Would You Hire This Kid to Impersonate You on Broadway?

updated 03/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Looking almost exactly like Neil Simon may not be a casting requirement for his plays, but it hasn't hurt Jonathan Silverman. A 20-year-old junior at NYU, Silverman can't even legally order a cocktail in New York, but he's now starring in his fourth straight Simon work, the hit comedy Broadway Bound, in which he plays the writer as a young man. On his dressing table he keeps a picture of Simon at age 20. "His brother Danny sent it and there's a striking resemblance to me," he says.

"Neil's daughter also commented on it. Neil has never admitted it, but he said if that's the case, I should hold onto my hair, because it goes fast."

Three years ago Silverman's greatest distinction was making the Los Angeles All-City baseball squad as a high school shortstop. He took drama as an elective just to meet girls but made the school play. Then, as a lark, he auditioned to replace Matthew Broderick in Brighton Beach Memoirs on Broadway, with Simon sitting in judgment. "It took place in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel, with mirrored walls and ceilings, and everywhere I looked, there was Neil Simon," he recalls. "It was frightening." He got the job, then replaced Broderick in Biloxi Blues on Broadway, and recently starred in the movie of Brighton Beach.

Broadway Bound, which draws on Simon's boyhood feelings about his parents' breakup, evokes painful memories for Silverman, whose own parents divorced when he was 12. "You go through horrible feelings," he says. "I never thought one day I would find them useful." It all makes the young vet smile when he recalls the words of his school drama teacher: "Some of you will go on to take drama at college, some of you may pursue it as a career." Says Silverman: "I tuned out. I thought that was ridiculous—you can't make a living as an actor."

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