Interview With John O'Hurley, Appearing In 'Chicago' At The Fabulous Fox

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

James Brown is in serious jeopardy of losing his title as the hardest working man in show business. John O’Hurley—who exploded into the public consciousness with his role as Elaine’s boss J. Peterman on “Seinfeld”—has since performed in or produced nearly every form of artistic expression there is, and he’s done it in hyperdrive.

John O'Hurley will appear in Chicago at The Fox Theater, Sept. 20-22, 2013

John O’Hurley will appear in Chicago at The Fox Theater, Sept. 20-22, 2013. Photo courtesy of Fox Theatre.

Hurley has acted in movies, voiced cartoon characters, hosted game shows, danced on television, sung with orchestras, composed and produced acclaimed classical music albums, written two books and become the go-to actor for the roles of King Arthur in “Spamalot,” and Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” which he will reprise at the Fabulous Fox Theatre Sept. 20-22.

"Chicago" will performed at The Fox Theater Sept. 20-22, 2013

“Chicago” will performed at The Fox Theater Sept. 20-22, 2013. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

We had a chance to speak with O’Hurley about his life before Seinfeld, his many artistic endeavors, and what he thinks of St. Louis.

ALIVE: You entered the public consciousness with “Seinfeld,” but 20 years prior, you graduated from Providence College with a BA in Theatre. Fill us in on your life prior to landing the “Seinfeld” gig.

O’Hurley: I was afraid of the business, so I instead went right into advertising after college for 15 years, then decided to go for it. I moved to New York, got a room in an SRO hotel, and got my first job on Broadway 48 hours later. I never looked back.

ALIVE: On “Seinfeld” from 1995 to 1998, you played a fictionalized version of the catalog-company entrepreneur, John Peterman. Now you’re a part-owner of the company. How did that come about?

O’Hurley: The real J. Peterman and I became friends doing “Seinfeld” because we were connected at the wrist. Their company was very successful all through the “Seinfeld” run, but a couple of years afterwards they got into some financial difficulties. John called me and suggested we relaunch the company using both of our skill sets. I got in. The company is doing great and I’m on the board.

ALIVE: You’re a self-taught pianist and classically-trained vocalist. Your first CD, “Peace of Our Minds,” a collaboration of piano compositions with world-renowned cellist Marston Smith, debuted at #13 on Billboard. How did the CD come about?

O’Hurley: I always played at home and for guests when they came over, and everybody said, “you should make an album.” So I did. I just got lucky when I found Marston Smith. It changed his life too. He found a new way of playing the cello while making the album that he had never used before. The second album did even better.

ALIVE: Any plans for a new album?

O’Hurley: Absolutely. I’m composing constantly and will definitely be recording more. I’m just so busy.

ALIVE: You are an actor, writer, singer, musician, voice-over artist, dancer, motivational speaker, composer and musician. Is there one artistic outlet you prefer or is variety the spice of life?

O’Hurley: To tell the truth, I enjoy writing books and composing, because it’s all me up there. It’s my words. My music.

"Chicago" will play at The Fox Sept. 20-22, 2013.

“Chicago” will play at The Fox Sept. 20-22, 2013. Photo by Paul Kolnik

ALIVE: What do you think of the character you play in “Chicago,” Billy Flynn?

O’Hurley: I think he is a fascinating character, one of the great characters of American Musical Theater. I love playing him. I think one thing that most people miss with him is he has a nurturing side. It just pops out quickly, but it adds a new dimension to him. I’ve played him more than any other person.

ALIVE: What is coming up for you? Working on any big projects?

O’Hurley: I have a new book coming out, a children’s book that I wrote for my daughter that will be available on Amazon with my other books.

ALIVE: Not only are you the voice of St. Louis radio station The Arch (106.5), you recently spent a couple of weeks in St. Louis rehearsing and performing in “Spamalot” at the Muny. While you were in town, were there any restaurants that you were particularly fond of?

O’Hurley: I stayed at the Chase and I loved that whole area over there. I love Scape. Every night before the show I’d have spaghetti and meatballs and a glass of wine. They have the best spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve been looking for it my whole life. I love St. Louis and I love performing here. Everybody has such a sense of pride in their institutions and appreciation for a good performance. It’s becoming like a second home to me.

“Chicago” plays at the Fox Sept. 20-22, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm and 6:30pm. For tickets and information visit the “Chicago the Musical” website, or call the Fox box office at (314) 534-1111.

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