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July 29, 2014

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The Monday List: Top Five Things You Didn’t Know About Jeff Leibow

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Denise Truscello/WireImage/DeniseTruscello.net

Travis Cloer, Jeff Leibow and Deven May of “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas arrive at the grand opening of “Smokey Robinson Presents Human Nature: The Motown Show” at The Venetian on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013.

During an appearance Wednesday night at Composers Showcase in Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Jeff Leibow noted that he was approaching his 25th anniversary of being a cancer survivor.

Save for his wife, Melody, hardly anyone in the room realized Leibow was a cancer survivor. The man who plays Nick Massi in “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas has been cancer-free since being diagnosed with teratocarcinoma and successfully treated all those years ago.

What we know about Leibow already, aside from his stage portrayal of Massi, is he is dogged in his fundraising efforts for the Neurofibromatosis Network. The Leibows’ daughter, Emma, suffers from NF, and the most recent “NF Hope” concert and auction held Oct. 20 raised $79,000 to fight the disease.

As I found during a follow-up phone chat with Leibow last week, his story is full of surprises. This week’s Monday List is the Top Five Things You Didn’t Know About Jeff Leibow:

5: He Has a Degree in Zoology: Leibow studied marine biology at UC Davis in California with the hopes of becoming a marine mammal veterinarian.

4: He Plays Oboe: This was among the instruments he learned as a child and played as a teenager in Santa Monica, Calif., but shelved when he became interested (with some parental “encouragement”) in veterinary medicine. He also learned to play flute, piano and guitar.

3: He “Chickened Out” of “The Sound of Music”: When he was in high school, a friend persuaded him to audition for Santa Monica High School’s production of “The Sound of Music.” He had sung in a classic-rock cover band but when the audition approached, he backed out for an acute case of stage fright — and long regretted that decision.

2: The Musical “A Chorus Line” Changed His Life: The Davis Musical Theater Company issued an open call for the local production of “A Chorus Line.” Remembering his earlier ducking of “The Sound of Music,” Leibow was determined to at least perform the audition, if only to prove he had enough courage to sing in a Broadway musical-style audition. He wound up winning the role of Mark in the show.

1: He worked for NASA: Leibow also has been trained to write computer codes and worked for a time in the San Francisco Bay Area for a company called Silicon Graphics Inc. He was laid off in a 1,000-empoyee sweep of the company but was snapped up by NASA to help develop the agency’s digital planetarium show. “I installed the computer and essentially ran the planetarium,” he says.

All of which is ideal training to play the guy who refers to himself as the “Ringo” of The Four Seasons.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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