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The concert that never was…

Published September 2, 2014 by samssister

Hello again,

Well after laptop issues a plenty I am glad to be finally bringing to you my thoughts on Let It Be when I went to see it on it’s return to the West End. As an added bonus however I was honoured to be able to ask Michael Gagliano, one of the cast members, some questions about the show.

Now being staged at the Garrick Theatre (its previous home was The Savoy Theatre), for a limited run, the change of venue has not altered the production at all. The show itself, as you may have seen in my previous blog, is less of a show and more of a concert. With musicals set around a band or an artist you can never be sure what you’re going to get. For example, Soul Sister tells the story of the life of Tina Turner. Tonight’s the Night introduces alternative characters whilst namedropping Rod Stewart and performing his songs. But Let It Be is simple, straightforward and instead of bulking it out with story, it is track after track of classic Beatles hits.

The four group members are dressed appropriately for whichever of the Beatles’ ‘eras’ they are portraying and it takes the more significant historical moments as a baseline. So the Cavern Club days, the release of their first film (A Hard Day’s Night), the Shea Stadium gig and Sergeant Pepper, among others, all come to the fore and the costumes perfectly reflect where they are – for a Beatles fan such as myself all it takes is a glimpse and immediately it is obvious.

Costumes (including a change of wigs and facial hair) are accompanied by backdrops and lighting effects to complete the scenes. The four ‘Beatles’ all played a multitude of instruments and took on all of the mannerisms of John, Paul, George or Ringo. Technically, too, this production has been researched. There are times on individual songs when Paul is on piano and John on base etc and these were absolutely correct throughout the show.

There are a few people for each ‘Beatle’ so you never know which cast you will get but they are all introduced and each of them brings a slightly different take and slight dynamic difference to the production, but this is not a negative, it is just interesting to see the different interpretations of the group. In my original blog (from January) I go into a little more detail about the overall show so please do go and check that one out too. It is hard to compare them as they are all musically gifted and have been chosen for their abilities and because they sound similar to the original group member.

Audience participation is actively encouraged, and certainly some of them took that to mean stand up through a majority of the show and wave your arms about – I don’t have a problem with this when the whole audience is doing it or at appropriate times but one or two people through the whole thing is a little irritating. That said, I wanted to sing and clap as the show totally rocks the theatre. Personally, I loved it, if you are a Beatles fan and you wish to relive those days, or if you are too young to have been there the first time (myself included) then it is an opportunity to see ‘The Beatles’ perform and it is easy to get caught up in the show.

If, however, you are after a musical in the traditional format, with some story, exquisite costumes and fantastic sets then you will be disappointed. If you are after a night of good music and somewhere you can let your hair down then you will love it. And if someone as sceptical of tribute acts and people pretending to be the Beatles as me can go and want to go back time and time again, then they must be doing something right. The packed audience which consisted of a wide age range of people all looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, for sure The Beatles will live on for many more years and I’d like to think that Let It Be will too.

And speaking of doing something right, here is my interview with someone who does it VERY right!

1. Please introduce yourself

I’m Michael Gagliano I play John Lennon in the smash hit west end musical about The Beatles called let it be. I am also the frontman of British band The Sails.

2. Can you talk us through a typical performance of Let It Be? What’s it about, what can the audience expect?

Let it be is a multi media rich extravaganza of the beatles greatest songs performed live at key moments of their illustrious career through a series of historical concerts and dreamscapes. It’s billed as the Beatles concert you never got to see.

3. The Beatles – are you a fan? Have you always been? And was John your favourite?

I’m a massive Beatles anorak and I’ve grown up with them in my life since a tiny child. Yes, John was my favourite to me he is the soul of The Beatles .

4. So when did you realise you were like Mr Lennon and how did you start out?

I never think I can be enough like John but I study him and the band in great anoraky detail every single day purely out of love for them. Hopefully this helps me to absorb him and the music more everyday in order to represent him to audiences in the most natural, honest and believable way, hopefully audiences can see my love for the man and the band he started.

5. You have been playing him for a while – how do the other bands you’ve been in compare to Let It Be?

I’ve played john for 8 years now in tribute bands and they all do their best in their own way to portray the band as they see them but Let It Be is on a different level because the show cherry picked the best Beatle performers globally.

