JERSEY BOYS, the internationally acclaimed hit musical, returns to Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this summer, telling the remarkable rise to stardom of one of the most successful bands in pop music history. It tells how four New Jersey boys from the wrong side of the tracks invented their own unique sound, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and sold 175 million records worldwide and all before they turned 30.
Michael Watson plays Frankie Valli, Lewis Griffiths is Nick Massi, Simon Bailey is Tommy DeVito and Declan Egan is Bob Gaudio. They spoke about bringing the show to Wolverhampton from 28 August – 8 September.
Lewis Griffiths: We’ve all played our roles respectively in previous productions of the show. I was on the inaugural tour of Jersey Boys which came to Wolverhampton Grand before and the others have played it in the West End. I’ll be making a very welcome return to the Grand Theatre, in the same role but with an entirely new cast around me. It’s everything and more that everyone would expect and anticipate from the previous show – we’re bringing the West End to the West Midlands.
Michael Watson: We’re feeling a real sense of energy with the show. We’ve all done it before and when we first met and came together to rehearse it we felt a renewed sense of energy and I think that comes across to the audience. We’ve had some wonderful responses and we just really enjoy taking it to everywhere that we can.
Simon Bailey: This is a unique show, it combines music you know with a story you don’t. Not only are you waiting for brilliant songs to take place but the good people of Wolverhampton will discover a lot about these people. A lot of it is dark but a lot is funny and sexy, there’s everything in there and something that always keeps your interest. You’re entertained for two and a half hours and it’s wonderful.
LG: There’s a definite chronology to it all. It lays itself out and tells its own story. The timeline of the band, their rise, their fall and their demise is all set out in the context of the songs. They weren’t written for that purpose, they were written to be great hit songs however the story is one long timeline and the show tells that story through four different perspectives. Michael and I tell the second half of the story as Frankie and Nick.
MW: Yes, a lot of people say the second half is their favourite…
LG: I would have thought so…
MW: It’s a joy of a piece to do because each of us get our chance to shine in the spotlight and tell our character’s bit of the story. We have people call out to us because they feel so involved in the story. They’re with us, they’re there in the moment and it’s amazing.
Declan Egan: Bob Gaudio is an incredible man. He still has all the rights for his songs and still has huge involvement in the show all over the world. The money they make from the show is more than they made from their own career as the Four Seasons, they’re very good businessmen, especially Bob Gaudio!
MW: Frankie is very well known for his voice. His voice precedes him and playing him takes a certain amount of pressure to bring that to the stage. He is such a determined guy, from a young age he knew he wanted to get out of New Jersey and make something of himself. For him, music was the outlet. He was learning to be a barber, but it didn’t satisfy him. He had an inner feeling that he needed to do something more than what his current circumstances were. He made that his life ambition and he did it, I really respect that of him. He’s a very principled man. He had a contract on just a handshake with Bob Gaudio and for forty or fifty years there was no paperwork, just a deal on a handshake and that’s the kind of guy he is, you know what you get with Frankie Valli.
He sees the group as a family and for him, family is everything. He says the line “you don’t forget where you come from” and many others like that throughout the show. It was Tommy [DeVito] who took him off the streets, when Tommy hits the wall, which is inevitable when someone has that sort of personality, he says “I’m going to take that pressure for you, I’m never going to forgive you for what you did to the band but I’m not going to leave you in the lurch. You’re family, you helped me and I’m going to help you.”
LG: Picking up from Michael, he and his character lead the show, you lead from the front and my character Nick, with respect, has a bit more of a moral compass than the other three. He was always shut out and left in the dark. He always had the principals behind the music which is why he had such a falling out with Tommy. He was hurt as a result of the handshake that Bob and Frankie had. That said, he had courage and said, “I’m not in it for this, I’m going to cut my losses and enjoy the rest of my life.” I have such admiration for the man and it’s an honour to play the role of a man who never said much, never did much but has such an integral lynchpin contribution to the rise of a band of this grandeur.
SB: Tommy’s aim is to better himself and better others. His methods are questionable, I suppose as an actor you have to identify with the character you’re playing and it’s difficult to identify with someone who’s been in prison, because I haven’t, yet. His heart is definitely in the right place he just goes about it in a rather questionable manner!
DE: The action is very authentic! I’m Australian and I always get caught up with a few of the swear words that I might use in public! But I can relate to that, it’s just terms that they use and a part of their expression.
SB: There’s always a point in life where someone blows off and you can take that onto stage and release it all, by the time you’re done with it, you’re better. If you’re having a bad day, which people always do, I and Declan always say it’s such amazing therapy.
DE: By the end of Who Loves You and Oh What A Night you come out of the theatre beaming! It’s a very hard show to unwind from afterwards because there’s such an adrenaline rush! Standing ovations are standard. It is overwhelming, but twelve years on this show is still affecting people. It’s so cool! I first played this role at nineteen and I’m now twenty-six. I keep coming back and that is testimony to how great it is. I am so very proud to have been a Jersey Boy for seven years. To be part of such a legacy – I still have to say pinch me!
MW: The show’s original Broadway Cast Recording has won a Grammy Award! It just shows you that when you’ve got good quality, it never dies!
DE: There are so many songs in the show that I adore. My favourite song in the show changes every week. At the moment I think it’s My Eyes Adored You. It’s just such a classic song and the horns section is iconic, you really can’t escape that!
SB: I’m the same… everyone knows the words to these songs, there are no filler songs, they’re all hits in their own right and so my favourite changes all the time too. My favourite at the moment is Cry For Me. It’s the first time the boys all get together and sing those iconic harmonies. We’re so lucky, this show is built on the amazing music of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons, it’s a foot tapper and we get to enjoy such fabulous crowds!
JERSEY BOYS is at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Tuesday 28 August – Saturday 8 September 2018. For tickets visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01902 42 92 12.
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