One of the stars of the upcoming production of The Who’s Tommy, Douglas Crawford has been working as a professional actor, singer, and director for nearly 20 years. Douglas made his Broadway debut playing “Kenickie” in Tommy Tune’s enormously successful revival of Grease (the role he originated for the show’s First National Tour). You may have seen Douglas at the Ahmanson in the award-winning First National Tour of Jersey Boys, or more recently in Jekyll & Hyde up in Thousand Oaks. Douglas has also originated starring roles in two World Premiere musicals in Las Vegas, performed opposite Ted Neeley, Ben Vereen, and Jack Black in Jesus Christ Superstar, and starred in countless regional theater productions. You may have caught one of Douglas’ appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Soon he will begin shooting a starring role in the indie romantic comedy Cowgrrrls.  We are grateful to Douglas for sitting down during breaks from rehearsing Tommy and answering our questions about his exciting career.  Trust me, this is one of StageSceneLA’s best interviews, ever!

Hi Douglas, and thanks for taking the time to talk with us.  Growing up, when did you first think about an acting career?  

To be honest, I have been performing for as long as I can remember! Growing up in Columbus, Ohio (and, later, in Tulsa, Oklahoma), I was very blessed to have parents that supported the arts and always took my older sister, Pam, and I to the theater. We would often make trips to New York City around the holidays and do the five-shows-in-three-days-kind of weekend. For me, as a child, the theater was an extraordinary and magical place where dreams became realities live in front of me! 

What kind of music did you listen to as a family?

My parents were older so there wasn’t a lot of rock-n-roll in their record collection, but they did own a lot of Broadway cast albums including Jesus Christ Superstar—the record that changed everything for me! Here was this amazing, emotional story being told through blazing guitars and raw, soaring vocals! My two great passions—theater and rock music—combined. Soon after, my sister, Pam, introduced me to Queen, Journey, Foreigner, Styx—great bands with amazing  rock-tenor lead singers. I quickly discovered acting and singing rock-n-roll were fantastic ways to meet and impress cute girls! 

How old were you when you first performed on stage?

When I was in first grade, I made my stage debut in the Bexley High School Talent show. To my knowledge I was the youngest performer to ever achieve that honor. I sang Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.” I know, not exactly a rock classic, but, for whatever reason, I loved that song as a kid. I went on stage in my little cowboy boots and hat and, when I finished the song and heard the applause that erupted from the packed auditorium, the die was cast! 

What happened next?

I started doing community theater shows, commercials, shows in school, and, eventually, gave up playing football to take Theater my senior year in high-school (which in Oklahoma was not a popular decision)! I loved football (and still do) and my high-school, Jenks, is a perennial football power in the state of Oklahoma, but the reality was, I was never going to make it into the NFL. I did believe, however, I had the abilities and desire to make a career in the theater. Although I loved musical theater, I wanted to be taken seriously as an actor. 

I suppose that you decided to major in theater, right?

I auditioned for and was accepted into the Theater Department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, which, at the time, had some of the most distinguished and incredible teachers in the country. There I studied Shakespeare, Chekhov, Pinter, Mamet, and, even, got to work with the late Arthur Miller on a production of his play, The Crucible! 

That was the first play I ever acted in, in high school. What an amazing experience that must have been for you!  What next?

I spent my spring breaks in New York auditioning for whatever I could get into and my summers doing Summer Stock. My affection for musicals, however, was not truly appreciated back in the hallowed halls of the Meadows School of the Arts. Fortunately, resident theater-god and professor extraordinaire, Dale Moffitt, also, championed musical theater and supported my campaign to make it relevant in such a classically-oriented program. For my senior year at S.M.U. the department gave in and produced The Threepenny Opera directed by Andre DeSheilds and conducted by fellow student and music major Kimberly Grigsby, who’s gone onto great success as a Musical Director on Broadway. 

Did your efforts have any long term effects on the school?

Actually, I am very proud to say the next year (after I graduated, of course) the department brought in Stephen Sondheim and, shortly thereafter, established an entire musical theater program…so, perhaps, I left my mark on the school I loved so dearly! With my B.F.A. in hand I was off to New York City to pursue my Broadway dreams! 

