Jersey Boys - which won four Tonys in 2006, including one for best musical - is the briskly told documentary of the Four Seasons. "I look at it as a Martin Scorsese film with a concert mixed into it," Spector says.
Each "season" in the 1960s pop group's history is narrated by a different Season: Tommy DeVito (Dominic Nolfi), who recruited teen Valli; Bob Gaudio (Sebastian Arcelus), who introduces the group's rise; Nick Massi (Matt Bogart), who talks about the mob-tinged downfall; and Valli, who finishes the tale.
The show's music - the catchy stuff of AM radio such as "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "C'mon Marianne" - hangs on Spector's falsetto.
Which means that six days a week for two years - while on the road with the show, and now in New York - Spector has strapped a steam inhaler to his head as part of a 30-minute preshow warmup. As fellow actors walk out the stage door after the curtain calls, he's inside doing a 20-minute "warm-down." Every week for an hour - whether in person or on the Internet - he takes a lesson with coach Katie Agresta, who leads the show's "Frankie school" and who has worked with such leather-lunged rockers as Jon Bon Jovi and Steven Tyler.
Woe to the Frankie who suffers from acid reflux, Spector says. "You have to hit the outskirts of your vocal range," he says, holding his upper gut. That means no caffeine, unless he sneaks in some chocolate. He drinks gallons of water.
This is in fact Spector's second time on Broadway, although he is quick to discount his two years as Gavroche in Les Miserables, which ended at age 11.
It's also his second show-business career. He started out as a child wonder, the youngest of Chuck and Beth Spector's four offspring.
"He could talk at a really young age, and he'd be in the back of the car, singing the commercials," Beth Spector says. "I'm thinking, 'How can he remember these things? He's only 2.' "
The Spectors took him to Russell Faith, the singing coach who in the 1970s trained another local wunderkind, Annie star Andrea McArdle. Perfect pitch, Faith told them. "I'm thinking, 'He's really strange.' We didn't have a piano, so we didn't know."
Jarrod did the usual - Al Alberts Showcase at age 3, Star Search at 6. This took him to Los Angeles.
Chuck Spector recalls a meeting at Disney at which producers offered 7-year-old Jarrod the chance to join the revival of the Mouseketeers, whose five-year contract meant he'd have to live in Orlando, Fla., for eight months a year.
"What about our three kids in junior high school and high school?" Chuck Spector asks. "It wasn't like I was putting Jarrod into show business to make money." Of course that same Mouseketeer "class" included Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. "He definitely would have been a member of N Sync," Chuck Spector says. "You know, I still never hear the end of it."
As a 15-year-old at Germantown Academy, shuttling among Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York for auditions, Spector shot a television pilot with Peter Boyle and Michael Rispoli about a family with a lounge act in Las Vegas. "It seemed like a can't-miss," Jarrod Spector says. "Naturally, it did. I was crushed. I said to my parents, 'I'm done,' I didn't want to go for auditions. I didn't want to keep my hair a certain length. I didn't want to give up my summers. I wanted to play lacrosse and go out with my girlfriend."
Still, he adds, "I never gave up on singing or acting. It's in my soul. I always had aspirations."
He enrolled at Princeton as an economics major and quickly found the Triangle Club, where he wrote and performed musical comedy.
"I'm working my ass off on economic problem sets till 4 a.m. until I thought I would jump off a bridge," Spector says. "There's a saying over the Oracle of Delphi, 'Know thyself.' It took a while. I was 20 years old. This is who I am."
The reaction at home was not pleasant. "My parents were as OK as anyone who realized their son was leaving the U.S. News & World Report No. 1-ranked college. 'Only two more years,' my father said. I said to him, 'Why don't you go there for two years?' "
Spector moved to New York, and roomed with a couple of friends. "I fell in love with the city that intimidated me as a kid," he says, adding that as he went out on auditions, "I realized that I had never been properly trained."
He enrolled in the Atlantic Theater Company's two-year conservatory program, affiliated with New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He also met Tisch student Danni Simon, an actress who has followed him from New York to San Francisco and Chicago, and back to New York, where they share an apartment on the Upper West Side.
Spector, who was born after Valli's last hit record, credits a Shakespearean part for helping him land Jersey Boys. "Playing Hamlet [with Atlantic] helped me find the necessary gravity for the role" of Valli, Spector says.
"They grow up," he says of the group members. "They're very emotionally repressed. They have huge goals and there's a lot of direct address with the audience," he says.
Spector says it's his job not to do an impression of Valli but "to do him justice and present him as an honest character. . . . The person on the page [of the script] is not the same as the man."
Spector says the Valli role is "rare" in that it allows him to balance his artistic side and his pragmatic side.
"It's hard to figure out what follows this," says Spector, who has signed on for a year. "I'm kidding myself if I believe I'm right for all the roles out there. I'm under 5-9, dark, pass for Italian. This is me on the sheet."
Chuck Spector says his son has a solid idea of what show business really is. "Yes, right now he has a starring role. Realistically, that's not always going to be the case. He's made up his mind that he's going to be a working actor, and keep working."
And keep those vocal cords limber.
Contact staff writer Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or email@example.com.