John O’Hurley spins yarns and croons tunes in Ridgefield
A modern day Renaissance man whose rich baritone voice is as recognizable as his most famous TV role as J. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” John O’Hurley is an actor, singer, game show host, and Broadway star. Backed by a band, he brings his musical show, “A Man with Standards,” to the Ridgefield Playhouse on Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. Like the man himself, the eclectic show has something for everyone: storytelling, songs and laughs.
Andrea Valluzzo: The show’s title has a double meaning?
John O’Hurley: It’s a little bit of a memoir show that celebrates the period of time I grew up in — the 50s and 60s. I grew up around the Great American Songbook: the songs of Sinatra and Mancini. These were the great melodies I was listening to because they were the songs my parents listened to. They would go out every Saturday night for dinner and dancing and that was the way they lived, in the sense of the music of the standards. I also remark that I was lucky to grow up in a time around men that had standards. It was not only the music but it was the music and the manners and they were really indistinguishable. It was the way that we presented ourselves. As I say, luck was a lady, we danced cheek to cheek and love was a many-splendored thing. It’s a memoir show to tell the stories of my life but I use the music to underscore the stories. It’s very fun and funny. It’s great music and only one tear.
AV: Without giving away too much, what is one story you share on stage?
JO: One of the most poignant moments in my growing up was my relationship with my mother. My mother was a hummer. She never sang a single word in her life, she hummed everything. I talk about all the great melodies that I heard from her so I developed this enormous sense of melody in my life. Her favorite was “Moon River” and I remember singing “Moon River” to her the first time that I learned all the words. I was upstairs in my bedroom on the third floor in a redone attic and I sang over the Radio Shack intercom. I was 9 years old. I have a young son right now so I know exactly how much that must have meant to her.
AV: With so many stories from your life, how did you choose which ones to share?
JO: I chose the ones that really were more from my entertainment background. At the age of three, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. People would ask me what I wanted to do and I would point to the black-and-white TV in the corner of the room and say, “Well, I am an actor so that’s what I’m going to be.” I just knew. It wasn’t that I wanted to be an actor, it’s I knew I was an actor already so for me it was always about connecting the dots.
AV: Favorite composers?
JO: I like Johnny Mercer and Mancini. I think Mancini was just brilliant in his ability to produce melody so he was always my favorite. I do “Moon River” in the show, I think it’s the perfect song. I also love the lyrics too. Lyrics are kind of word pictures in a way, they’re impressionistic and they don’t always have to make sense.
AV: What’s one thing careerwise on your bucket list?
JO: I want to do Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha.” I think I’m old enough now and when I say old enough I don’t mean chronologically but I think my spirit is old enough to handle the role. I think the music is some of the best ever put on Broadway. As time goes on, fewer and fewer people have heard that music and it’s just absolutely stunning.