Presidential Shoes to Fill: Resident Actor Raymond Cronley on Playing John F. Kennedy in “JFK AND INGA BINGA”

Raymond Cronley, one of our talented Season 45 Resident Actors, has been bringing JFK’s legacy and charming Boston accent to the Dock Street Theatre stage night after night as we perform JFK AND INGA BINGA this February. Hear from him about his preparation for the iconic role below:

Resident Actors Raymond Cronley and Eliza Knode as Jack Kennedy and Inga Arvad Fejos in Charleston Stage’s February 2023 production of JFK AND INGA BINGA.

How is this show unique from others you’ve performed in before?

What’s most unique about this show is that it’s a completely original work, written by our very own Director, Julian Wiles, and set right here in Charleston! I’ve never before had the opportunity to work on a show quite like this. It’s inspiring to live and work right alongside the setting of the play, being able to go to the parks and shopping centers mentioned. Additionally, having the playwright as a director means that lines can be altered much more freely. During the rehearsal process, Julian would take how we performed our characters into account and was able to make some adjustments to make certain moments work better! That is certainly an exciting process to be a part of.

How have you prepared for this role? 

I read a lot about JFK — specifically his early life and upbringing. Kennedy has to be one of the best documented politicians of the last 100 years, so I had a bounty of information to draw upon. Additionally, I studied the mid-20th century upper crust Bostonian accent he used, and listened to as many candid recordings of his voice as I could!

Resident Actors Cedar Valdez and Raymond Cronley as Lem Billings and Jack Kennedy in Charleston Stage’s February 2023 production of JFK AND INGA BINGA.

What are the easiest and most difficult aspects of playing this role and doing this show?

What’s easy for me is the comedy in this show! It rises very naturally out of the situation these characters find themselves in. Making the comedy happen is probably easier overall for me than it is for the roles some of my fellow cast mates are playing, as most of it comes from Kennedy being blissfully unaware of the crazy lengths the other characters are going through to keep their surveillance a secret.

One of the more difficult, yet satisfying aspects of this role to nail down was Kennedy’s character arc. At the top of the curtain he’s as brash and cocky a young lover as you might expect. But over the course of the show, he realizes his feelings for Inga are much deeper than he had previously thought. It’s the kind of arc you would expect from a young man of 24. I myself am 23, so I find that kind of emotion very accessible and fun to tap into. Still, it’s a challenge to take the audience from their preconceived notions of Kennedy as a womanizer to someone who’s feelings are genuine.

Do you prefer plays or musicals? Why?

I was a musician long before I was an actor! I started playing trumpet at the age of nine, and didn’t find out that I could sing and act until five years after that! Though I adore acting in straight plays — especially comedies — musicals are my home. There’s something about music which seems to stir the soul. It has always roused a deeper emotion in me than most non-musical media.

What’s your favorite show of all time?

My favorite show I’ve ever seen is Hadestown, hands down! It’s the definition of a classic story brought to life by incredible music and lyricism that’s poetic, yet accessible. My favorite production I’ve ever been a part of is Rumors by Neil Simon. Specifically, it was a high school production where we were required to censor any foul language. Sounds unfortunate, but as it turned out, the cast included all of my closest friends at the time, and as the ensemble we came up with a host of zany euphemistic phrases to replace the curse words. The resulting performance had our director nearly peeing herself with laughter every night at rehearsals, and so it remains my all time favorite productions to have been a part of!

Resident Actors Raymond Cronley and Eliza Knode as Jack Kennedy and Inga Arvad Fejos in Charleston Stage’s February 2023 production of JFK AND INGA BINGA.

Raymond is incredibly jazzed to be joining Charleston Stage as a Resident Actor for their 45th season! Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Raymond graduated in May of 2021 from Ohio Northern University with a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. Previous credits include Jack in Into the Woods, Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein and George in Sunday in the Park with George. He would like to thank his family and friends for their wholehearted support and encouragement! / @raymonley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *