Arts & Entertainment

Aaron De Jesus is a “Jersey Boys” veteran

February 27, 2017

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The Tony and Grammy Award-winning hit musical “Jersey Boys,” the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons will make its return to Indianapolis to play Clowes Memorial Hall on February 28 through March 5, 2017.  The musical is presented by Broadway in Indianapolis.

Directed by two-time Tony® Award-winner Des McAnuff, “Jersey Boys” is written by Academy Award-winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.

“Jersey Boys” follows the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi.  It’s true story of about a group of blue-collar boys who became came one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. Writing their own songs and inventing their own sounds. They sold 175 million records worldwide. Their hits included “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What A Night,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Working My Way Back To You.”

Recently I spoke by phone with Aaron De Jesus, who plays Frankie Valli. De Jesus’ credits include “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” and “Spamalot,” “Peter Pan,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Big River,” “Guys and Dolls,” and many more. At the time we spoke, De Jesus and the cast were performing with the show at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas, their last stop before coming to Indy.

Aaron De Jesus

Aaron De Jesus – Courtesy of Broadway in Indianapolis. Used by permission.

Tell me about your history with “Jersey Boys”

I joined the tour about a year and a half ago. I have been with “Jersey Boys” now for just about five years. I did the show in Las Vegas  for three and half years before I came out on the road.

Have you always played the role of Frankie?

No, when I was in Las Vegas, I actually played the role of Joe Pesci. The Joe Pesci role always understudies Frankie so I had several opportunities to go on as Frankie, in Las Vegas, probably about once a month on an average. It gave me really great practice so when I assumed the role, I was relatively comfortable, or as comfortable as one can be, with something so daunting.

How long are the runs on the tour?

The show has been touring now for 11 years so we are starting to play some of what they call the B and C markets and because of that we are not staying long. Most of the cities we play are about for a week. Occasionally we will do a longer sit down. We did D.C. for four weeks and San Francisco for four weeks. We’ll be in L.A. for this leg of the tour for six weeks. But for pretty much for all the cities —it’s one week.

How long are you signed to this tour?

Right now we are scheduled into July and then we’ll take a break, This is the second tour of “Jersey Boys.” It started fice years ago and it’s done in seasons. We start in September and go till summer and take half the summer off and so we’ll do that again this year. They have already started to book dates for the next leg of the tour.

Is it safe to say that with the Baby boomer generation as large as it is, that this show could run indefinitely?

"Jersey Boys"

L- R  Drew Seeley, Matthew Dailey, Aaron De Jesus & Keith Hines. Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel. Used by permission.

It is fair to say that. The show did close on Broadway but before it even closed there were rumors that it might pick up in a smaller theater. Don’t quote me on that but Frankie Valli himself was interviewed and brought that up and I haven’t heard any official news other that what he said. This show will be around, even if the tour closes. You’ll find it popping up in regional theaters across the country forever.

Are there many who have seen the show multiple times?

Most people don’t just see the show only once. I think it has really been one of the reasons it has gone so long. We have a lot of fans who have seen it literally dozens of times and some of them have seen the show hundreds of times. It is amazing to me. I can honestly say that after five years of doing this show that when one of the songs comes on the radio, on an elevator or something I don’t roll my eyes and think. “Oh, I can’t get away from the show.”  I kind of smile. It’s fun and because of the music and every aspect of the show— the direction, the script, the costumes, the lighting and sound design—everything is so well thought through. It is so well produced, the choreography. It’s an amazing show. I can’t way that about other shows that I have been in.

Are you based in New York?

We were based in Las Vegas until I came out on tour and right now we are sort of based in New York and sort of, kind of homeless. We have a house in Las Vegas that we are renting out and right now living on the road.

Are you married?

Yes.  wife is also an actress and we share the same experiences.

It must be tough to be separated.

It is tough. We have a 5-year old daughter who sometimes travels with me and sometimes with her mom and sometimes we are all together.

So, she was born in a trunk?

Yes, she’s a show baby.

How old are your parents?

My parents were born in the 50’s.

Are they fans of  Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons?

I grew up listening to all kinds of music. My parents were kind of fans of music in general. My mom especially. I get my musical ability from her side of the family. I have always loved oldies and what we call oldies, right? I love classic rock and roll music.

Would you consider yourself an old soul?

To a certain degree, yes.  I always tell people I am young enough to play Frankie when he was 16 and old enough play him when he is 60.

Have you met Frankie?

I have. I have had several occasions to meet him.

