Theater veterans Kelli Barrett and Jarrod Spector are headlining Bay Street Theater’s Music Mondays on Monday, July 18. The talented husband and wife duo – he played Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys and she starred as Eliza in Bay Street’s My Fair Lady and Lara in Broadway’s Doctor Zhivago – will take audience members on a music journey of their love story.
“We’re really grateful to come to Bay Street,” Barrett told Hamptons.com. “Of all the places to play, when they said, we’d love to have you and your concert, we were like, ‘In your theater?!? This is awesome!'”
“We’re really grateful for the sales,” Spector added. “We keep looking and it seems like people are excited to be there. We’re really honored and thrilled.”
We recently caught up with Barrett and Spector to learn more about the performance.
Look At It My Way traces your road to becoming husband and wife. What made you want to share such an intimate part of your relationship?
KB: The show came about because when we got engaged, we had no idea how to throw a wedding so I went to one of those wedding websites, TheKnot.com, and on it, it asks you a bunch of different questions and you fill out a profile for your friends and family to read. One of the questions was how did you get together? Jarrod and I weren’t in the room at the same time to write it together, so we both ended up writing the story of how we got together for the website and after we compared them, we realized they were completely different. So at the time it really struck us, and we thought it was pretty funny. So after we finished our first cabaret, we were thinking, gosh remember when we wrote those how we got together stories? I think that could make for a really good show. So we basically tell the story of how we got together from our very different experiences, and that’s kind of what the show is, and we thought it would be not only an opportunity to share our story, which we’re proud of and we think is funny and sweet, but also we learned a lot about our partner. Seeing things differently than you is actually a big bonus to a relationship. We wanted to share that sometimes when your partner can see something you can’t that’s kind of the very reason you’re in a relationship with them. So we thought it would make for a good show and a good moral and we hope that it has.
JS: We came off doing a previous show that was all about musical married couples and we strive to work together in any which way that we can and you put a show together and it has a certain amount of life and that show was running out of life and we knew that we had to come up with something else. The personal side of that show I think is what was most touching for us, most important for us, and we thought we should explore that more deeply. So doing a whole show on what is personal – that idea resonated and we are simultaneously obsessed with the movie When Harry Met Sally, so those two things combined created this show.
KB: People were really responsive to our personal stories in our last show, and we thought you have to write what you know and what we know is how we got together. So the next show was inevitably that.
Did you two meet through the theater?
JS: We did. We met in April of 2010. When a new project is on its way to becoming what it is going to be everyone wants to go to Broadway, but so many fall short of that, but those sort of preliminary steps are called readings or workshops. Kelly and I met doing a reading of a show and then eight or nine months later we did another one and then after that we did another. So we did a series of these readings/workshops for the same show and over the course of a year and a half we became close friends and then fell in love.
KB: That’s what the show is about.
What’s it like to be sharing the stage with your significant other?
KB: It’s my favorite thing.
JS: Yeah. Someone quoted to us a quote I believe by Alan Bergman, which is: “There’s nothing like doing the thing that you love with the person that you love.” That’s really apt. I’ve been singing professionally on stage for 33 years and yet I still have moments of being nervous and then I look over at my wife and she smiles back at me and everything’s fine. There’s nothing that could quite replicate that moment.
KB: There’s a safety net that you don’t get in any other way.
How often do you get to work together?
KB: As often as we can write a show together. We keep trying to get cast opposite each other and it never quite seems to work out. Either I get it or he gets it. So we’re still trying to get someone else to do it for us.
JS: It is fascinating that we see one and another together, and we are together in real life, yet the powers at be – the casting directors and such – just don’t necessarily see us in that way or don’t necessarily see things that way. And then you think, huh, this is an art form, as all art forms are meant to represent life, yet it hasn’t yet. Other than the one show we met doing. We gig together as much as we can, based on our schedules and availability, and venue availability.
KB: We have one composer who has starred us opposite each other in something that he’s working on. So there’s irons in the fire but nothing concrete yet.
Kelli, I know you starred in Bay Street’s My Fair Lady last summer, but Jarrod, will this be your first time performing there?
JS: It will be my first time performing there and I’m really excited, especially watching Kelli be an absolute fucking star last year, I’m excited to join her on the stage.
KB: He knows it well. He had dinner ready for me every night.
JS: I spent the whole time there. So through osmosis I feel like…
KB: Big Olaf knows us by face.
Kelli, since you’ve already performed there, what sets Bay Street apart?
KB: Bay Street’s a really special place. I think it’s one of my most favorite away from New York City places I’ve ever been. It’s the vibe out there. There’s nothing like being in the Hamptons for the summer. Also, it’s Scott Schwartz and what he’s doing with that theater, everybody that works there – they’re really super accommodating, they care about the work and they’re not afraid to take chances with the work. Our version of My Fair Lady last year, directed by the brilliant Michael Arden, was different and we had a very controversial ending. I’ve seen other theaters shy away from that sort of thing, but they kind of leaned into it and then they asked the audience for feedback and then we changed it according to how that was going. It felt super collaborative, very welcoming, and you can’t beat the scenery. So I would literally work there forever.