6. Did you have to do a lot of research to be able to copy Lennon’s mannerisms? (Must’ve been a nightmare trawling through hours of Beatles footage – not!)

I’ve just absorbed John since I was small and hopefully people see that in my very being rather than being a cartoony version or overplaying him or falling into parody. I play him naturally and honestly which is who he was as a man. No other entertainer reached a level of humanism as much as John did which is why he was so loved by the masses. He and The Beatles represented the humanism in us all ,they reflected our hopes and dreams back at us.

7. When you heard they were making a Beatles musical, what were your first thoughts (I have to be honest, I was sceptical)? And now how do you feel about it?

The Beatles are the worlds greatest group – always have been and always will be. They are British and us Brits need to have a show that represents them best in the greatest entertainment city on Earth – London’s West End. I was very pleased to be given the role because it’s a dream come true in many ways.

8. What are audiences like? Do you find there are mixed ranges of people? How do they react to the show?

The Beatles appeal is universal and our audiences represent that, all ages love them and all ages come to see us do them proud (hopefully)! They go mad pretty much like the fans did for the band but our audiences are a bit quieter – Well…sometimes.

9. To play Lennon must be an honour. Do you ever feel a lot of responsibility? Are you ever nervous?

It’s a massive honour playing one of the greatest most loved musical icons in the history of our planet and I feel the weight of the responsibility every time I step on stage. The Beatles mean so much to people that it’s hard not to feel it but from the feedback I get from audiences I’m on the right track. However I never take it for granted that I’m doing a good job, I work on it everyday, but it’s hardly a chore playing /studying the greatest musical works ever made.

10. The Beatles are iconic. They set a lot of milestones. How does it feel to be able to re-enact many of those?

To perform as John Lennon at Shea Stadium or at the Royal Variety Performance is a childlike dream and I still giggle inside every night even though I’ve been doing it for years. Every night it still feels like the first time and that just shows how magical the Beatles and their music still are and will always be.

11. What have been the highlights of your career as Lennon?

I’ve stood on the West End stage playing my idol at the Royal Variety Show on the very same spot as John, at the very same theatre, 50 years to the very day and said the “rattle your jewellery” line which was surreal but how many other people can say they’ve done that?!! Recently we re-enacted the Abbey Road LP cover 45 years to the very minute that the Beatles made the crossing and that was also amazing. These are just two in a list of many.

12. Do you have a favourite Beatles song? If so, why?

‘Strawberry Fields’/’Penny Lane’ is the greatest double A side (N:for those people who remember vinyl…) ever released, but I also love ‘Hey Bulldog’, ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’, ‘I Call Your Name’,’Dear Prudence’,’She Said, She Said’,’Dr Robert’, ‘The Word’,’Nowhere Man’…..please someone stop me!!! (N: I know the feeling, I am the same!)

13. Do you have a favourite Beatles album? Again why? (Mine is Rubber Soul for the record!)

Rubber soul and Revolver are my desert island records but it changes to the White Album and Abbey Road, then A Hard Days Night and Magical Mystery Tour, then Help! and Let It Be depending on what mood I’m in. The Beatles have a song to match every single human emotion.

14. What is your favourite part of the show?

The beginning, the middle and the end and everything in between. Apart from the travelling to London, that’s the bit I get paid to do. The music and performing I do for free out of love.

15. You are in a band outside of Let It Be – what style of music do you perform? Can we listen to any of it anywhere?

I’m in a solo project called The Sails. I’ve released 3 albums all available online and in the 90’s i was in a band called Epic on the same label as the Stone Roses. All very Beatle-y and all available online.

16. Did you ever think you would be appearing on the West End?

Yes I always believed I’d make it one day somehow. You’ve got to keep believing in who you are and what you want to do with your life.

17. Why do you think the Beatles are still so popular now?

Because they represent every element of being a human being, they are the soundtrack to our lives and our dreams. They were more than muscians they were magicians and we are all still under their spell and long long long may it continue!!

18. Do you have any other musical influences? What is currently on your playlist?

I love modern bands like the Black Keys, Electric Soft Parade, The Cardigans, and influential British rocks bands like The Jam, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces etc.

