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Broadway actor meets with alumni while on national tour of “Jersey Boys”
Story by Barbara Byers; photo by Brian Tietz
At age 29, Adam Zelasko, BFA ’05, already has made one of his dreams come true. The theater and dance alumnus is a member of the touring company of “Jersey Boys,” a Tony Award-winning musical about the rise of pop music group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
As a “swing” ready to play several roles, Zelasko understudies two main characters, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, and is part of the ensemble. “I’ve been on for both of them [characters DeVito and Massi] and both times I just had to take a minute backstage and think, ‘This is a dream come true.’ This is a show that thousands of people want to be a part of, and there’s a very small percentage of people who get to actually do a show that gets that much recognition and play the roles that I’m playing. It’s pretty fulfilling.”
At the behest of the UB Alumni Association, Zelasko arranged to play band member Massi in three of four performances as the show toured to UBAA chapter cities Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8, 2011; Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 26, and this spring in Chicago (May 3). (He was in the ensemble cast for the March 1 show in Charlotte, another chapter city.) At a reception following the D.C. performance, UB alumni and friends got to rub elbows with Zelasko. “Adam’s performance on stage was surpassed only by his humility and graciousness off stage,” says Jim Militello, BA ’79, who is the D.C. chapter leader. “We were delighted to have the chance to interact with such an accomplished, warm member of the UB family.”
The handsome, 6-foot-1-inch native of Orchard Park, N.Y., 20 miles south of Buffalo, fell in love with acting while playing Uncle Henry in a production of “The Wizard of Oz” in fifth grade. At Orchard Park High School, with the guidance of director Darcy Young and choreographer Jack Greenan, he discovered that acting “was something you could choose as a career and that Broadway wasn’t just this mythical place that existed in New York City.”
Zelasko passed the required theater program audition and was accepted to UB, also his parents’ alma mater. His experience at the university was “great; it was nice to learn from people who loved to do what they were doing,” Zelasko says. “I got that feeling from all of my teachers there.” UB is also where he met his mentor, former faculty member Lynne Kurdziel Formato, MA ’87 & BA ’85. “If she hadn’t been there, I probably wouldn’t have gone there,” Zelasko says. “She knew everything about everything, and was our go-to encyclopedia about the industry.” Kurdziel Formato readily returns the compliment. “Adam Zelasko was, and still is, one of the nicest people in the universe,” says Kurdziel Formato, now associate professor of performing arts at Elon University in North Carolina. “He is extraordinarily talented, incredibly hardworking and generous with his colleagues—on stage as well as off.”
Life on the road with a major musical touring company can be challenging, but “I’ve grown accustomed to living on the road,” Zelasko says. “This show has become the job that I’ve always wanted. Not only is it lucrative and stable, but it’s also as much of a joy to perform as it is to watch. I never want to leave this show!”
“Adam Z”—“I like the A and the Z.”
Advice to current UB theater students
“Audition. Most people go to New York and they don’t audition.”
Favorite downtime activity/hobby
“I like to play DJ and put together mashups [recording compilations].”
Last book read
“Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me” by Chelsea Handler’s friends and family
If you could live anywhere in world, where would it be?
“Chicago…but only in the summertime!”
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