How did you decide what music to include in this performance?
JS: First of all, we should admit that this is a mini jukebox musical by nature. We are using songs as sung dialogue or to represent a moment in time. Every which way that jukebox musical uses songs, we’re doing that. But the thing that doesn’t hold us back is that we don’t have to be loyal to any particular songbook or any particular artist. We can choose any song that works in that moment because we’re not putting on a Broadway show, we’re doing cabaret.
KB: We started off with the songs of our lives and our story that are actually literally that. Jarrod sings the song that I walked down the aisle to, in the show – so that was easy. We sing some songs from the first show that we met doing. We happen to think our version of cabaret, what we offer – the new cabaret audience is not Great American Songbook. We touch upon it, don’t get me wrong. But we like to bring you the top 40 hits, the stuff that you love – not necessarily of today, but of the eras that we think is the best – the 60s, the 80s, some of the 2000s, and a little bit of Beyonce. We like to sing songs that we love that we know other people love. We’re not into giving you something super obscure that you’ve never heard of. That’s just not our jam.
JS: There are exceptions to that. There are a couple of little things that are not as well known, but I think we get away with it. When you’re putting together a show, we think it’s important as artists to understand that the audience, generally speaking, wants to hear things they want to hear. I know when I’m an audience member, I get excited when someone sings a song I know. So towing that line between what everyone wants to hear and what serves the story best and always finding those songs – that’s the goal. And then, every now and again, when you’re like I know that they don’t know this song from Naughty Marietta, which is a movie from 1936, I know they don’t know this song but it fits the best right here so we’re going to do it anyway.
KB: And we’re going to mash it up with a Beatles hit. We love to do these mash ups – that’s the other thing. Like Jarrod does Uptown Funk but it’s mashed with Prince’s Kiss, everybody loves both of those songs. We’re not just doing Uptown Funk like every wedding band. We’re making it a whole new thing and we’re mashing it into something else. We love to do mash ups and different arrangements. I do an arrangement of You Give Love a Bad Name, the Bon Jovi song, but I do it like a jazz tune. We love to do stuff like that – make you rethink it or surprise you like, oh my god, it’s that song and then give you the hook that you’ve been waiting for. We just really like to watch the audience get excited about the music.
JS: In that particular case, how we chose that song was we needed a song that had a lyric that really worked for that moment and that was the song that worked best. But the original Bon Jovi song, the vibe of that song just did not quite fit the moment so we sat at a piano and figured out a way of how do you fit that song in that moment to tell this bit of story.
KB: And Jarrod plays the piano so we have a great advantage of being able to do that stuff and then bring it to our music director who really flushes it out.
Do you have a favorite song/act to perform together?
KB: Last year our big thing that we took everywhere was this Ashford/Simpson medley. We did You’re All I Need To Get By/Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing/Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, all mashed together. And the arrangement part was really cool, our arranger knocked it out of the park. We did that at a lot of high profile benefits and people loved it. So we really loved that because we love Motown. Motown and rock are pretty much exclusively what we listen to at home on vinyl, so we love singing that stuff. We do a couple of tunes on this new show that are really cool. We do Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes that comes out of a different song that no one’s never heard but it’s kind of a piece of it. We love the story going into that song. We do an 80s mash up of our first time we slept together. It’s this over the top, epic every 80s ballad you could imagine, but it’s really funny and we love doing that.
JS: Again, that came out of trying to tell the story. How do we represent this conversation of one person trying to convince the other that this is a good idea and the other one sort of being reticent of that idea and then both people sort of giving into it? Of course we ended up putting together Can’t Fight This Feeling, I Wanna Know What Love Is, and Power of Love. So suddenly you have this conversation told through three songs.
What would be your dream theater role to star opposite each other in?
KB: Parade would be amazing.
JS: Jason Robert Brown’s Parade. When Harry Met Sally, the musical. My Cousin Vinny. If they ever did My Cousin Vinny the musical or even a play, we don’t have to sing – that’s the show. Kelli’ Marisa Tomei is spot on, and I fancy myself to do a pretty good Brooklyn accent. But, also you know other things – like I’ve always wanted to play Iago in Othello and she’d be an amazing Desdemona – so that type of thing. Honestly, anything we could do that we would get to be on the stage together would be nice.
JS: Kelli is in a Netflix series that’s going to come out in the fall and I’m doing a show that hasn’t been announced, so I can’t talk about it unfortunately and I really, so badly wish I could. And Kelli’s always right on the brink of being a huge star in some big series.
Tickets to Music Mondays start at $45.
Bay Street Theater is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For tickets, call 631-725-9500 or visit www.baystreet.org.