19. Apart from music, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I don’t have any spare time but if I do I like to hang out with my amazing children and my beautiful girlfriend Maria.

20. What are your plans for the future?

To release a new Sails album and carry on playing music. Also hopefully people love me playing John and will want me to continue. I’m also open to the idea of other musicals one day. But who knows what else this crazy life has in store for me… answers on a postcard please, but keep them clean!

Please see the links below for some examples of what you can expect if you go to see the show:

HELP! From West End Live 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUUGjR2M80o&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

I Saw Her Standing There, WEL 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m2bM13xadY&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

On both the above clips, Michael Gagliano is performing as John.

The final clip is another taster of what you can expect, taken from the recent production by myself. (Michael Gagliano was NOT performing on this occasion). Hope you enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv7_p1U0huQ&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

Buy your tickets from here – Official Theatre (www.officialtheatre.com)

Once again, a huge thank you to Michael Gagliano for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions, and I HIGHLY recommend that you catch him in action. Also thanks to Official Theatre for arranging the bloggers trip and my sincere apologies to all concerned that this has taken me SO long to get out to you.

A fab (four) evening of entertainment.

Keep dreaming,

Naomi xx

Curiouser and curiouser

Published July 14, 2014 by samssister

First of all, hi! I know it has been a while since I have posted but having two arms in plaster casts has made it rather tricky. However, they are recovering pretty well now so how could I turn down the opportunity given to me by Official Theatre, to watch The National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time.
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This production has newly opened at the Gielgud Theatre after the unfortunate incident of a ceiling collapse at its previous home. Based on the book of the same name by Mark Haddon, the story is told through the thoughts of 15 year old Christopher who has Asperger Syndrome.

Graham Butler plays the troubled teenager, though he is not troubled in the ways of a normal adolescent, rather in his own mind. He has a logical approach to everything, cannot tell lies, has slight behavioural problems (due to his condition) and is highly mathematically intelligent.

Finding his neighbour’s dog dead leads to him trying to solve the mystery of who killed it and along the way he uncovers a lot of information about his family despite struggling to communicate with people, particularly strangers.

This play is possibly the most uniquely staged I have ever seen. A combination of lighting and sound effects, an entirely minimalistic set and brilliantly convincing characterisation from the cast lead to a stunning show.

It is thought provoking, at times funny and yet also sad. The demonstration that for some people life is such a struggle is made visible here and there is so much going on within Christopher’s head that it is no wonder he struggles to make sense of the world. Not at any point does Butler slip out of character and his portrayal even through to his physicality is right on the money.

Of course I have never had to deal with a problem such as Asperger Syndrome, so I cannot say that what is depicted in the production is how life is for all sufferers but from research I do know how mostly they like things to be just so, to have a reason and to make sense. The way Christopher assesses situations and the way in which, at times he is so overwhelmed by his surroundings is done so that non-sufferers can clearly see what it must be like.

Director Marianne Elliott and designer Bunny Christie have been extremely clever with the set and character placement. Pocket after pocket is used to produce props, sound and lighting effects to create the chaos in Christophers mind, and a narrator is present throughout to explain everything, to read Christophers thoughts if you like, introducing the other cast members and scenarios.

The narrator, Siobhan is played by Sarah Woodward. She is also Christopher’s school teacher and one of the few people he will talk to. She is sympathetic and understanding, yet at the same time she is firm and capable of dealing with her students. Other notable characters include Dad (Nicolas Tennant), Mum (Emily Joyce) and Mrs Alexander (Gay Soper) but in truth the whole ensemble work seamlessly together to create the experience.

And that’s what it is – an experience. It is no surprise that this production has won 7 Olivier Awards, it is an extraordinary play about an extraordinary boy told in an extraordinary way and there is no doubt that it will continue to keep audiences riveted for a long time to come.

If you only see one production this year then this should be it.

With thanks to http:// http://www.officialtheatre.com /http://www.officialtheatre.com/ for arranging the trip and please check out their website link for tickets.

Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx

P.S. I hope I’m back for good now!

Seriously….never talk to strangers

Published February 27, 2014 by samssister

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I recently was pleased to be able to catch the West End version of Strangers on a train before its run ended on Feb 22nd. I’d heard a few reports from it but not much about it, so it was good to see it with an open mind and minimal knowledge.

