Jared Gertner is “insanely happy” to return to the state where his on-stage career began.
The Toms River native, who has appeared on Broadway and in hit television shows, will star Nov. 1-17 as Nathan Detroit in the Axelrod Performing Arts Center’s production of “Guys and Dolls.”
“I was a community theater constant as a kid,” said Gertner, who got his break in show business at age 6 as one of the lost boys in a production of “Peter Pan” at the Red Oak Music Theatre in Lakewood, owned by his aunt and uncle, Adda Pourmel and Chet Gertner.
“My parents were theater lovers and they started to take me to the theater in New York when I was 3 years old,” he told NJJN in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where he now lives with his Jewish husband and 4-year-old son.
When his mother asked him as a joke, he said, if he’d like to try out for “Peter Pan,” he jumped at the chance to audition, “and my life changed forever.”
Years later, when Gertner was 11, he returned to Red Oak Music Theatre in a production of the “King and I” alongside Jenny Hill, who coincidentally will be playing opposite him as Miss Adelaide in the “Guys and Dolls” production.
“The cool thing is that I’ve known her most of my life because we were both theater kids,” said the 39-year-old Gertner. “She’s also done Broadway so we’ve been running into each other all these years and now we get to work together.” Since his youth, Gertner has appeared in theatrical productions around the world and throughout New Jersey, including the Strand Theater in Lakewood, Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, and the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, where he first appeared at age 14 and returned in a 2008 production of “Little Shop of Horrors” as Seymour.
“Now I get to come back to a theater in New Jersey near where I grew up,” Gertner said of the Axelrod, located in Deal Park. “I’m very excited to be coming back to the place where it all started for me. It’s really a great feeling and I can’t wait to get started.”
Gertner’s Jersey roots run deep. His parents, Martin and Cheryl Gertner, live in Toms River and belong to the Conservative Congregation B’nai Israel. His sister, Meredyth Root, lives in Marlboro and most of his relatives still live in the area.
“The great thing about performing this close at the Axelrod is that my whole family is coming, all my high school friends are coming, and everyone from my synagogue is coming,” said Gertner, a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
He made his Broadway debut in 2007 as William Barfee in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Gertner has also played Elder Cunningham on Broadway and in the traveling company of “The Book of Mormon.” He received an Olivier Award nomination as best lead actor for its London production.
Gertner played Warren in the off-Broadway premiere of “Ordinary Days” and was a core cast improvisor in “Don’t Quit Your Night Job.”
His television credits include appearances on “Mom,” “Modern Family,” “2 Broke Girls,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Ugly Betty,” “The Good Wife,” and more.
Gertner’s voice can be heard on several commercials and in films, including “Smallfoot” and “Pup Star,” and on the TV shows, “American Dad,” “Family Guy,” and “Bojack Horseman.”
“I’ve been able to make a full-time career out of acting for many years,” said Gertner. “That’s something I’m really proud of.”
If you go
What: “Guys and Dolls”
Where: Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park
When: Nov. 1-17
Cost: $50-$64; group rates available for parties of 10 or more
Tickets: axelrodartscenter.com/guys-and-dolls-axelrod or call