Hank Stolz spoke with Lisa Condit, Ashleigh Prince and Matthew James Sherrod from Escape to Margaritaville about the show, his career, acting on Broadway and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Hank: I’m Hank Stolz, this is Behind The Scenes at The Hanover Theatre with Lisa Condit. Ashleigh Price is live in the studio with us today as Lisa is out, busily making sure that everything is all set with the Broadway debuts coming up, and new website that is getting ready to launch. It is just a very busy time! We have a wonderful interview that we’re going to be bringing you with Matthew James Sherrod, who plays Jamal in Escape to Margaritaville.
Ashleigh: Yes, it was a wonderful interview. We really enjoyed speaking with him, he’s so nice and so fun! I couldn’t wait to interview him, and I think we have a lot to gear up for coming next week. The first Broadway show in our season is next Thursday! We’re all buzzing and really excited, and it’s just been a total party.
Hank: I bet! All the hard work that goes into that total party is well behind the scenes. Coming out of the pandemic, to be able to have, next Thursday, Escape to Margaritaville on the stage at The Hanover is a biggie; it’s meaningful.
Ashleigh: It’s very meaningful! I think that’s why we’re so excited and we’re anticipating this big, beautiful, extravagant paradise.
“Between October 21 – 24, it is going to be a really magical time. Everyone is going to be so excited and so happy that Broadway is back! I think we can all celebrate that today, don’t you think?”
Hank: I really do! When you say, “Broadway is back” and the Broadway series that comes to The Hanover Theatre – these are shows that come to The Hanover Theatre that, previously, you would have had to have gone to Providence or Boston [to see]. These shows, now, are coming to The Hanover Theatre. The Hanover is a leader in attendance around the world and these shows are a big part of that. We’re going to be hearing from Matthew James Sherrod, who has been in Rent and Hair, and played Donkey in Shrek. His credits, and his Broadway credits, are top-notch and you’re going to be able to see him at The Hanover Theatre.
Ashleigh: Yes! He happened to tell us that he also knows Lin-Manuel Miranda, and who isn’t obsessed with him? Let’s hang out with Matthew!
Welcome to Margaritaville
Lisa: Thank you all for tuning in and listening to Behind The Scenes with The Hanover Theatre. This is Lisa Condit and Ashleigh Price, we’re here today with Matthew James Sherrod, and he plays Jamal in the upcoming production of Escape to Margaritaville. Welcome, Matthew!
Matthew: Thank you so much for having me on Behind The Scenes at The Hanover!
Lisa: We’re thrilled, and we’re thrilled to have your really high energy performance come to our stage. I’d love for our listeners to learn a little bit more about you, you’ve been in a lot of fantastic musicals up to this point. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved with Escape to Margaritaville.
Matthew: I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, so I’ve always had a love of theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to perform in some really great shows, like Rent and Shrek, around the area. I saw an audition online for the Escape to Margaritaville tour and I knew of the show from being here in New York, and I was familiar with Jimmy Buffett. I auditioned for it hoping that I would get it, and I did! I’m very lucky and very excited.
Lisa: That’s awesome! I have to say, the parts that you’ve played in some of your other work are some of my favorite. I love Donkey from Shrek, for example. What appealed to you about the role of Jamal?
Matthew: A lot of things. I was a really big fan of the actor that played the part in the Broadway production, and I just knew that the show would be a lot of fun and I really wanted to do a fun show.
Lisa: Especially after the last year we’ve been through, right? Is there a particular scene or song you love to perform that we should all keep an eye out for?
Matthew: I do open up the second act with “Volcano”, and that is a really fun, special moment because everyone knows the song. It’s really exciting. I play the ukulele in it, I learned ukulele for the show. I have to say the “Cheeseburger” number is high energy and a huge crowd pleaser. We just love doing that song.
Ashleigh: That’s so exciting, I’m so ready for this show! As I’m looking at your acting credits – you were Collins in Rent and Donkey in Shrek – it looks like the characters you play have a lot of heart and sentimentality. Tell us a little about Jamal and his role in Escape to Margaritaville.
Matthew: Jamal is very fun. [He] works at the Margaritaville resort on the island that all of the tourists are coming to, and not only [is he] helping all of the tourists have a good time and taking care of their needs, but [he’s] also meddling in the lead’s love life.
“Jamal’s just a lot of fun to play because [he gets] to interact with everyone’s story. Jamal is just there to have a good time and make sure everyone else is having a good time as well.”
Ashleigh: I think having the show in October, when we have the autumn crisp in the air and everyone is pining for the summer a little bit, gives us a special escape.
Lisa: Tell us a little bit about how you got here and your journey because we also have, of course, The Hanover Theatre Conservatory for the Performing Arts, so we have a lot of students and a lot of professionals, and people who are really looking to make acting and performing part of their future career.
Matthew: I would say to do as much as you can. You need to keep up with your studies because everything you learn, whether it’s related to singing or not, is going to help you. Sing as much as you can and do anything you can get your hands on, performing-wise. Sing anywhere you can, dance anywhere you can, and do as much as you can do because all of that is going to be your training. Even if you feel like you can’t go to the top school, or you feel like you’re not getting all the roles you want, do anything you can get your hands on because it’ll build you up and help you get to the next stage in your career.
Lisa: That is fantastic advice. I’m curious, when you give that advice, what are you thinking of in your own experience?
Matthew: For me, I did a lot of tech. I did a lot with the tech director’s assistant, ushered at theatres, and so many things around theatre. When you’re young, you overlook things like music theory and think, “I just want to sing! Now!”. Honing in on the basics is going to help you a lot in your future. Anything, as a young person, you think, “This is boring! I just want to get on stage and perform.” It’s not about being the star, it’s all about the work and training that goes into it.
Lisa: You are so right, and I love hearing that perspective. It sounds like you’ve had some really great influences in your life, anybody in particular that had a great influence on you or held you up when you needed a little boost?
Matthew: One of my first jobs starting out was ushering around theatres. I was lucky enough to usher for In the Heights when it was Off-Broadway and I got to see the way Lin-Manuel Miranda works. That was really inspiring. Not only to see a show reach to the heights that it did, but to be around creative people that are very hardworking. I would sing for Lin-Manuel Miranda and another cast member, Joshua Henry, and they gave me a lot of advice on how to be a professional and what I needed to do to reach the next level. I’ve always looked up to Gavin Creel, another Broadway actor, Norm Lewis, and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
Lisa: We are so excited to welcome you and the rest of the cast of Escape to Margaritaville, which will be performing at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts October 21 through October 24. We have opening night on Thursday, October 21 at 7:30 PM, and the last show is Sunday, October 24 at 6:30 PM. We still have great seats available in the orchestra, and tickets start at just $39. Of course, we’re especially grateful to our sponsor, The Club at Rockland Trust.