September 24, 2010

Finding joy in the spotlight…

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment at 1:11 am by dinaheng

Whenever the stage lights shine, Erich Bergen’s face lights up with joy.

The best performers love entertaining others more than, well… anything, and Bergen proved himself a hit with audiences who loved him in the role of Bob Gaudio in the Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys” in the National Tour and Las Vegas companies.

After three years of being a Jersey Boy, Bergen has struck out on his own with a new club act, CD and a role in the musical “Venice,” which opens October 7 at the Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, Calif.

“After three years of doing the show every night, it was time to leave,” says Bergen, who recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue more than a musical theater career. “I love being in great productions, whether it’s theater, film, or television. There is nothing like being on stage in front of 2,500 people, or seeing your face on the television screen. I just love performing.”

Bergen’s first solo CD, “The Vegas Sessions,” features recordings of several pop songs that he penned, along with live tracks recorded during three Las Vegas appearances at the Liberace Museum last year. The album will be available October 1 on Amazon.com, iTunes, and other digital music outlets.

While in Vegas, the young performer co-produced, directed and served as musical director for “Las Vegas Celebrates the Music of Michael Jackson,” a benefit concert done in tribute to Bergen’s childhood idol that raised $118,000 for music education in Nevada public schools.

“People are always surprised when I tell them that I’m 24,” Bergen says. “I’ve been friends with older people all my life since I was a kid. Michael Jackson meant a lot to me, growing up. Barry Manilow, Elton John, Billy Joel — they all inspired me to sit down at the piano and sing at the same time.”

Bergen’s parents were both actors, and music was always playing at the Bergen home in New York City.

“Growing up, I was the kid who didn’t care about ‘Sesame Street,’ “ Bergen says, laughing. “I cared about MTV. I wanted to be a rock star. I would take my action figures and make them do rock concerts.”

Nurturing his love of music, Bergen’s parents sent him to Stagedoor Manor, a performing arts camp in the Catskills for kids.

“It was the thing I looked forward to every summer for seven years,” Bergen says. “After that, I tried going to college for acting, and was doing commercials and plays during the school year. I left college after two years and landed the national tour of ‘Jersey Boys.’ I did the Vegas company, a little work on ‘Gossip Girl,’ and here I am.”

The performer says he’s more comfortable on stage than anywhere else, and as he grows in his art, it will be interesting to see where the journey takes him.

“The thing about music is that it’s the universal language,” Bergen says. “It doesn’t need to be taught. The body hears certain notes, and connects to it with feelings. Music gets through all barriers. I’m always working, always writing music. I’ve never had stage fright. I just feel more alive on stage.”

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