Probably best known as a film by thriller maestro Alfred Hitchcock, Strangers on a train started life as a novel by Patricia Highsmith. This adaptation is by Craig Warner and although it was entirely new to me,  there was a definite movie feel about the production.

Jack Huston stars as the incredibly creepy Charles Bruno, a man with plenty of money and no sense of personal space. From the outset it is clear he has homosexual preferences and takes an instant liking to Guy Haines (Laurence Fox), an architect who has become the local laughing stock after his wife Miriam (Myanna Buring) has had a string of affairs.

After an initial meeting in a train carriage and then being persuaded to take a drink in Charles’ room, Guy reveals to Charles that he now has another girlfriend and that Miriam is making a divorce difficult for him. Charles then announces that he wants his father dead. And from there is the plot – Charles’ idea. Two strangers, two murders and neither seemingly connected.

Quite soon after their meeting, Charles strangles Miriam. Guy, who is now with Anne – his girlfriend (Miranda Raison), hears the news and begins to worry and is questioned by the police.  He was never planning to go through with the murder of Bruno Senior and is upset wirh the events.

Charles, however, begins to send letter after letter to Guy. He turns up everywhere, always uninvited and unwelcome, including an appearance at Guy and Anne’s wedding. Letters are also sent to Guy’s family, colleagues and friends. The mental torment for Guy is unbearable so he commits the crime in the hope of being left alone, but sadly things don’t stop there.

The play is cleverly done. Entirely in shades of black, white and grey, the costumes and set look extremely effective. The use of a turntable divided into three also means there are multiple sets but the changes are done simply by moving the round to the next third, making everything nicely slick. The use of background music to set both the period and the tone of the show and of black and white projections all help to create a movie-like and interesting piece. I thought the use of the cast to create tableaus while the man action went on in the foreground worked exceptionally well, apart from the occasional blink they could have been mannequins.

The most disappointing part for me was the end. Tension had been built nicely throughout act one and during act two I wanted nothing more than for Charles to die. Even his mother (Imogen Stubbs) who had a strange, seemingly incestuous relationship with her son, didn’t want to know him. But the final scenes,  after a fantastic performance from the cast, were a bit of an anti-climax and appeared a bit hurried.

Nonetheless I enjoyed it very much,  especially Huston’s somewhat deluded and rather scary character which was faultless. It is a shame that a talented cast such as these have had a short run but if you get the chance to see any of them perform in the future then I highly recommend them.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Oh! What A Night

Published February 6, 2014 by samssister

I cant believe how long it has taken me to finally get around to seeing today’s show, but finally after hundreds of rave reports and a cracking ticket bargain, I got to see Jersey Boys.

I knew, of course, of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – I couldn’t be such a huge fan of the ’60’s and not have heard some of their music. However, what I didn’t know was about them.

Jersey Boys tells the story of the band, from its conception, through the trials, tribulations and sometimes tragedies of the group as a whole and as individuals.

Started byTommy DeVito (Jon Boydon), a slightly temperamental gambler with big ideas, who’s original band members – himself included – spent a large proportion of time in jail, he discovers a young lad with a hugely distinctive voice.

This young man is Frankie (Ben Jennings). Because he is young he is easily influenced and he is under Tommy’s thumb. Decisions are all made by Tommy, though it is debatable that Frankie would ever have been so successful had Tommy not helped to kick start everything.

As time passes and agents begin to get involved,  Tommy struggles to maintain control and becomes resentful. The other group members – Bob Gaudio (Edd Post) and Nick Massi (David McGranaghan) are sick of being constantly renamed and never getting anywhere.

Tensions flare up and the discovery that DeVito is thousands of pounds (well, ok, dollars) in debt, along with the agreement between Gaudio and Valli, is the final straw.

The show covers the story, in detail and with narration – mostly from DeVito but from each member of the group – about their rise to fame, their relationships both inside and outside the band and beyond,  right up until now.

The soundtrack is a surprising one due to a number of songs being covered, and ultimately better known by alternative artists, an example of this being ‘Cant Take My Eyes Off You’ perhaps most familiar by Andy Williams. Other hits include ‘Walk Like A Man’, ‘Ragdoll’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ but these are by no means the only ones.

