. Ya know, Blue Man has been around for 25 years so they've figured some things out. As far as I can remember, the make up was oil based, so it always stayed very wet, so you could constantly keep re-spreading it by hand during the show. I was surprisingly easy to remove and not abrasive on the skin. You wore a bald cap over your ears and eyebrows, which gave that unusual non-so-human vibe. Then the same shiny blue make-up was applied over your whole head and neck. Always showcasing those eyes, the Blue Man's major window for emotion. What I loved was their innocence and curiosity and love of the little things—like children. They never judged. They just explored and played. And they drummed!! They're me. Oh wait, the question. Make-up removal!!! Ya know, I used Noxzema. (Child of the '80s) and I showered in the building every day. The only problem was, you leave Blue Man, but it never left you. You blew your nose blue. Your eye boogies were blue. You somehow always had blue on your pillowcase. Even though you wore gloves, under your fingernails was always blue. My toothbrush was turning blue... Oh. And I also never need to eat another Twinkie again...
8. Album I wore out in high school:
The album I played the absolute most in high school was Crash by Dave Matthews Band. I was That guy: Always drumsticks in my back pocket, backwards baseball hat, ripped Abercrombie jeans, white t-shirt, and went to about 10 DMB concerts a year. Tailgated every concert. Drank 20 Coors Lights. Bought Jell-O shots from hippies. My friends and I loved Dave. Who didn't?! Who Doesn't?! Carter Beauford, Dave's drummer, was my main drum idol. Him and Chad Smith from Chili Peppers. I have drums set up in my NYC apartment with mutes on them right now, and I was playing along to some of Crash just today. True story.
9. If I had to describe myself in 2005 (the year Jersey Boys opened), I'd say:
Me in 2005. I'll tell ya. I saw Jersey Boys in previews. I got a free ticket from somewhere. By myself. MAN. I'm not being cute for stories sake when I say I went nuts. Cried my eyes out. Still do. When Dawn 3 hit, when the boys face upstage like they're playing a stadium and the audience is behind them, man, I was bawling. As a musician, the music got so huge and epic, and the lights, and the everything.. At intermission, I was talking to random people in the john saying, "Man, am I the only one...?! doesn't this rule?!" It spoke to me, a straight kid from Jersey who didn't dance, and really, who was a rocker, who didn't know how he fit into NYC musical theater. I was a poor actor living in a tiny three bedroom in Harlem, confused, and chasing the dream, and loved it. My buddy Ben Hope and I used to always play in Subway tunnels to make money to buy beer and pay rent. He'd play acoustic and sing, and I'd either play some hand-drum or a cardboard box with brushes. We loved it. We still do. We'll still play in the subway when we're both in town. Even when he was starring as Guy in Once on Broadway we'd play, and people would do a double take and say, "Aren't you that dude who just STARRED in that show I spent $250 on?!!'" He'd sip his 40-ounce Miller High Life in a paper bag and say "Yup. Any requests?" ... You don't forget where you come from.
See John Rochette and the rest of the 'Jersey Boys' 10th anniversary cast live at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre.