Actor, writer and musician Jonah Platt comes from a celebrated theater family. While his Pikesville-born-and-bred father, Marc, is an Academy Award-nominated and Tony Award-winning producer – for “La La Land” and “Wicked,” respectively – his younger brother, Ben, starred in the “Pitch Perfect” movies and won the Tony for the title role in “Dear Evan Hansen.”
But Jonah Platt, who on March 3 performs at Owings Mills’ Gordon Center for Performing Arts, is no slouch himself. Some of his career highlights include appearances on the TV shows “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.” He also played the role of Fiyero in “Wicked,” which earned him a spot in Broadway.com’s “2015 Sexiest Man Alive” competition.
Part of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore’s second annual “J Live at the Gordon” fundraising gala, Platt’s appearance with his band marks the East Coast premiere of his first solo show, a musical revue that includes both new and traditional songs interspersed with anecdotes about “growing up Platt” and comedy.
Proceeds from the appearance will benefit need-based scholarships for children, teens and families at the JCC.
The Los Angeles-born Platt, 31, recently spoke with Jmore about what it’s like to perform in Baltimore, his career and how he finds balance in life.
Jmore: Tell us about your show.
Platt: There will be some original stuff but there will also be some songs people have heard, and I promise that they will all be entertaining. My band is awesome. It is a bunch of fantastic musicians out of L.A., and we are going to make sure everyone has a great time.
It’s a fun opportunity for me to share all the different genres and styles that I love to perform. It’s especially exciting to me to be in Baltimore because my family is from there. So to get to perform for them and a community that I have visited so many times throughout my life makes this extra special. It’s really sort of like a home away from home.
Standout Baltimore memories?
When I go, it’s usually for a bar mitzvah, a holiday or to visit my grandparents. But I have handful of great memories, like going to Camden Yards or going paddle-boating on the harbor. I went to college in Philadelphia, so I got to go to Baltimore all the time for High Holidays. There is no shul where I spent more time [with the exception of his home synagogue in L.A.] than Chizuk Amuno. I have been there a million times.
Favorite Jewish song?
Two just popped into my head. Actually three!
One of them I am not going to share with you because I am playing it at the concert, so that will have to be a surprise. My favorite song from the [synagogue] liturgy is “Avinu Malkeinu,” that classic, very majestic, awe-inspiring tune. As a musician, it is my favorite chord progression. And then, when I was in the fifth-grade choir, I went to Jewish day school and we did a song called, “Zechinor David.” That was my first time as a kid getting to sing a song that was not a prayer in Hebrew that was not a song about a holiday. It was like a cool, upbeat, edgy Hebrew rock pop song.
Future career goals?
I would love to originate a role in a Broadway show. That’s up there. I would love to be some part of selling an original series to television or for streaming, and I would love to have a lead role in a film that has a wide release. I shot an independent film this summer, but I would love to have a wide release studio film.
You seem perfect. Any flaws?
You should be asking my wife [professional dancer and actress Courtney Galiano]. She would have a million. Here’s a flaw: I am so detail-oriented, and I am shocked when people have not paid attention to [details]. So sometimes I can come off as some kind of a madman without realizing it.
For example, I texted my wife and said, “Can you pick up paper plates?” And she came home with plastic plates. She said, “I assumed when you said, ‘Can you get me paper plates?’ you just meant disposable plates, and I got you the nicest ones they had.” And I said, “Babe, I love you but if I wanted plastic plates, I would have texted, ‘Please bring home plastic plates.’” To me, it was a no-brainer. I guess I am a weirdo in that way.
You’re a pretty driven person. How do you decompress?
It’s tough. I am actively working on finding more balance. Right now, I know what I am doing all of March, I know what I am doing all of May and I know what I am doing all of June. So that allows me some breathing space. But it is really tough if I do not know what my next job is. It is very hard to feel like I should not be working all the time. If I am not moving toward something, I feel like I am not moving toward anything.
Which again is about finding a balance, because that is not the greatest way to live. Having a wife has definitely helped me with the need to balance that out more, because there is a partner there who says, “Hey, can you come sit down on the couch for 10 minutes?” Which is a good thing.
For information about “JLive at the Gordon” featuring Jonah Platt & Friends, visit jcc.org/gordon-center.
Platt will also appear in NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live” on April 1 at 8 p.m.
Ira Gewanter is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an account executive with Jmore.
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