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Perham grad lands role in Norwegian Cruise Lines production of 'Jersey Boys'

Ian Christenson, a 21-year-old Perham High School graduate, was recently cast as Hank and the understudy for Bob Gaudio in a Norwegian Cruise Lines production of the musical drama, "Jersey Boys."

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Ian Christenson, right, performs in "Bad Decisions: A Scene from Feminine Ending" in his fourth semester drama showcase at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
Contributed / Ian Christenson

PERHAM—When Ian Christenson saw a production of "Jersey Boys" during a school choir trip about eight years ago, he absolutely fell in love.

Little did he know he'd be launching his own musical theater career with that same musical in 2022.

Christenson, now 21, was recently cast in a leading role in a Norwegian Cruise Line production of "Jersey Boys." He'll be performing aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Bliss, and he told the Focus last week that it still doesn't feel quite real.

"It's weird," laughed the Perham High School graduate. "They tell us at school, 'Don't expect anything.' He (a theatre professor) said that for every 1,000 video submissions, expect five to 10 callbacks… I was lucky. I literally submitted for one other thing, then they got back to me."

Jersey Boys is a 2004 Tony Award-winning musical that tells the story of the musical group The Four Seasons, which includes band members Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, and others.

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Perham residents may recognize Christenson from his high school performances in "Grease" and "Little Shop of Horrors," and he's been involved in plenty more musical theater productions since his time in town. In fall 2018, after he graduated from high school, Christenson went on to study musical theater at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.

He first auditioned for "Jersey Boys" in spring 2020, as he was finishing up his last semester at the academy. Because of his love for the show, the audition was a big deal. Christenson was so nervous, he didn't tell any of his friends or family, not wanting to get their hopes up.

"The audition went horribly," he admitted with a laugh. "It was a terrible song choice. It was just not up to my standards. I was like, 'They've seen my face. They're not going to bring me back in.'"

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Christenson's academy shows were canceled. He moved back to Minnesota, and his career came to a standstill. He couldn't do musical theater, his passion, for over a year.

In August 2021, he was able to move back to New York City and finish his musical theater degree.

Something else happened around then, too, despite Christenson's doubts: He got an email from the cruise line saying they needed an immediate replacement for their production of "Jersey Boys," and invited him and around 40 other people to audition.

"I was like, 'Oh my God. I haven't really done any musical theater in a year and a half,'" Christenson recalled. "I went in and...I had a really good scene and did some vocal exercises. It went really great, and I was like, 'Wow. This is really happening.'"

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Ian Christenson was recently cast in "Jersey Boys" as Hank and the understudy for Bob Gaudio on the Norwegian Bliss.
Contributed / Ian Christenson

While he got a callback, Christenson didn't win a role that time around. But he didn't give up. He was thrilled to get as far into the audition process as he did, and said it was a good experience.

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And that wasn't the last he would hear from "Jersey Boys."

Four days after his final semester ended, Christenson got another email from the cruise line, asking him if he wanted to send in some tapes.

For the third time, he auditioned for the show — and third time's the charm.

He soon heard back, and the casting director told him the team loved his tapes. They asked to meet up for a Zoom workshop that Sunday at 11 a.m. Super nervous, Christenson woke up at 6 a.m. to warm up. Ultimately, he said, the workshop was amazing — so amazing, in fact, that they told him not to book anything else.

"I was like, 'Don't book anything else?'" Christenson laughed. "Did they just offer me the job?"

He was on the train to visit a friend when he got another email from the team: They wanted to offer him the role of Hank and the understudy of Bob Gaudio.

"I was absolutely mind-blown," Christenson said. "It hasn't really set in yet. Especially because it's 'Jersey Boys.' It's been a very interesting month — a lot of different emotions."

As of this week, he will be in Tampa, Florida, to start a month of rehearsals. Then, he'll be on The Norwegian Bliss for six months, performing and singing his way across the seas.

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"Thanks for all the support," Christenson said to the Perham community. "I almost didn't do 'Grease' in ninth grade, and my mom and choir director talked me into doing it. Imagine if I didn't do 'Grease' that year. I wouldn't be sitting here. There's a lot of people in the Perham community who are the reason I'm here today."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected from its original version to correct an error: Ian Christenson was cast as Hank in "Jersey Boys," as well as the understudy for Bob Gaudio. He was not cast as Bob Gaudio as the original article had stated.

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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