The staging is done over two levels and the clever use of lighting enhances the speaker or situation at any one time. I also enjoyed the way that TV or concert appearances were performed using techniques such as ‘live-cams’ and using upstage for downstage.

Ryan Molloy is world renowned for his performance as Frankie and he has a huge following.  His understudy,  Jon Lee, is also an experienced performer after a pop career with S Club 7 and a stint as Marius in Les Miserables. However,  our Frankie for the evening was Ben Jennings. I have to say I thought he was incredible and I am not in the least disappointed that he was on. Jennings is definitely going to be a name to watch out for, his vocals,  even at such a high range, were flawless and he was great to watch.

I thoroughly enjoyed Boydon’s DeVito, though every one of the ‘Seasons’ was convincing. I think my favourite scene had to be Gaudio’s ‘initiation’ into becoming a man, accompanied with the lovely ladies of the cast.  A mention must also go to Tommie Lee Jenkins who played a number of small roles but his moves were slick and he was captivating.

This is a show that would appeal to all ages. It is not mind-blowing and there are few special effects or fancy pieces of set. But what you get is a good solid show, with toe-tapping tunes, a well thought out and easy to follow story and one which will put a smile on your face. Definitely worth seeing, though be warned, you will probably want to make a return visit.

If you have not seen the show,  or indeed if you have and are interested,  I recently interviewed Jon Boydon and he gives a lovely description of his character among lots of other things. You can find it here: http:// wp.me/p2RIFK-5I

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Can’t buy me love? Then a ticket to Let It Be will do nicely

Published January 13, 2014 by samssister

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Well, it seems ages since I have written a show review on here, but let’s start 2014 like I mean to go on – a new review blog, this time from Let It Be at the Savoy Theatre. As a massive Beatles fan, I had heard about this show when it was still in its creation stage. I dare say that I was somewhat sceptical to go to see a show containing people posing as my four favourite boys. I have seen countless ‘tribute acts’ and although I have always found them enjoyable (due in the most part to the music), I don’t think the originals can be matched. The only exception to this being the Bootleg Beatles, who’s performances, mannerisms and stage presence are like watching the ‘Fab Four’.

So, bearing the above in mind, I was unsure about seeing Let It Be. I have been tempted, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t until I saw a few numbers performed by the cast at West End Live that I actually seriously considered going. I was able to witness the show for myself, however, when a friend of mine won a competition of two tickets and a meet and greet with the cast after the performance. Perfect! I am SO glad we went, my only disappointment is that I did not go sooner.

The show itself is rather a condensed history of the Beatles and although the settings (such as the Cavern Club, Strawberry Fields etc) are in chronological order, the songs are not necessarily. I actually rather liked this fact as many of my favourites are from the mid-sixties, so chances are they would have been performed by the interval if this had been the case. It is clear that a lot of research has been done when bringing Let It Be to life. Everything, from the costumes, the instruments, the orchestral arrangements and the mannerisms of each of the cast according to which of the Beatles they playing, all are accurate, realistic and believable. Vocally, you can see why the individuals have been chosen for John, Paul, George and Ringo as they sound more than look like them – of course they are dressed appropriately, so from the minute they begin to play – in the day of Liverpool’s Cavern Club gigs- there can be no debating who’s who.

The selection of Beatles hits is an interesting one. They play many number ones and those which are expected (Let It Be, the show title, of course being the main one) but they also play a variety of songs which were only released as album tracks rather than singles. This was a pleasant surprise as very often only the most famous songs are played which is great as they are always crowd-pleasers, but not overly creative. I therefore thoroughly enjoyed the additions of It Won’t Be Long, Girl, Blackbird and Two of Us as just a few of the many chosen for the performance. All of the cast were talented musicians but John Brosnan who plays George Harrison was an extremely accomplished lead guitarist, I thoroughly enjoyed his version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps and couldn’t fault his playing.

