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“Jersey Boys” star Nick Cosgrove

Nick Cosgrove

Nick Cosgrove

Patience, determination and heart are all qualities that one must possess while pursuing a career in musical theater. Nick Cosgrove — a Park Ridge native and current star of the “Jersey Boys” national tour — has all those qualities and countless more. “I do theater because it inspires people!” he enthuses.

Cosgrove’s love of singing began while he was learning to walk. “I was an introverted toddler so music opened me up,” he confesses. His mother bought him Disney sing-a-long tapes, which got the ball rolling. The next step was singing lessons, and from the third grade on, he was running with the “big kids” at Maine South High School, making appearances in their musical theater productions. That’s also where Cosgrove met his mentor, David Danckwart, the now-retired choir director at Maine South.

Cosgrove’s parents took him to see his first musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,” which exposed him to live musical theater on the professional stage. And at 17, he saw “Jersey Boys” at the Bank of America Theatre, an experience that helped fine tune his career goals. “I already knew I wanted to pursue musical theater, but in the back of my mind (after seeing the show), I thought, ‘I want to be Frankie Valli!'” he says.

He honed his vocal skills while cantoring at Our Lady of Ransom Church in Niles, and his tenacious spirit began opening other doors as well, including at the prestigious theater school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.

“I was waitlisted when I first applied for acceptance.” Cosgrove explains, but he wrote letters to all the theater department faculty members, pleading his case. “No one told me to write a letter. I have always been a go-getter. If you want something you have to go after it,” he contends.

The program fields 2,000 auditions annually, and Cosgrove was among the dozen or so to be accepted that year. From the moment he set foot on the CMU campus, he was well on his way to making his dreams come true. “I was a singer first and foremost. But, when I got to Carnegie Mellon, I was trained to become a better actor,” he says.

At 18, he received his Actor’s Equity Card, and each summer he traveled back to the Midwest to perform with the Municipal Theater Association, a legendary outdoor theater program in St. Louis. During his stints there, he added “Les Miserables” and “Fiddler on the Roof” to his resume.

Before Cosgrove graduated in May of 2010 from CMU with a bachelor of fine arts in drama and musical theater, he was featured in their “Senior Showcase.” This was Cosgrove’s chance to show casting directors and agents from New York and Los Angeles what he had to offer. Teresa Wolf of the Wolf Talent Group liked what she saw, and convinced Cosgrove to sign her on as his agent.

Cosgrove hit the ground running when he moved to New York in September of 2010, participating in readings and workshops while winning a part in an Off-Broadway production of “Where’s Charlie?” “You can’t hope that the phone is just going to ring,” he says. “Besides my agent helping me, I was also looking up different auditions.”

In the summer of 2011, he was cast as the lead in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” at the New Theatre in Overland Park, Kansas. It was a dream come true for Cosgrove, as that was the first musical his parents took him to see.

And his dream of playing Frankie Valli? He was hoping to achieve that by the time he turned 30. But there he was, earlier this year at the tender age of 23, playing the legendary lead singer of The Four Seasons on stage at the Bank of America Theatre, where he first saw the show.

With his scintillating vocal and acting skills and Italian good look (he is part Italian, Irish, and German) he wowed the crowd, which included his entire family, mentor David Danckwart, and even members of the current Maine South theater department.

“Two years out of school, I never expected this to happen,” he says. “Performing in Chicago was a dream come true and to be back on the stage where I first saw the show and to take my first bow. It was amazing!”

Jersey Boys is now touring the country at a clip of a new city every three weeks. You need a lot of stamina to travel from city to city, adjusting to new theaters and audiences on a daily basis. Cosgrove leads the show and is able to go with the flow because of his great love for live theater. “I get more joy out of live theater,” he explains. “Everything can go brilliantly and sometimes it can go wrong!”

Cosgrove has a lot of advice for aspiring musical theater students, which he recently shared with his successors at Maine South High School while “Jersey Boys” was in town. “Read the news and see as much theater as you can,” he urges. “If you love theater enough, you will make it, but you have to have a lot of patience.”

Cosgrove is a true role model for aspiring actors. He is incredibly grateful for the success he has enjoyed, and he never takes that success for granted. “A lot of people in this business expect things to just happen to them,” he shares. “I live my life with no expectations, that way I am never disappointed, and always pleasantly surprised.”

About Alanna Chiefari

Alanna Chiefari is a 2007 graduate of Saint Mary's college-Notre Dame. She has been writing for Fra Noi since the winter of 2011 and is absolutely thrilled to feature young Italian-American adults who are off to a great start. Alanna has been working as a client associate on a wealth management team for Merrill Lynch since May of 2007. In her spare time, she loves exploring Italian culture by reading books, trying new restaurants and meeting Italian Americans who are benefiting the community. Follow her on Twitter at @LannaDionne.