Doesn’t he enjoying meeting all the performers who play Frankie?

He does. He has been involved with the show from the beginning. He checks in on us and is very supportive and very complimentary. He is fantastic.

What do you like about the role?

I like a good challenge and this role definitely gives me that. Like I mentioned earlier, I play Frankie from age 16 to Frankie in his 60s and I get the opportunity to play not only an age range but also a wide emotional range. There are ups and downs in the show as you know—the pinnacle of stardom and success and literally, the depths of despair when his daughter dies. As an actor, my challenge is to keep it fresh and real every time I do it. Many people see the show, time and time again. There are always people seeing it for the first time. I have always been a believer that their first time should be as good anybody else’s first time.

"Jersey Boys"

L-R   Drew Seeley, Aaron De Jesus, Matthew Dailey, Keith Hines & the company of “Jersey Boys.”  Courtesy of Jeremy Daniels. Used by permission.

Does Frankie’s story as an entertainer inspire you in terms of your own career?

Yes, you learn important life lessons from these guys and their story. It’s definitely inspiring to understand the drive and ambition it takes to become a big star. I also learned that everything comes at a cost. Like I mentioned about my family. That’s part of the cost. It’s a wonderful opportunity and I love my job but it does come at a cost and so that is definitely one of the important lessons that I have learned from taking on this role.

What is the most common thing that audience members tell you about the show?

I am always blown away at how some of the people have such a personal connection with the music. People tell me that all the time “this is our wedding song,” or “I kissed a girl the first time during this song.” It’s fun to hear people’s personal connection with this music and that is probably the most common and one of the most enjoyable things I hear.

I’m sure you have music that takes you back to your time, right?

Yes. It does. You know, when I was in high school, my buddies started kind of an acapella quartet and we started singing do wop songs…songs from this era like “Earth Angel.” That is my personal connection to this style and this kind of music. As far as I’m concerned, it’s timeless. Honestly,  you look out and see two and three generations of family members sitting together watching the show and the young people know this music.

Does this music impact young people?  

Absolutely. The other day I was watching TV and a commercial came on and it was an ice cream commercial and what was the song playing in the background? “You’re just too good to be true. Can’t take my eyes of you.” It wasn’t a cover. It was Frankie and we noticed. Everyone knows these songs.

You must have a good falsetto?

It’s good enough, I suppose. (Laughs)

Where are you originally from?

I was born in New York City but when I was 5 years old we moved our west and I grew up in Utah. I was there until my 20s and eventually went to college. Lived in Miami for a couple of years and then I got married down there and my wife and I moved to Las Vegas and lived there for ten years.

Have you ever played Indy?

I never have. I am not a huge Nascar fan but I know about cars. A buddy got me into NHR a bit so I have been around.

What can you say to those who have seen the show multiple times expect from this production?

This production is unique because in Indianapolis, they have never seen me. This is our first time coming. The great thing about the way the show is structured is that we all play the roles a little differently. We are different guys so they don’t want us to be carbon copies of each other. They hire us because of who we are. So we have a great chemistry, me and the other guys. We have a lot of fun.

Would you say your characters are informed by your personalities?

Absolutely.

You do a kind of impression of Frankie don’t you?

Yes. I like to do kind of a nod to this style. Someone told me in the past I sound quite a bit like him and it’s probably because we have a similar intonation to our voices. Not everybody who has played the role has that.

Does the accent come easy to you?

Definitely. It does come easy and I get that from my dad. He was born and raised in the South Bronx.

For those who have never seen the show, why should they come see it?

Seeing as how Indy has a working class and is associated with race cars and guy things, men can bring their wives to. It doesn’t have to be the other way around. The show is about four blue collar guys from a working class neighborhood who rise up to the stars. It’s not cookie cutter. Nothing like that. It is gritty and real and dirty at times and it’s a guy musical.

“Jersey Boys” will play in Indianapolis at Clowes Hall February 28 – March 5. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., Sunday matinee at 1 p.m. and Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available in person at Clowes Memorial Hall, the Old National Centre Ticket Office, online at BroadwayinIndianapolis.com, or by phone at 1-800-982-2787.  Groups of 10 or more can book now by calling 317-632-7469 x103.

 

 

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Author

Tom Alvarez

Tom Alvarez is a freelance writer who has covered theater, dance, music and visual art for over 40 years. He has written for the Indianapolis Star, NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana and Examiner.com. Tom appears regularly as a contributor on WISH-Channel 8''s "Indy Style." Also an actor/model, Tom is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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