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What was very clear was from the beginning to the end the cast ‘were’ The Beatles. The theatre was rocking, people were on their feet, they were singing and dancing and clapping. At the end they were bombarded with noise and it was obvious that not a single person sitting in that auditorium, myself included, wanted that gig to be over. My friend, who knew nothing about The Beatles is now a total convert. She had been slightly concerned that it wouldn’t be engaging enough but in actual fact the music grabbed her and she was absolutely into it from the start. I think this proves that Let It Be is suitable for anyone – certainly the age range in the audience was hugely varied. There is minimal story, but there is humour and for me, nothing is needed other than the music as that, after all, is what it is about. I would be amazed if people hadn’t heard at least one of the songs, even if they didn’t realise it, for example All You Need is Love, Help! or Hey Jude.

I truly wish that I had taken the plunge and gone before so I could return time and time again. Sadly, I have limited time as the show is closing in February. For those who will be unable to catch it in that time, the production is going on tour so it may be visiting a venue near you. I strongly recommend that you look out for it and book your tickets as soon as you can. You truly do not want to miss this. I have already booked to go again. I would like to say so much more about this production, but as some of you may know I recently broke both of my wrists, so typing is rather painful hence the short post.

The icing on the rather marvellous cake was getting to chat to the four ‘Beatles’ after the performance. A thoroughly delightful bunch of people, they are naturally warm and funny and made us feel very welcome. Indeed, all the staff at the Savoy involved with our day were extremely helpful and pleasant and on behalf of myself and Jessica, we would very much like to thank everyone. I will leave you with a few tasters from the show (apologies for the filming- arms again made it awkward) which I hope you will enjoy. I only filmed in the second act as having my phone/any recording equipment in a theatre goes against everything I believe, but in this case it was allowed! A final shout out must go to Michael Bramwell who was effectively the ‘George Martin’ of the show and he really helped to crate some magic up on that stage.

Meeting 'The Beatles'

Meeting ‘The Beatles’

An extract from ‘Girl’ (sorry for blurry beginning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tyb1Z18mdLg&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

A snippet from ‘All You Need is Love': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWV6YmH4B98&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

A portion of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx4c1gJbyQ0&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

Two short clips from Let It Be at West End Live (a different cast, but for any performance you may get an assortment from all cast members. This is a good thing as all are really talented)

‘HELP!': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUUGjR2M80o&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

‘I saw Her Standing There': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m2bM13xadY&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

Take your Mum, Dad, Granny, Baby nephew, get your dancing shoes on and have a brilliant time.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Jon Boydon answers….

Published December 30, 2013 by samssister

For my final interview of 2013, I have been lucky enough to persuade Jon Boydon to answer a few questions. Many of you will have seen Jon in action at the Prince Edward Theatre playing Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys. It has taken me a while to write this up as he answered everything so thoroughly, but I am delighted with his answers and very much hope you’ll agree that it’s a wonderful insight into his career.

Three of the 'Four Seasons', Jon Boydon (Tommy) is centre.

Three of the ‘Four Seasons’, Jon Boydon (Tommy) is centre.

1. You are currently playing Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys. Please tell us a little more about your character.

Tommy DeVito is one of the founding four members of the pop group The Four Seasons which launched Frankie Valli’s career and spawned countless pop hits. Tommy is principally a guitarist and a singer, but really his input to the band was the drive that he had. He wasn’t the best singer, ideas man or musician but he had the guts and the drive in the early days to secure them gigs. Once he saw he had the potential in the other three to get somewhere, he was determined to get there and he was responsible for those early bookings and getting money – a lot of which he kept for himself – and getting this band off of the starting blocks and out into the public eye. He’s a bit of a bad boy, he has a gambling problem once the money starts coming in, he’s mixed up in the mob. He’s a very mixed up character and great fun to play.

2. Were you a fan of Frankie Valli (and the Four Seasons) before you joined the cast?

I knew quite a few Frankie Valli/Four Seasons songs before I joined the show. I was brought up on my Dad’s music really – my Mum and Dad had great taste in music, Dad particularly has a great music collection – so I was aware of quite a lot of the songs. I wouldn’t necessarily know who they were by. I think a lot of people come to see the show armed with a handful in their minds and as the show progresses they think “oh, they did that one.”

Their music was covered by a variety of British artists and some of those British artists had bigger hits in the UK than The Four Seasons did with their songs. I would say about a third of them I knew, a third of them I knew but not by them and there were a third that were new to me – songs I had never heard before such as ‘Ragdoll’ and ‘Dawn’ which just weren’t on my radar – I’m not that old!