You’ve been on Broadway in Grease and on First National Tours including the recent Jersey Boys.  Can you compare the two experiences?

First of all, I feel so blessed to have had both of those opportunities! There is so much talent in this country and the competition is constantly intense, whether auditioning for a Broadway show or a CLO, so I am, truly, grateful for every job I’ve booked knowing that there are so many equally if not more talented individuals that would kill to be doing what I get to do. 

That’s why I’m always so thrilled whenever any of my theater gets cast in anything.  It’s a tough life!

Grease was my first production contract, creating the role of “Kenickie” for the First National Tour, and provided me with my Broadway debut when the role opened up in New York, so it will always have such a special place in my heart!

Douglas (as Kenickie) and Joely Fisher and Beth Lipari

To this day, my greatest memory is seeing both my parents crying in the house of the Eugene O’Neill Theater as they so proudly watched their son realize his childhood dream! 

How long were you in Grease?

I did the show for nearly three years—went through nineteen “Rizzo”s, I think, and had the time of my life! Thank God for Grease, really, because, for about ten years, it WAS my career. I’ve done ten productions of that show—evenly splitting between the roles of “Danny” and “Kenickie”. It was a cold shot reality when auditions began for the latest Broadway revival and I was asked to come in for “Vince Fontaine”!?! Though I can’t really play a high-school student anymore, I think I’d rather keep my memories restricted to those days when I could, you know.  

Any similarities between Grease and Jersey Boys?

I can’t really compare Grease with Jersey Boys—one has a script co-written by an Oscar winning screenwriter and the other one was…well, pink—but, I can say that both shows provided me the opportunity to feel like a rock-star! The reactions both of those shows received on a nightly basis was nothing short of earth-shattering! Whereas Grease was a non-stop blitzkrieg of dazzling production numbers and vocal pyrotechnics, Jersey Boys is such a beautifully crafted, almost cinematic, play. Both shows became such phenomenal successes on their own terms, but, ultimately, I think, had one thing in common—they provided audiences with a great ride! Not to be redundant, but, again, it was an honor and a privilege to be a part of both of those productions! Being on Broadway and getting paid to see the world (touring) are immeasurable gifts that I will be forever grateful for.
I got to see you in Jersey Boys as one of the “boys,” Nick Massi, and you were great, by the way!   Are there any special challenges in going on as an understudy?

Never having been a swing before, that contract challenged me and forced me to grow as an actor and as a person in ways I’d never, previously, experienced. I was the last cast member hired after rehearsals had already begun in New York. In fact, I was doing Man of La Mancha at the Rubicon in Ventura when my dear friend (and Tommy DeVito in the cast), Deven May, called me to tell me he had pitched me to Des and thought I would be the perfect fit for a need they had in their company.

Deven May and Douglas

I flew to New York on my day off with really long, blonde hair, a full beard and mustache, and thinking there was no way in hell this mid-western guy was going to be cast in “Jersey Boys”…I’m not even Catholic!?! 

Obviously you were wrong about that!

Yes.   Des loved my readings and versatility, and once La Mancha finished, I shaved, cut the hair short, dyed it dark brown, and was off to San Francisco to join the company on their first day of tech, there. I felt like the new kid at school—nervous and excited—and actually laughed at Tripp Phillips (the Production Stage Manager) when he told me I’d be covering six tracks! He wasn’t kidding. It was the hardest I’ve ever had to work—already being five weeks behind the rest of the company and having to learn, practically, the entire show in the house while the cast teched on stage! 

I can’t even imagine what a challenge that must have been for you!

I take away a strong sense of pride knowing that I did, in fact, learn those tracks, and, in doing so, earned the trust of my company so that, at any given moment, if I were to be thrown into the mix, everyone was confident that the show would go on without missing a beat. The support, praise, and love I received from each member of that company constantly kept me at the top of my game. 

Was it frustrating for you to have to sit backstage show after show?

