Tony-winning singer and dancer Jason Alexander heads to Detroit’s Orchestra Hall to perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Featured photo courtesy of Fred Stucker
To know George Costanza was to love him. And to pity him. And to sometimes kinda loathe and hate him. But (almost) always come back to loving him.
Jason Alexander is best known for his role as George on nine seasons of Seinfeld (for which he earned seven Emmy nominations and four Screen Actors Guild awards). The actor brought range, comedic chops and willingness to be the butt of most jokes to a character so outrageous and memorable that viewers around the world are on a first-name basis with him.
But long before George was a whole other Jason, a celebrated Broadway star and Tony winner. And that Jason is headed to Detroit’s Orchestra Hall to perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for two shows only, Nov. 2 and 3.
The song-and-dance man was born Jay Scott Greenspan in Newark, N.J., to parents Ruth Minnie and Alexander B. Greenspan — whose name Alexander borrowed for his own stage name. In a 2014 master class taught to Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, Alexander told the audience that while a student at BU, where he aspired to become a classical actor, a professor called him into his office.
“He said, ‘I know your heart and soul are Hamlet. But you will never play Hamlet,’” referring to Alexander’s physicality. Instead, Alexander says, the professor told him, “‘Learn to do comedy and love it.’ He was right.” Alexander left BU the summer before his senior year. Months later, he was on Broadway starring in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along — a musical actor’s dream. (In 1995, BU’s College of Fine Arts awarded him an honorary degree.)
After his turn in Merrily, Alexander continued on Broadway with Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound before winning a Tony Award for his performance in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway in 1989. He’s appeared in dozens of films and TV shows over his 30-year career, including Pretty Woman, Shallow Hal, Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and more.
Married to Daena Title (cousin of director Stacy Title) since 1981, Alexander told that BU master class that he has two then-college-age sons (Gabriel and Noah), who “combined have probably seen a total of seven episodes of Seinfeld.”
When asked about the influence of his Jewish roots, Alexander told Oy! Chicago, “I don’t know that I can point to Judaism specifically as inspirational or directional to my work. I think much of my comedic instincts are informed by the urban and Jewish rhythms that I was surrounded with as a child.”
Alexander added, “Jews come from pretty remarkable backgrounds and tend to be pretty colorful people … living and growing up in a largely Jewish community helped me create and appreciate the canvas of characters that I draw upon in my work. But Judaism specifically has not colored either my choices or performances terribly much.”
And, in 2015, the Jewish Week wrote about the veteran stage actor that “Alexander was everything that George Costanza is not. Where George is hostile, Alexander is personable. Where George deflects, Alexander intuits.”
Although Alexander is being secretive about what exactly audiences will experience during his visit to Detroit, we do know the performances will be a hilarious recap of his journey onstage and on TV — and is full of songs, comedy and audience interaction.
He will be joined by pianist and music director Todd Schroeder and guest soloist Carrie Schroeder, and the events will be conducted by Robert Bernhardt as part of the DSO’s PNC Pops Series, which showcases both the DSO and a wide variety of popular music.
We can’t wait to get to know the real Jason Alexander.
Jason Alexander joins the DSO’s PNC Pops Series Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 2-3, at Orchestra Hall, inside the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Detroit. $24 and up. DSO.org.