Broadway Actor’s Message to Brackman Thespians: ‘Have Fun’

Jun 12, 2019
Supplied Photo FROM THE GREAT WHITE WAY: Actor John Cudia (standing at rear center) and drama teacher Patty Clark Brescia (far right) celebrate with Brackman Junior High School students who won school theater arts honors at the 2019 N.J. Jr. Thespians Festival.

A “phantom” appeared at the Russell O. Brackman Middle School in Barnegat Township on June 6, but he was more of the Broadway musical variety.

From 2008 to 2010, John Cudia played the title role at Broadway’s Majestic Theater. His good friend Patty Clark Brescia, whom he acted with in the Ocean County College theater group, invited him to speak to her drama students at Brackman. The young thespians, whom Brescia calls her “Dramallamas,” won various honors at last month’s N.J. Jr. Thespian Festival with their production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” So as a little reward, she thought the youngsters would be especially thrilled to meet a real Broadway star.

Before his talk, Cudia, a graduate of Monsignor Donovan (Now Donovan Catholic) in Toms River, warmed up with two selections fromSouth Pacific,” “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Younger Than Springtime.”

“Richard Rodgers’ music and Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics is the best song and lyrics combination I’ve ever heard, and I think many would agree,” he said.

Cudia said the two tunes he performed are examples of “discovery songs,” a method often used by the famed duo. The performer said the songs’ lyrics are relating to a story unfolding at that very time in the musical.

“The singer isn’t just singing about falling in love,” Cudia said. “He’s singing about falling in love right at that moment.”

Cudia’s advice to the drama group was “to have fun.”

“These are the easiest times,” he said. “It’s not like you’re under any pressure to be successful. So learn about the theater and have fun doing it.”

He said that whatever you do in life, “you always bring yourself with you.”

“If you’re someone who gets along with your colleagues and enjoys what you do, that’s going to show up,” he said. “If you have bad attitudes, that’s going to show up, too. You can’t get away from yourself.”

Cudia holds the distinct honor of being the first and only actor to have performed both as the The Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” and Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” on Broadway. Cudia is one of 12 performers to play the title role Phantom in its historic, record-breaking 32-year run.

Prior to doing the role on Broadway, Cudia played Jean Valjean at the Marriott Theater in Chicago, where his performance earned him the Joseph Jefferson Award for “best actor in a musical.”

Cudia’s third Broadway credit was portraying Juan Peron in “Evita” with Ricky Martin as Che. Cudia also portayed the Phantom with a national touring company. In regional theater, he has played both Emile Debecque and Lt. Cable in “South Pacific,” Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Tony in “West Side Story.”

When not under the stage lights, Cudia performs as an operatic tenor and has worked with various symphony orchestras in the United States and Canada.

Growing up in Toms River, Cudia said he couldn’t recall “a light bulb” moment when he wanted to pursue acting and singing.

“It seems like it has always been a part of me,” he said. “All I know is that there was nothing else I wanted to do.”

— Eric Englund

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