It was, definitely. Performing is our life force and being in the theater night after night and not being on stage was difficult for me. Once I knew the show and had performed in front of those fantastic (and vocal) Jersey Boys audiences, it was hard to give it up. We had weekly understudy rehearsals, but, because there weren’t enough of us to fill every role, we never were able to focus on one track. What I missed was the sense of owning the performance. 

Did you get to go on often?

At best, if an actor I covered went on vacation, I’d get four shows in a row, and the other cover would perform the other half of the week. The work became more “technical” (for lack of a better word)—hitting the marks, nailing the vocals and choreography, and maintaining the performance that had been established by the actor I was on for. Although I loved my opportunities to perform that show, I rarely felt I was giving “my” performance, if that makes any sense?!?  


I never had to jump in mid-show, but that possibility always existed meaning, those of us backstage, had to maintain show energy and focus whether or not we were on. I have such a new-found respect for swings, covers, and stand-bys—it is not an easy task…and, in some ways, a thankless one. In spite of that, I am thankful my first swing experience was in Jersey Boys and that I know that show as well as I do. I just filled-in last month in the Chicago Company (after not having done the show in nine months), went on a lot, and had a great time!

Las Vegas isn’t primarily known as a theater town, yet you’ve done two musicals there (We Will Rock You, Notre Dame De Paris). How does your Las Vegas experience compare with doing theater in other towns?

As Pop in We Will Rock You and as Quasimodo in Notre Dame de Paris with Mark Smith & Jessica Grove

I had a blast living and working in Vegas! Notre Dame De Paris and We Will Rock You were, both, enormous shows and provided me that rare opportunity to originate a leading role. Working in Vegas reminded me of working in New York—you, definitely, felt you were a part of an entertainment community in that you came to know so many performers from other shows. John Holly, former AEA Western Regional Director, credits Notre Dame for pioneering, if you will, the creation of the Equity Casino Contract that Equity members now work under out there. 

Was Notre Dame a hit there?

Despite a beautiful story (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame), an amazing rock score, unbelievable choreography, lighting, and sets, and an enormously talented international cast, Notre Dame was not a good show for Vegas audiences and, thus, didn’t last too long. 

What about We Will Rock You?

I’m pretty proud of our 15 month run of We Will Rock You—considering we lasted longer than great shows like Hairspray and Avenue Q! It’s hard to know what’s going to work out there. Rock You, certainly, wasn’t Shakespeare, but was an awfully good time and contained the indisputably powerful music of Queen. I have to admit, playing the role of “Pop” was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had. If that show were still running, I might still be out there—it was that much fun! It’s too early to say, but I have every reason to believe that “Jersey Boys” is going to have a long run on The Strip—that show just seems perfect for the Vegas audiences. I’m thrilled that more and more shows are being produced in Vegas with Broadway/Equity talent—I hope that experiment continues and productions like Jersey Boys and Phantom can continue to hold their own in an otherwise Cirque-dominated market. 

I assume you’d be glad to go back, correct?

If the right show/role/offer came up, I’d move back to Sin City in a heartbeat.
Of all the musical theater stars you’ve performed opposite, which one made the strongest impression on you? 

Throughout my career, I have had that great pleasure of working with some phenomenal creative geniuses. You use the word “stars” and many have been—in every sense of the word. Working with them allows you to get to know them for the creative, and passionate, and vulnerable, and giving, living, loving human beings they are—beyond their “celebrity”. They’re still just people, you know. For the most part, I’ve always gotten along beautifully with them, enjoyed our time on and off stage together, and learned so much from being around them! It’s important to note, here, the things I have learned from these performers go beyond the “craft”—some of the best life-lessons I’ve been taught have been passed on to me or demonstrated by these extraordinary talents! 

Names, we want names!

