New York doesn’t much interest Jared Oxborough. He’s been there, auditioned and watched the blank faces of producers who every day see hundreds of handsome mugs and hear hundreds of lovely voices. Besides, to work in New York would mean living in New York, and Oxborough prefers the clean lakes and fresh air of Minnesota.
So who was fouling the atmosphere at the rehearsal for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre? None other than the man who will play the title role.
“He brought in this cooked broccoli,” said director Michael Brindisi. “He said it stinks, but it’s really good for you.”
Oxborough is all about staying healthy, and he has needed that stamina to keep up with his career. He’s become a go-to guy for Twin Cities area musical theater, with key roles in Theater Latte Da’s “Aida” and “Evita,” and Chanhassen’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.” In between, he’s been at the Guthrie and the Ordway.
Oxborough grew up in Eagan as more of a jock than an actor, playing football, hockey and golf. He still regularly skates (“I have to take it a little easy”) and plays tennis and golf. He showed up for a recent interview in a lightweight track suit, looking more like he was off for a run than a rehearsal.
Although he rarely did theater in high school, Oxborough got noticed for his voice, frequently singing the national anthem at sporting events — when he wasn’t playing.
The summer after graduating from high school, he played Danny Zuko in an Eagan Community Theater production of “Grease.” He liked it, and after a year of mucking around community college, he went to Minnesota State University, Mankato and got his BFA.
Wait a minute. “Grease” and Eagan? Those are words usually associated with Laura Osnes, who leveraged her starring role in Chanhassen’s “Grease” in 2006 to a national career and is now starring in “Cinderella” on Broadway. Osnes and Oxborough were classmates at Eagan High School, and he recalled a cabaret in which they both performed. “She did this tap number and sang ‘Too Darn Hot,’ ” Oxborough said. “She was wearing this little red dress. I can still see that.”
Oxborough has been in high demand as a musical-theater performer since returning to the Twin Cities area from Mankato three years ago. Even before he graduated, he had made the final callback for Latte Da’s 2009 production of “The Full Monty.” He missed out because he was a shade too young, but before long he was playing “The Scarlet Pimpernel” at Bloomington Civic Theatre and joining the chorus of “Beauty and the Beast” at the Ordway.
In 2010, Oxborough got to play the bad boyfriend in “Footloose” at Chanhassen. That fall he went back to Latte Da to play Che in “Evita.”
“Jared is one of those actors that make me lean forward,” said Latte Da’s Peter Rothstein. “He is charismatic but not presentational, captivating but not showy. He is disciplined and works hard to conquer a character from the inside out.”
Oxborough has since sung Judas in Chanhassen’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and performed in two versions of “Forever Plaid.” Last summer he got on the Guthrie stage in the premiere of “Roman Holiday.” In January, he played the key role of Radames in Latte Da’s “Aida” at the Pantages Theatre.
“There’s no shortage of stuff,” he said. “ I’d rather be here working than somewhere else pounding the pavement.”
For all his athleticism, Oxborough steps cautiously around choreographers. His first Chanhassen audition (for “Oklahoma!”) was going well until it was time to run through some dance steps.
“I’m not a dancer; I’m more of a mover,” he said. “I don’t have two left feet, but I’m not doing any triple pirouettes, either.”
Brindisi doesn’t get too concerned about that.
“He moves well and he works very hard,” the director said. “He’s like a sponge when you give him stuff.”
Oxborough has been fortunate enough that he has had to choose between opportunities. He had a chance to do “All Shook Up” at Chanhassen, but he passed up four months of steady employment at fairly decent (for theater) money and went with Latte Da’s “Evita,” a shorter run and a smaller paycheck.
“In my mind at the time, it was the right thing to do,” he said, noting that it isn’t always about money. “Evita” was a high-profile production of a prominent musical, and Oxborough caught the eye of John Miller Stephany, the Guthrie associate artistic director who later directed “Roman Holiday.”
As is the case with most actors, Oxborough has no five-year plan, or goals beyond finding the next job after “Joseph.”
When the subject of nonmusical theater is brought up, he grimaces for a second. He’s trying, he says, auditioning for straight plays, indie films. He would love to dig into some Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee, but the opportunity hasn’t arisen.
“He’s a good actor, but he’s a great actor when he’s singing,” Brindisi said. “The biggest thing with Jared is that he’s easy to love, he’s a good human being and he projects that from the stage.”
Even when he’s cooking broccoli.