Bondy still craves Big Apple fame
Imagine this: A man sits with a 47-inch widescreen TV at night, 20 minutes from Times Square in New York. He wears a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey as he watches the Leafs game.
Never misses a match. The world disappears around him. His wife knows better than to interrupt. It’s the one pleasure he won’t compromise. Thirty-four-year-old James Bondy, who grew up in Windsor and cut his teeth in acting under the tutelage of Brian Raisbeck’s Theatre Alive, still clings to that little bit of Canada while living in the U.S.
He moved away 10 years ago to take an acting job in Florida and then, two years ago, packed up and settled in New York to live with his wife, a dancer he met on a cruise ship.
And while he loves Canada, and the Maple Leafs, the action is below the border. That’s where the jobs are. It may not be anything as exotic as the Stratford Festival, but it’s work.
And, unlike so many other actors, Bondy has never waited on tables.
“But I’ve been lucky — I’ve had steady work,” he tells me in an interview this week in Windsor. He’s back home to stage Groucho: A Life in Revue at the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre. It opens Friday.
Ten years ago, Bondy left Windsor to play Mowgli in Disney’s live theatrical production of The Jungle Book.
Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom had just opened in Orlando, Fla. Bondy racked up 800 performances and soon he had secured acting jobs on Norwegian Cruise Lines.
It was one of those performances that caught the attention of the producers of a new Public Television show, Ribert & Robert’s WonderWorld.
“The next thing, they were flying me first-class to Boston, picking me up at the airport by a limo and taking me to a suite. “I was given the red-carpet treatment. “I thought, ‘Well, finally this is what every actor dreams of,’” said Bondy.
He started doing the kid’s show, playing Robert, and 78 episodes later, the show is one of the best on PBS in the U.S.
It has gone on to receive an all-star rating from the Coalition for Children’s Quality Entertainment. It also won an IParenting Media Award, as well as the first-place award for best children’s TV show for kids ages two to five at last year’s Los Angeles Kids First Television and Film Festival.
It’s the bread and butter job of acting, but Bondy isn’t resting. He’s now searching for work in New York and hitting one audition after another.
“Even though I haven’t landed something on Broadway, I know I belong there (in New York). I went to my first audition and about halfway through a song, I was feeling good, and I thought, ‘I belong.’
“I heard myself and what I could do and I knew I had what it took,” he said.
It hasn’t happened yet.
He’s learned to live with the reality that he may not be tall enough, big enough or, for that matter, even small enough as he goes from one audition to the other.
But he’s counting on being at the right place at the right time.
“It’s all a matter of timing and finding the right role.”
As with the cruise line job that led to the TV job, Bondy is certain someone’s going to notice and he’ll land something else.
The Groucho show in Windsor is a departure for him because it is his debut as a director. Bondy is also acting in this nostalgic play that brings to life the biography of the comedian and TV show host Groucho Marx.
Bondy was surprised there’s a whole generation or two who aren’t familiar with Groucho Marx.
“I can’t believe it, but I’ve asked people if they know who Groucho was and many don’t have a clue.
“When I mentioned the famous moustache and glasses, it strikes a chord but only with a few.”
Bondy knows the baby-boomer generation and seniors are familiar with Groucho and realizes this will be the audience for the play, written by Arthur Marx, Groucho’s son.
“I am excited to be back at the Capitol Theatre where it all began for me when I was with Theatre Alive.
“I can’t think of a better place to make my theatrical debut, in front of my hometown audience.”