In 'Tommy' Broadway Debut, John Ambrosino Plays Creepy Uncle Ernie (and Likes It)

Nicholas Dussault READ TIME: 8 MIN.

John Ambrosino's first headshot in 2006
Source: Instagram

Like many professional theater actors, John is no stranger to life on the road or even long-term relocation. Though he calls New York City home, he spent two years in Las Vegas doing "Jersey Boys," the musical story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. "That was another show where the audience went berserk every night. It's a pretty incredible feeling." He also spent three years touring with "Les Misérables," playing Bamatabois for "908 performances."

Ambrosino began his career in Boston in an internship at the then-fledgling SpeakEasy Stage Company. "Their upcoming production was a musical and they hired me to work backstage," he says. "I knew right then what I wanted to do."

He later founded his own company, Animus Ensemble, and directed nine musicals over six years in Boston, including "Promises, Promises!" and "Once Upon a Mattress."

At that point he was once again bitten by the acting bug, which led him to his first national tour, "Flat Stanley." But being nimble and diversifying talents is part of the secret of his success. After "Jersey Boys" he the acquired the rights to the Academy Award-winning short film "Trevor," the story of a 13-year-old boy who tries to commit suicide as a result of being bullied because he was gay. Ambrosino spent the next eight years working with Josie Bray, and Mark Woods turning it into "Trevor: the Musical." They mounted their first production in 2017 at the Writer's Theater in Chicago. As the show was about to launch, John booked "Les Miz."

When he returned to "Trevor: the Musical," he and his fellow producers partnered with Tony Award-winning producer Roy Furman to mount an off-Broadway, commercial run. They began performances just before the pandemic hit. The cast is mostly children, so when they came back from the pandemic, they had to recast the entire show. They opened with a new cast in 2021, which was right before the Omicron wave of Covid hit. According to Ambrosino, "Everyone in the cast came down with Covid and people who were willing to come out to a show were saying they could go to a Broadway show for the same price. That's a really hard thing for a producer to hear."

But it wasn't all bad news. Radical Media recorded a live video capture of the production that is, according to John, "currently streaming on Disney+. That's the same company that filmed "Hamilton." I still can't believe our show streams on Disney+. It feels surreal."

Ambrosino fondly recalls his time as an artist in Boston. "It was some of the most thrilling and wonderful times of my life. I'm not so sure I would be where I am if it weren't for that place, the wonderful group of artists there. They were such champions of what I did. It's a connection that's so important to me." He claims that wherever he goes, there's always somebody in the group that has a connection to someone from Boston.

Not a bad run so far for the actor, producer, director. As he prepares for his Broadway debut, he remains extremely grateful for the career that he has had. He continues to call himself "lucky," but most of that luck was a direct result of his own hard work. When asked if he was happy to be living the dream, he said, "I'm not sure I'm living THE dream. But I'm certainly living mine and for that I am forever grateful."

For more information on John Ambrosino, visit his Instagram page.

For more information on "The Who's Tommy," visit the show's website.

Watch this trailer to "The Who's Tommy"

by Nicholas Dussault

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