'Believe it or not,' the 'Seinfeld' star is a Tony-winning song-and-dance man
At different times in the “Seinfeld” series, George Costanza finds himself in an existential crisis. Whether it's sitting in Jerry Seinfeld's apartment considering how to become a sports commentator, or sitting in Monk's Cafe debating whether to follow the opposite of all his instincts, he is constantly agonizing over the direction of his life.
“I do know that I have some kind of a talent — something to offer,” he tells his nagging mother in one episode. “I just don't know what it is yet.”
The actor Jason Alexander has the opposite problem. Unlike his character, he has many roles: comedic performer, director, voice actor and, yes, award-winning magician. But his career started in theater.
“I guess most people don't know that I began life as a Broadway song-and-dance man,” said Alexander, who won a Tony for his role in “Jerome Robbins' Broadway,” which opened in 1989. “It was the ambition that I held as a performer, and then all this other cool stuff happened. But I can't quite get rid of the boy singer in me.”
Columbus will get to see that side of Alexander during his show with the Columbus Symphony at the Ohio Theatre on Saturday, April 27. The show, which has been running for years with other orchestras, will feature musical numbers, comedy, audience interaction and a retelling of his professional journey.
“My career is nothing but a series of lucky breaks,” Alexander said. “I was a kid growing up in New Jersey just doing community theater and children's theater and fantasizing about crossing the river one day and working in New York.”
Alexander's Tony win coincided with a part in the instant-classic “Pretty Woman,” along with the “Seinfeld” role, which would forever cement him in popular culture. While George Costanza was pretty musical on the show, singing everything from “Maria,” from “The Sound of Music,” to his iconic version of “Believe It or Not,” he was just following co-creator Larry David's lead.
For example, the episode where Costanza was annoyed by an earworm —“Master of the House” from “Les Miserables” — was taken directly from David's life. “George having this kind of flirtation with Broadway music, that's very much Larry David,” Alexander said. “It had nothing to do with my ability or lack thereof as a singer or theater performer.”
Nearly 20 years after “Seinfeld” ended, fans (this writer included) can still recall dialogue word-for-word. Alexander has a different relationship with the show.
“[We're] like pen pals from afar,” he said. “[If] I'm flipping channels and I see that there's an episode on, I may watch for a few minutes. It's kind of like watching old home videos of yourself. … There are whole episodes that are not in my memory at all.”
Those who have George Costanza etched in their brains will be in for a surprise Saturday.
“I wanted to create a show that was very irreverent, and still was a great musical show,” he said. “[And] I think we've done it.”