I don’t want to “name drop” nor do I wish to single out one artist who “made the strongest impression” on me (that would be too difficult), but I will give you a couple of examples. Ted Neeley (star of Jesus Christ Superstar) has the most remarkable dedication to his fans—he will not leave a theater until he has taken the time to visit (not just sign an autograph or take a picture) with every fan who wishes to meet him. If that’s not enough, he remembers the names of these fans even if it has been YEARS since he last saw them!!! His generosity and genuineness is mind-blowing! Likewise, for anyone who has ever had the pleasure of working with Sally Struthers, they know it’s true when I say she, truly, becomes the adoptive mother to everyone in the company, be they cast, crew, musician, or an usher at the theater. What a beautiful, loving soul she is and, in my opinion, a vastly under-rated actress! I could spend hours praising the countless creative individuals who have deeply and profoundly touched my life, but I mention these two only to point out the fact that (like so many others) their immeasurable talents are only exceeded by their immeasurable hearts—to me, that’s what makes them “stars”!
Why do you think L.A. gets a bad rap as a theater town?  What would you say to its detractors?

I’d, probably, direct those detractors to, where you, my friend, are doing as much as anyone to positively promote theater in this town. 

Thank you!

Let’s face it—Los Angeles is a city built around the film and television industry. Perhaps, the mystique of the theater is lost a bit in a town where you might see George Clooney at a Starbucks!?! To those who say L.A. audiences are quiet and less involved, however, I’d merely mention that they obviously didn’t see Jersey Boys at the Ahmanson! I think it’s fantastic that more shows (like Wicked) are enjoying long and profitable runs, here. There are some amazing theaters in this city and no shortage of tremendous talent! I’m encouraged that more and more original pieces are being developed, birthed, produced, and succeeding on, at least, some levels here. From humble origins, here, in town, shows like Bat Boy and Bare (to name a couple) have gone onto incredible success in New York and beyond. To be honest, theater is a risky venture anywhere, but I do believe the environment is improving in Los Angeles. Just because L.A. may not be considered a “theater town” does not mean there isn’t great theater in L.A.

I’m so glad to hear you say that!  Are there any special rewards to doing TV and film work?

Yeah, the money’s fantastic!!! I, also, think you get to reach a larger audience which, in truth, can provide you the opportunity to gain more “recognition” and, in turn, open up some more doors. It is, however, a different craft. Sitcoms feel a bit more like live theater if they are taped before a studio audience. Still, as an actor, you don’t have that experience of taking the journey, uninterrupted, from start to finish. I would, honestly, love to do more film and TV, but nothing will ever replace the high I get from doing live theater! That being said, I did just book my first lead in a feature film. 


In September I begin shooting the indie romantic comedy, Cowgrrls, (think Sex in the City meets City Slickers), where I will be playing the role of “Bart”, a blind horse rancher. It’s a great script and I’m really looking forward to getting to work on it.
Tell us about appearing with Jay Leno multiple times on the Tonight Show?  What makes those appearances memorable to you?

It’s “The Tonight Show”—it’s iconic! I’ve been lucky enough to be on a few times (either singing back-up for the musical guest or doing a number from a show). Jay is always very gracious to his guests and, each time (in my experience anyway), has made a point to introduce himself. It’s great to do something that my friends and family can see practically anywhere in the world. It’s also pretty cool just saying, “I’m going to be on The Tonight Show this week”!

How does the experience of doing a great First National Tour compare with a short run in something as outstanding as the recent Jekyll & Hyde?

The bottom line is, for me, great gigs rarely have anything to do with salary or the length of the contract. Obviously, there is more time with a tour to rehearse the show, make discoveries, find the rhythm, and settle into the performance. A great director, however, is going to guide the production to those levels no matter what the circumstances are. In the case of Jekyll & Hyde (at Cabrillo Music Theater), our director, Nick DeGruccio, assembled an incredible cast and creative team, did his homework, and captained our ship with a focused vision and an openness to allow the company to create a version of the show that hadn’t been seen before. I not only applaud him but, also, our producers, who took a chance and mounted a show some would consider risky for a company that, usually, presents more traditional, mainstream works. 

That production was truly in a class by itself.

