Discover Philadelphia with Jeff Brooks
Touring actor, Jeff Brooks, has lived on busses and out of suitcases for more than a decade. He has graced stages in all 50 states and can’t wait to get back to doing what he loves. He has played beloved characters from coast to coast including Gaston (Beauty and the Beast), Cheech (Bullets Over Broadway), and the Constable (Fiddler on the Roof). Recently, Brooks spent time with Where Traveler planning a road trip with his favorite Broadway cast album in mind. For more on Jeff’s adventures on the road, follow him on Instagram @bathrobedbrooks.
Where: What was the last theatrical project you were involved with before the shutdown?
Brooks: My contract to play Sonny with the national tour of A Bronx Tale was abruptly ended by COVID-19, along with all the other touring productions back in March. When A Bronx Tale started back in September 2019, we were all excited to bring the story of racial equality and appreciation across the country. Though we were canceled mere weeks before the fires of the BLM movement were fanned yet again, it remains an important issue and there should be many more shows circulating with that kind of powerful message.
Where: Tell me about some of the other shows you’ve done?
Brooks: I would be remiss if I didn’t say that touring with Beauty and the Beast from 2010-2013 was one of my most memorable theatrical experiences. Also, getting to work on projects like Bullets Over Broadway with Susan Stroman (The Producers, Contact) and Fiddler on the Roof with Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The King and I).
Where: You’ve done so much! How long have you been doing what you do?
Brooks: This year marks 20 years as a paid professional, though my mother would attest to me acting up since 1981.
Where: Since touring has been put on hold, where are you currently?
Brooks: New York City. Home of the Yankees.
Where: Ok, let’s say you’re taking a road trip from NYC with your favorite cast album. Where would you go and what are you listening to?
Brooks: To this day, I still sit down and listen to the 1994 revival cast recording of Damn Yankees from start to finish. The album is 1 hour and 17 minutes long, allowing for a quick trip outside the city. Depending on how fast “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo” gets you going, you could make it to Philadelphia in under 2 hours.
Where: Why that album?
Brooks: This particular musical was my first ever live Broadway show experience. My family came to NYC on a weekend trip and I fell in love with the likes of Bebe Neuwirth, Victor Garber, and Jarrod Emick almost instantly.
Where: Where would you stop along the way?
Brooks: If you’re a fan of The Boss or Bon Jovi, Asbury Park Boardwalk in Jersey would be a worthwhile pitstop. So many great bars and restaurants in Philly, not to mention staples like the 4th Street Delicatessen. And, of course, CHEESESTEAKS!
Suggested Spots in Philly
The Asbury Park Boardwalk has been a leisurely seaside attraction since the late 1800s. The construction of the Paramount theatre in the 1920s lead to the boardwalk becoming a popular live music destination. More concert halls were constructed throughout the years and music greats like Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi came to cut their teeth. Today, the boardwalk is dotted with restaurants, bars, carnival games, and commissioned murals. Currently the “Wooden Walls Project” has a large mural by internationally acclaimed artist, Ed Fairburn.
The Famous 4th Street Delicatessen opened in 1923 and has been a beloved, corner eatery every since. Movies like Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks, have even been shot inside because it is inexorably tied to the heart of the City of Brotherly Love. Some of the biggest draws for hungry visitors are the overstuffed deli sandwiches. Choose from hot corned beef, hard salami, the famous chopped liver, or 20 other massive sandwich stuffings.
Another must-see attraction for history buffs on the way to Philadelphia is Washington Crossing Historic Park. It was here that Washington and his men crossed the Delaware River on a cold Christmas night in 1776, turning the tides of the Revolutionary War. The park is just north of Trenton and has more than 500 acres of history to explore. Washington Crossing is, once again, offering guided tours but reservations are required in advance.