3. Are there any other roles within Jersey Boys you would like to tackle?

I joined the show nearly four years ago and came in to the role of Tommy and I’ve done it ever since. If I was going to play another role in Jersey Boys, I think I’d probably like to try Nick. I think Nick’s a really interesting character, I’m certainly too old for Bob and I don’t have the voice for Frankie. Maybe in another ten years I’ll be looking at Gyp (laughs), but I do think Nick would be interesting to play. If I was to play Nick, I think I would always be secretly looking at Tommy thinking “Hmmm, I wish I was doing that!”

4. You have been in Jersey Boys for around four years. Have you noticed any changes within the audiences or the popularity of the production over the years?

Being in a show for four years is a new thing for me, two years has usually been my maximum. There’s something about Jersey Boys that’s kept me here and it’s interesting to see a show – it was two years old when I joined it, so very much still at the beginning of its hype and excitement – Year three was still surging forward in that, a lot of the original cast were still involved and it was a very exciting time.

The show has maintained an incredible following and we still have very, very busy houses, people that are coming to see it for the first time and then people who are coming to see it for the hundredth time, it’s a real mix of experiences for people. I can’t seem to see that it has changed at all really – there are always seasonal fluctuations in the size of the house in any show unless it is in its first six months when it is totally sold out, so (for example) any given Wednesday at the beginning of November could be pretty quiet on any show and that’s been true of Jersey Boys as well, but the weekend crowds we get in are still packed to the rafters, still loving it, still seeing it for the first time. The show itself is maintained with incredible precision by our British creative team that the show is still as fresh as the day I joined it.

5. You have played a multitude of roles as well as been in a number of concerts/bands. Do you have a favourite and why?

I’ve been a very lucky boy and played a lot of fantastic roles in theatre. I’ve almost been able to tick off my hit list. They are all special for different reasons, I don’t think I’ve ever really done anything that’s so similar to another one that I have to pick a favourite between two. Playing Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar was as legit musical theatre as I’ve ever been, even though it’s still a rock musical, so that was a great journey for me to go on, doing a totally through-composed musical playing such an incredibly heavy part and going on a very difficult emotional journey every night – it was incredibly rewarding.

We Will Rock You being the alternate Galileo was a fantastic acting journey for me actually, because I’m not typically suited to the role – I’m quite tall and I was probably a little bit too old on paper – but it was great to put my head inside Galileo’s mind and be this young kid with this information bursting out of him that he’s seemingly unable to control and of course to sing such amazing songs, at times in the presence of Queen and Ben Elton. And being a rockstar at the end of the show every night was just a dream come true.

Currently, Tommy is my favourite role, I think the fact that I’ve done it for four years is testament to that. It’s a funny thing when jobs like this come along at the right time, when you’re available for a start, you’re the right type, you’re the right skillset and the door opened as I was ready to walk through it, so I’m not done with Tommy yet and I continue to enjoy pushing the envelope within the constraints that we have here at Jersey Boys, you know, finding new things out. And the profile of the show is magnificent, it’s like being in a band sometimes when we’re out doing little roadshow things and it just is a real buzz every night being not even the frontman – being the ‘side-guy’ on the guitar but still the band leader, it’s a great little adventure every night.

If I was pushed to pick a favourite I would say Tommy but if I end up in something else in a few years time, I’m sure it’ll be whatever I’m doing at that time although I will always have fond memories of everything I’ve done at different stages of my career.

6. If you could play any role – from ANY show, which would you choose and why?

The one that got away, probably because I’m not a great dancer, was Rum-Tum-Tugger in Cats. I always thought I might like to play Rum-Tum-Tugger and it’s certainly not going to happen now. Currently in the West End there’s not much that’s suited to me that I’d regard as being better than where I am, but I went to see The Bodyguard and I did enjoy the part of the Bodyguard (Frank Farmer) and I thought ‘Oh I could play that’ and it was the first time for a little while where I have watched something and thought ‘I could do that’ (I can’t obviously get to the theatre much because I’m working) and I did think that would be a nice role.

