Broadway World Interviews: Jonah Verdon of DISASTER!
There are a lot of talented child actors, but occasionally you spot one who really is exceptional and you predict will go far. Disaster! The Musical, now playing at St. Luke's Theatre, got favorable reviews, and critics were impressed with 13-year-old Jonah Verdon (right), who plays boy and girl twins Ben and Lisa. Duncan Pfaster of Broadwayworld.com wrote, "Verdon is remarkable, as a child actor who can sing, be funny, and play two roles." But don't just take our word for it. The New York Times added "The young Jonah Verdon brilliantly captures the feisty cuteness of the kids who populated '70s movies and television shows, playing boy-girl twins." Entertainment Weekly exclaimed that "young actor Jonah Verdon riotously plays both roles." The New York Post raved, "Kudos, especially, to young Jonah Verdon, who plays two siblings and switches from one to the other at breakneck speed." Now Broadwayworld.com wants to know more about this promising young actor.
BWW: Surely you were not familiar with the songs of the 70s or the disaster movies of the time. What did you think about when you got this role? Did you understand that those movies and songs were huge hits?
My family loved music. Whenever we had cleaning days, we played this music. When I got this role, I was really excited about it. It was life changing. I was incredibly lucky to reply to a tweet to get the audition [for Diaster! The Musical].
BWW: Who sent out the tweet?
Seth Rudetsky sent out the tweet.
BWW: Are you, by any chance, related to the legendary Broadway performer, Gwen Verdon? Is anyone else in your family a performer?
Family legend has it is that she is a distant cousin... but I don't think anyone knows her. My dad's uncle is an actor. My uncle is a saxophonist.
BWW: How did you get into acting? How old were you at the time?
When I was four years old, my mother took me to see Cathy Rigby. I thought, "This is cool!" When I was five years old, my first performance was The Lion and the Mouse [based on] Aesop's Fables at our neighborhood library.
BWW: Did you grow up seeing a lot of theatre? What are your favorite shows?
I have seen a ton of theatre. I like them all for a variety of reasons. I went to a talkback for Peter and the Starcatcher[with] Celia Keenan-Bolger. She said to see any show. I've seen Chicago, Rent, Thirteen. I really liked Pippin.
BWW: Which actors inspire you the most?
I'm lucky to know so many friendly people in the business. It's hard to find someone who isn't friendly...There are many experts in their own careers who give back to the community. Seth and Jack are major inspirations now. Even before Disaster! I had amazing mentors like Leslie Stifelman, the Musical Director of Chicago, who I met at Carnegie HallMusical Exchange. Nicholas Rodriguez [of] Broadway Dreams Foundation. Lynn Stallings at the Atlanta Workshop Players. (Jonah is originally from Atlanta, but now lives in New York City.)
BWW: Tell us about your role and experience in the movie, Parental Guidance.
My acting school, Atlanta Workshop Players, scouted me for the lead boy. It was my first film audition ever. They gave me the script. I memorized a ton of lines in a large script [and] I had to do it with a stutter. It was my very first time auditioning. "Wow," I thought. "This is cool." I didn't get it. Then two months later, they emailed me "Do you want to be featured in a movie?" I learned how to film scenes. I spent a whole day with Billy Crystal. I was in the scene at his speech class.
BWW: What was your favorite role?
My favorite, favorite role, is playing Ben and Lisa. Getting to play twins and having all the fun with comedy and all the amazing songs - I really love it.
BWW: What's your favorite type of music?
I love musical theatre. You can sing along no matter what type of person you are. Each and every one tells a story.
BWW: Where do you go to school? What's your favorite subject?
I am on an online school. That means I can do it anytime. I like science I like inventing and creating things.
BWW: Tell us about your duct tape sculptures.
I have all these invention things and started making things with duct tape. I started with wallets.
Now it's 100 percent duct tape and nothing else - purses to hats.
BWW: Is your sole goal to remain a performer or will duct tape sculpting be your fallback career?
I hope I'll be able to continue my career, but I like science and technology, too. One thing I've learned from my awesome mentors. You don't know where the road will take you, so you need to keep on learning everything.
BWW: What else would you like people to know about you?
I am thankful for all the chances I've been given so far. Ever step feels like the best in the world.