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Colantoni & Jelks About ‘Birthday Candles’ on Broadway

Enrico Colantoni, Lauren Conlin & John Earl Jelks

Need a good laugh AND a good cry? Then head to “Birthday Candles” on Broadway, new play by Noah Haidle with a phenomenal cast led by Debra Messing, John Earl Jelks and Enrico Colantoni. You can see it at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway before May 29th!

‘Birthday Candles’ is a play that follows Ernestine Ashworth (Messing) from her 17th to 101st birthday. She bakes a single birthday cake in that time, the same way her mother taught her.

We spoke with Messing’s men of the show, Enrico Colantoni (Kenneth), the nerdy neighbor who can also be characterized as ‘the one that got away,’ plus John Earl Jelks (Matt/William) who plays Ernestine’s strapping husband, Matt. We had the BEST time talking to these down to earth, talented men- right outside the theater, BEFORE the show in fact! You’ll have a blast watching our interview!
Overall, each brings such magic to their role – you can tell they perform from the heart. The show itself will make you reflect on your own life and the decisions you’ve made this far – in a good way. There are so many special moments between Messing and Colantoni,  the water works were flowing! Jelks has such a commanding presence, it’s hard to take your eyes off of him when he’s on stage. Birthday Candles runs about 90 minutes and is brought to you by the Roundabout Theatre Co. Don’t miss this beautiful show.

Lauren Conlin: Lauren here with POP Style TV. I am outside of the American Airlines theater. At the marquee of Birthday Candles and I am with one of the stars,  Enrico Colantoni who plays Kenneth in the show.

Enrico Colantoni : Right. Ha you got all that right. And you’ve pronounced candles beautifully. Good. It was so good. Not to be confused with Birthday Candle.  Not to be confused. We don’t want you to see that play. We want you to say Birthday Candles.

Lauren Conlin: I really, I want to ask you about this because you were cast in this show before the pandemic, and then clearly COVID-19 hit. The show was on hold for two years. It opened last month and you made your Broadway debut.

Enrico Colantoni: I wish this was opening night again, you make it so exciting. That was tremendous to be able to come back. With the roundabout believing in this play, loving this play. And after two years, we’re all here. 99% of the cast is still here. It’s a beautiful ensemble. We love each other. And the best part about having lived through the pandemic is that this play just breeds gratitude about one’s life. And we brought that after two years of just knowing, you know, figuring out what the, what the world is going to become after this. So such gratitude when we came back on the first day and it’s an, and you’ll feel it tonight, you will feel the love on the stage. And Deb is gorgeous and lovely, and everybody that’s surrounding her is just so happy to be here.

Lauren Conlin: I love that. I’m seeing the show tonight. So I heard, I know this bus is very annoying, but we are in Time Square. He’s in the show. He’s famous. Um, I’m not so, but no. So I heard this show makes you laugh and cry. Is that true?

Enrico Colantoni: It will make you laugh and cry. So it’s true. It’s true. I mean, not that we, not that we’re sadist or anything, but we love the ugly weeping at the end. We love when we hear the … and everybody’s masked up and I’m just recommending now Lauren, to put tissue inside your mask. So you’d be good because after a while it just gets, you know, it gets annoying having to lift the mask and wipe your nose. Just keep the tissue that’s what we figured out.

Lauren Conlin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So tissue under the mask, I want to know the dynamic between your character and Debra Messing’s character. I mean, you. She’s the girl that got away. You are the guy that got away. How does this work?

Enrico Colantoni: Kenneth is the embodiment of belief, of faith. You wait a lifetime to reach a dream to you believe in your heart at a young age, that this is the woman or the person in my life.

And somehow you have to wait. What, would you keep waiting? If you knew you would get that person 80 in 80 years?

Lauren Conlin: What I I’m, I’m actually thinking about that. Would I wait, no.

Enrico Colantoni: I’m not going to tell you what he does,

Lauren Conlin: But you said 80 years. That’s a long time, a long time

Enrico Colantoni: Knowing, knowing that somehow I am resilient. I am, uh, I am, I have heroic patients. I’m going to wait. I am going to wait for this moment and, and you can a trip. I mean, I certainly can understand it because I’ve waited 38 years to be on Broadway. And I came to New York 38 years ago, wanting to be on Broadway. Of course, you know, TV has other plans, but this is my dream come true.

And I just want to say that I understand the man who holds a torch for a woman and it doesn’t matter. He can, he can go left, they can go right. But he knows in his heart, but that could be true of anything. Right. Love. Career. Seeing something going in space, you know what I mean? It’s like just dreams are possible. Dreams are possible.

Lauren Conlin: I mean, that was, that was very moving. Um, I’m already crying, but no, just, just to wrap things up because I can’t help it. I’m going to do a quick game, but I like to play with everyone. It’s a little word association game. So I’m going to say a word. You say the first one that comes all this.

Enrico Colantoni: I can’t improvise.

Lauren Conlin: Sorry I have a hard time believing you let’s go. Okay. Ready? Debra Messing

Enrico Colantoni: Gorgeous

Lauren Conlin: Will and Grace

Enrico Colantoni: Hysterical

Lauren Conlin: Birthday

Enrico Colantoni: Happy

Lauren Conlin: Ice cream

Enrico Colantoni : Delicious. No, no, wait a minute. Lactose intolerant.

Lauren Conlin: So diarrhea no I am just kidding Broadway. We’ll give him a minute. I’m so funny. Okay.