Harkening back to your question about the state of theater in Southern California, shows like Jekyll & Hyde, the consistent standard of excellence coming from smaller companies like the Rubicon, and the A-list caliber of talent being assembled for shows at Reprise are all great indications of the changing dynamic of how we perceive theater, here, in Los Angeles. As long as audiences continue to support these productions, there is no reason to believe that L.A.’s theater scene won’t continue to make a name for itself as being among the best and most exciting in the country!
So, how excited are you about the upcoming The Who’s Tommy?  

I am thrilled to “be a part of the awakening” and, currently, in rehearsals for The Who’s Tommy! Are you kidding me—what a dream to go to work each day and hear this classic rock album come to life and have the opportunity to sing and make out with the incomparable Alice Ripley as her “Lover”!?! Once again, I feel so blessed! It’s with tremendous pride that I tell you rehearsals are going great and, I’m sure, we’re about to rock some people’s worlds! For me, being a part of this production of Tommy has brought me some beautiful closure on what was, up until now, a long, unfulfilled history I’ve had with this show. 

What do you mean?

Tommy was nearly my Broadway debut all those years ago, and it is so rewarding to be able to be a part of it, now, at this point in my life! Kudos to emerging producer/director Brian Purcell for, not only having the balls to take on this massive show, but, more importantly, doing it with such passion, conviction, and innovation! There is a palpable energy at the Ricardo Montalban these days that only comes from the shared excitement of everyone involved with this production!

What makes this Tommy different from other past productions?

This is going to be a “Tommy” that no one has seen or HEARD before! We’re introducing a 3-D surround sound package (where each member of the audience is going to have their own earphones at their seats) that has never been attempted with a piece of live theater before! I assure you, you can’t imagine how exciting it will be to experience this “Amazing Journey” in this fashion! What a thrill to be doing a show like this in a way that is, truly, groundbreaking! I wish I had more stage time, but, the truth is, I would be sweeping the stage if that were the only way to be a part of this production. 

What roles are you playing?

I get to play several different characters throughout the piece, which is always exciting and challenging for me, the actor. Brian has put together an extraordinary company and I would encourage your readers to GET YOUR TICKETS NOW because this all-too-brief run promises to be one of those events that people are going to be talking about for years to come!  Audiences are going to be blown away by what they’re going to experience—even, more so, when you consider just how quickly this has all come together. Whether you’re a fan of the original album, Des McAnuff’s thrilling Broadway staging, or have never seen the show before, you will not be disappointed. I can’t say enough about this particular group of people or the potential for this show with its combined creative talents…wow! To say anymore would be to risk giving too much away—besides, words won’t do it justice. Come check us out—you’ll thank me later!

Anything else you want to say to our readers?

I would just like to thank you, Steven, for asking for this interview and allowing me to share some of my thoughts and experiences with your readers. Hopefully, it has been informative and entertaining. Thank you, as well, for all you are doing for theater, here, in Los Angeles! 

You’re very welcome, and thank you for being indeed VERY informative and entertaining!

I am so grateful to make a living doing what I most love to do and to have had the opportunities I have had in my life! In so many ways I feel I am getting to live the life others only dream of. I couldn’t enjoy this privilege, however, without the unending support and love of my family and friends, who believe in me, teach me, and inspire me every day! With hard work (and, honestly, a whole lot of luck), I hope to continue to be a part of this glorious industry for years to come! 

What’s up next?

Keep your eyes and ears open for a new, rock musical, The Existents—my first foray in writing a show (along with my dear friends and gifted talents, Ty Taylor and Jason Wooten)!


After garnering overwhelming responses to our reading in New York and our concert at the legendary Whisky A Go Go (on the Sunset Strip) last fall, I am thrilled to announce we have been given our first official workshop at the Theater for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, North Carolina next February! 

Congratulations! That’s great news!

For more information about our show, and to hear songs from the score and see clips from our concert, check us out and let us know what you think! Okay, enough with the shameless plug! 

You have every right to be shameless and to plug!

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to read this and continued success, blessings, fun, love, health, hope, and happiness to you all! I’ll look forward to seeing you at Tommy and I’ll leave you with this thought—never stop believing dreams do come true!

Thank you, Douglas!

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