“It feels amazing to be back in the theater, and amazing to be back at work,” says Cumberland native Kevin Patrick Martin, who comes home in the role of Hank Majewski when the national tour of Jersey Boys stops at PPAC on June 2 and 3.
The Rhode Island College grad, who has worked professionally in over 40 regional productions, joined the tour in 2017, logging over 700 performances of the hit show. But he almost left acting just before he landed the Jersey Boys gig.
“I felt like I had plateaued,” he says. “I was considering a career change.” An avid baker, he was ready to hit submit on an application to Johnson & Wales University’s culinary program when his agent called him about the audition. “Jersey Boys had been a dream of mine, but I was in a place where I felt that if I didn’t get it, my life would go on.” He credits that attitude to helping him nail the part.
Martin concedes that “touring is not for everybody. You get used to hotel life and you figure out ways to find comforts of home.” Keeping the show fresh is a whole other matter. Part of that “is playing to different audiences every night. There are backstage changes. Different parts of the country respond differently to the material.”
When Jersey Boys rolled through Providence three years ago, Martin was in tow. “That was incredible,” he says of the engagement, crediting his experience partly to a host of supporters in the audience cheering him on. “The RI theater community is so small, to feel their support was amazing.” On a bigger level, he says Rhode Islanders connect with the story. “These are blue collar guys who found great success.” That resonates with Rhode Island’s working class roots.
Martin moved to New York City in January of 2012 to pursue his career. While he had his apartment for nine years, he lived in it less than half that time. “When you move to New York, you get jobs that take you out of New York,” he says.
That, along with his fiance – who lives in Rhode Island and is a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence – prompted a move back home. They met in 2016, ironically after Martin settled in New York, but a fortunate string of jobs kept him in the area for several months at the start of their relationship. Now, they live in an apartment just over the river in East Providence.
“Alex [his fiance] knew this was my dream job. He was very supportive,” he says of the gig that keeps him on the road nine months of the year (pandemic aside).
His decision to return to the Ocean State was cemented by seeing the burgeoning careers of actor-friends based here, like Rebecca Gibel and Charlie Thurston. Both carved out space on Rhode Island’s stages and in southern New England’s growing film and TV industry. “That was encouraging.”
NYC’s gig worker culture makes it easy for an actor to uproot from their job for six weeks to do a show. He was concerned about finding that flexibility in Rhode Island. But picking up work at Robin Hollow Farm in Saunderstown during his off time fits in nicely with his itinerant actor’s life.
Martin looks forward to introducing his Jersey Boys castmates to the wonders of Providence, especially the food scene, calling out KNEAD Doughnuts and Pastiche Fine Desserts (“can you tell I have a sweet tooth?”) in particular. A vegetarian, his recommendations also include Plant City and Garden Grille.
“Being on the road and spending so much time away in New York, it’s made me realize how much I love Rhode Island,” he says. “There’s always something special to return to in our fun little state.”
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