Enrico Colantoni : Yayyy

Lauren Conlin: Well, everybody, you can see Enrico Colantoni in  Birthday Candles until May 29th, May 29th. I’m so excited. I’m going to be, I don’t know what row I’m in, but you can break the fourth wall. Wave to me.

Enrico Colantoni: It doesn’t even matter. Every seat is a gorgeous seat. You’re going to see a beautiful play. Okay.

Lauren Conlin: And we are going to be talking to his co-star in just a minute as well.

Enrico Colantoni: Who’s Coming?

Lauren Conlin: John Earl Jelks

Enrico Colantoni: I can’t wait to meet him.

Lauren Conlin: All right. All right. We are here with the other star of  Birthday Candles, John Earl Jelks, I am star struck right now. I feel like I really, I love you. You’re such an amazing, talented actor.

John Earl Jelks: Wow. Thank you. Thank you so so much. I don’t even know what to say about that. That’s like one of the introduction that you go like Wow

Lauren Conlin: Really? Oh my gosh. Well, I follow your career. I saw you in True Detective. I mean you are, you know, your eye was a little funny, but, um, I see, I see it’s good again.

John Earl Jelks: I mean, you have to, you know, after the show was over with, they gave me back my real eye.

Lauren Conlin: Good, good, good to know. Now you played Debra Messing’s husband and this.Okay. What kind of chemistry do you guys have on and off stage?

John Earl Jelks: Oh, that’s for me to know and not to let anybody else find

Lauren Conlin: Oh you got to tell us something.

John Earl Jelks:The chemistry on stage is excellent.  It’s fantastic. I mean, I mean, you’ve seen the show.

Lauren Conlin: No tonight I am seeing it.

John Earl Jelks: Really? Oh, I don’t want to answer this yet. Well, I come close to answering it. Chemistry is actually amazing. I mean, without her there’s no Birthday Candles. And without me, there’s no birthday candles and without Enrico, there’s no birthday.

Lauren Conlin: Who’s Enrico?

Enrico Colantoni: Somebody mentioned my name?

Lauren Conlin: I can tell this cast absolutely loves each other, which is so amazing.

Enrico Colantoni: You should count the scenes we are in together. It’s our favorite moment is that,

Lauren Conlin: Are they rare?

John Earl Jelks: Yes.

Lauren Conlin: Rare? Okay. All right. Well, what, what has been the best part of working on this show?

John Earl Jelks: I’m getting a chance to celebrate a birthday every night. Come on you don’t get a chance to say celebrate birthdays almost seven nights a week.

Lauren Conlin: Well, I mean, Katrina Link does over wherever that theater is.

John Earl Jelks: You get a hundred points

Lauren Conlin: What does that get me?

John Earl Jelks: A Mercedes-Benz.

Lauren Conlin: No, but in all seriousness, I’m so excited to see the show and Rico, and I discussed how you laugh. You cry. There’s just so many emotions.

John Earl Jelks: Yes it is. And it’s, you know I can’t wait for you to go on this ride with us tonight. You’re going to have such a great time. It’s going to be amazing.

Lauren Conlin: Is there anything else that you want us to know or, or people should know why they should go see the show?

John Earl Jelks: Well, here’s one of the reasons why you need to come see the show. You need to come and see the show because of Debra.

Lauren Conlin: Because of Debra Messing. I mean, can you project, are you an actor?

John Earl Jelks: Because of Debra Messing.

Lauren Conlin: Perfect. Well, John, thank you so much. I’m so excited to see you tonight

Find tickets for Birthday Candles, or Lesley Nicol, best known for playing Mrs. Patmore on the hit show “Downton Abbey” has a one woman musical opening in NYC called, “How the Hell Did I Get Here?”
About author


Lauren is a New York City based reporter, podcaster and host, with a focus on pop culture news and true crime. She is currently a writer and reporter for Pop Style TV, NickiSwift.com, and Grunge.com. Lauren is also the host and producer of the investigative podcast titled, “Corruption: What Happened to Grant Solomon.” She hopes to reveal the truth behind an alleged cover-up and accidental death of an 18-year-old boy in Tennessee. Lauren is the creator and host of the pop culture, news & crime podcast, “Lauren Interviews.” She has featured interviews with public figures like Joe Exotic, actors like Kyra Sedgwick and Alec Baldwin, plus real housewives like Luann de Lesseps. Lauren previously worked for WABC RADIO, writing news briefs and articles pertaining to entertainment, crime, and politics while also serving as on-air talent. Lauren also hosted a wellness show on WOR Radio in NYC, and then teamed up with 98 Degrees’ Jeff Timmons for a podcast called “Millennials Revealed.” Some true crime highlights in Lauren's orbit: After a woman named Julia Wandelt came forward claiming to be missing child Madeline McCann in 2023, Lauren went viral for getting the first video interview with her spokesperson, Fia Johansson; discussing whether or not a DNA test was underway. Lauren also revealed brand new interviews and information regarding the deaths of actor Brittany Murphy and her husband Simon Monjack in 2020, which lead to her also being featured on VICE TV and Law & Crime. Lauren also made headlines after an exclusive interview with the fiancé of Aaron Carter just days after his tragic death, while also covering Carter’s death as breaking news on Lawrence Jones Cross Country (Fox News). Lauren also reported on the tragic death of Matthew Perry as both breaking news, then as a tribute while on Fox News as a guest. Her interviews and reporting have been covered by People, EW, The Today Show, Perez Hilton, Page Six, Elle Magazine and more.
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