"What a lot of people don't know," actor Jason Alexander tells us, "is that I'm an old song-and-dance man." (And if we believe his biography, he's also a director, producer, teacher, poker player, magician and author.) Set for a three-day run with the Houston Symphony in Jason Alexander: An Evening of Comedy and Song, the actor, best known for his role as George Costanza on the television series Seinfeld, says he knows audiences come in expecting George to sing and dance. "The audience comes in thinking it's going to be George and it's my job to say 'Hi, I'm the guy who played George, now watch this.' It's my job to make them forget about George Costanza and leave the [concert hall] with a new view of Jason Alexander."
His Houston show will be his Texas symphonic debut; he's done a handful of others. In the late 1990s, he appeared with the Boston Symphony, then played Carnegie Hall and then ... took an 18-year hiatus. "Out of the blue the Pops called again, so we built a new show."
The "we" Alexander is referring to includes music director Todd Schroeder. The two men worked out a general approach to each song. A team of arrangers stepped in and orchestrated the music. Surprisingly, Alexander won't hear the final orchestrations until he arrives in Houston a day before his first show. "I kinda know what they're supposed to be but I won't hear them until I get to Houston so I'll hear them the day before you hear them."
Each song in the show holds a special meaning to Alexander. "All of the music in the show is there for a reason other than 'Oh boy, that would be fun to sing.' Altogether it tells one big long story."
Many of the songs are tunes that Alexander knows he would never get to sing on stage. "I do an entire medley of some of the great Broadway music [from shows] that nobody would ever cast me in," Alexander laughs. "It's made up of songs I'll never get to sing in a show. No one would cast me as Pippin, the reason Pippin is in my show is because it had a major impact on my life somehow."
The program allows Alexander to pay homage to the shows and music that influenced him. It also lets him live out a fantasy. "There's a new piece in the Houston show that lets me live out a fantasy I've never been able to do. [The show's] basically talking about how and why I love theater music and how and why theater music impacted my life. But before I found theater music, there was one rock and roll guy that I just wanted to be and thankfully they made a musical out of his music, so I get to do parts of that show in mine. I get to be Billy Joel for a few minutes. It's a medley of three of his songs and I can't wait to put on a leather jacket and pretend that I'm Billy Joel."
See Jason Alexander: An Evening of Comedy and Song at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713‑224‑7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $35 to $139.
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