Arts & Culture

An Evening in Fort Worth gives Jason Alexander something to sing about

Alexander portrayed George Costanza on Seinfeld for all nine seasons of the show.
Alexander portrayed George Costanza on Seinfeld for all nine seasons of the show.

Believe it or not, Jason Alexander can carry a tune.

The funnyman actor, enduringly known as George Costanza of Seinfeld sitcom fame, says people are often surprised to learn that he’s also a Tony Award-winning song-and-dance man.

“It seems to shock a lot of people to think of me as a singer,” he says.

Alexander suspects it’s because of the 1997 Seinfeld episode in which George left a spectacularly bad musical message on his answering machine.

Adapting the theme-song lyrics from TV’s The Greatest American Hero, Jerry Seinfeld’s loser best friend sang, “Believe it or not, George isn’t at home. Please leave a message at the beep. I must be out or I’d answer the phone. Where could I be? Believe it or not, I’m not home!”

Once you’ve heard his butchery of that tune, it’s hard to get it out of your skull.

“The end result,” Alexander says, “is that most people think I really sing like that.”

But he doesn’t, which will come as welcome relief to everyone attending An Evening With Jason Alexander at Bass Hall on Saturday, Nov. 21. Backed by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Alexander will show what he can do.

“The entire evening is theater music, although some of it may surprise you to learn it’s theater music,” he says. “There are some very funny songs, there are some upbeat songs and there are a couple of very touching pieces. Emotionally it runs the gamut. Musically it runs through a lot of different styles.

“And I will pepper that music with stories. I talk a little about my early ambitions and experiences on the Broadway stage.

“At one point, I actually bring several people up from the audience — they are not plants, they are not stooges — and they help me perform a few numbers, which makes for some very interesting situations. The whole evening is a lot of fun.”

It has been 17 years since ‘Seinfeld’ ended its 1989-98 network run.

The origins of An Evening With Jason Alexander date back nearly 20 years.

“Back in 1996 or ’97, out of the blue, the Boston Pops Orchestra asked me to do one of their evenings,” he says. “I was very much ensconced in Seinfeld at the time and I had never sung with a symphony orchestra, but I had such a good time doing that show.

“Then they invited me to join them at Carnegie Hall, so I had a Carnegie Hall debut with the symphony. After that, I never thought about it again until about three years ago, when the Boston Symphony called again and we put together a whole new program.”

After that, yada yada yada, Alexander took the show on the road.

“It seems that there’s a circuit for pop orchestras, because for the past three years I’ve been going to different cities doing this,” he says. “I tell you, if you love to sing, there is no high in the world quite like having 60 to 80 glorious musicians performing behind you.

“I love singing with just a piano. But when you start putting strings and horns and percussion back there, it’s just extraordinary.”

The only downside, he jokes, is that non-theater evenings with Jason Alexander aren’t anywhere near as magical. “I don’t have my own orchestra with me on non-show nights,” he laments.

Alexander won a Tony in 1989 for his performance in Jerome Robbins’ ‘Broadway’

Alexander, who won his Tony in 1989 for his performance in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, is looking forward to the visit to North Texas.

“My only experience with Dallas and Fort Worth was very brief,” he recalls. “I shot a commercial years ago in Dallas. I flew in the night before, shot the commercial and flew back out that night, so I had almost no time to experience the city.

“I did have one experience, though — and it’s something that I’m sure the people of Dallas are so sick of. I took the driver up on his offer when he asked, ‘Do you want to do the presidential assassination route?’ So I’ve been through Dealey Plaza by car.

“The good news is I think I’ll get a day just to roam around this time.”

Maybe, while he’s taking in the sights, you’ll get the chance to greet him with your favorite Seinfeld catchphrase.

I’ve got to tell you, it’s a very strange thing to move about the world with people yelling ‘Can’t-Stand-Ya’ when you walk by

Jason Alexander

It has been 17 years since the show ended its 1989-98 network run, but it endures as one of television’s best-loved comedies — and fans never let him forget it.

“There are a quite a few sayings that people will yell out when they see me,” Alexander says. “One of the big ones is ‘Master of my domain.’ Another is ‘Yada yada yada.’ There’s also ‘Shrinkage,’ ‘George is getting upset’ and ‘These pretzels are making me thirsty.’

“But the top one might be ‘Can’t-Stand-Ya,’ from the episode with the gym coach who deliberately mispronounced George’s last name. I’ve got to tell you, it’s a very strange thing to move about the world with people yelling ‘Can’t-Stand-Ya’ when you walk by.

“I’m never entirely sure if they’re quoting the show or saying they don’t like me!”

An Evening With Jason Alexander

  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21
  • Bass Hall, Fort Worth
  • $35-$99
  • 817-665-6000; www.fwsymphony.org
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