I think I’m suitable for one of the Dads in Mamma Mia! But I don’t have a huge desire to rush along and do that whilst I’ve got Tommy DeVito to play with. I toyed with the idea that I might like to play Phantom but I think vocally I’m not quite right, I would have to put on a bit more of a legitimate theatre voice and that’s not who I am, but the kudos of a role as famous as that would be incredible to play. I guess Jean Valjean in a similar way would be something else. But right now? I think I was lucky enough to tick off Frank-N-Furter and Judas and Galileo and a Jersey Boy and there isn’t much left that leaves me hungry. But there are always new shows coming – new shows on Broadway that you hear of, new writing for London – and who knows what will come along that will have my name all over it and I’ll think “I’ve gotta do that job!”

7. What has been the highlight of your career so far?

To have a career at all has been an incredible achievement or extended highlight. I didn’t go to drama school, I didn’t train as an actor, I didn’t train as a singer, I didn’t train as a musician, I’ve just taught myself everything along the way and to sustain a successful career for nearly 15 years just by sheer determination and hard work is something I am thankful for every day.

There are highs in any gig – singing Bohemian Rhapsody for Brian May on the opening night of my contract as Galileo was an incredible high with my family watching. Playing Hyde Park for Radio 2 Proms in the Park on my birthday doing Jersey Boys songs for 80,000 people was an incredible highlight. And sometimes it is just smaller things along the way – just having a kid at stage door come up to you and say “I want to be an actor when I’m older, would you sign my book” or “I bought your CD”. It sounds a little bit twee, but it’s a genuine thing that if you know that you’ve been to work and done your job – essentially all we’re doing is going to work and doing our job every day – but you’ve affected one person in an audience of 1500 and changed the course of their life for the better or inspired them to be creative, then that’s a little something you can take away with you without thousands of screaming fans or meeting famous people and that’s enough.

8. Are there any negative aspects to your job?

There aren’t many negative aspects to this job, it is a job, after all, that we love to do. We’re very lucky that we leave the house every day to go to work and know that we love what we do, but any job can be tedious at times or you can be tired or you can have personal problems or issues that you’re dealing with outside of work that you have to leave at the door and carry on regardless.

It’s a tough job in its energy, it’s a very focussed, extensive burst of energy at the end of the day when everybody else is switching off after finishing work and going out for an enjoyable time. You spend all day at home having your leisure time and then work very hard for a concentrated period in the evening. I think the biggest drawback is the impact it has on your social life, knowing that you’ll never have a weekend, a Saturday night date, time with your family – you know, anytime that everybody else is relaxing – Christmas time and things like that, they are always our busiest period. Anyone that works in the entertainment business or the leisure business or the restaurant business knows that Fridays, Saturdays, weekends, Christmas time, they’re always going to be your busiest time so eventually that does take its toll.However, it is a choice we have. We don’t have to do this job and you have to take the rough with the smooth. But in the main I love what I do, I love my job and I’m very thankful.

9. If you weren’t a performer, what do you think you would be doing instead?

If I wasn’t a performer I’m not really sure what I’d do, it’s changed over the years. When I first started out I was still young enough to just get another career, I imagined I might do something in advertising. Now, obviously, I’m older and it would be difficult to start out doing something from scratch, I’ve thought in terms of jobs I would do maybe in-between being a performer, such as a driving instructor or something similar.

I’m not really sure. I guess if I had to give up the most logical thing for me to do would be to retrain as a teacher and become a drama teacher with experience. At least then I would be keeping within the creative area but just passing on my knowledge to someone else.

10. Who or what are your influences?

I’m influenced by everything really, everything I see, people I see every day, any interaction with the outside world is going to inform your performance at some point or another. Characters you meet out and about on the street, on the bus, in a shop, people you work with, any of this can feed into characters you come up with, even if it’s just for fun.

I don’t particularly single out any one actor or musician that has influenced my life in such a great way, I like a lot of actors and I like a lot of musicians. I think I’ve learnt most from working with people, so anyone I’ve worked with has influenced my skill. Being on stage with someone night after night and feeding off their energy and bouncing off them and using the dialogue that you’re given to create a story is something that you learn – to watch the other person very closely and feed off their timing and their energy and give it back to them in the same way, so although it’s essentially the same performance every night, there are microscopic little differences and changes that you perceive that transform the way you respond.

So I would say that my role models, if you like, have been my family and teachers and a few pop stars and a few movie stars, but generally it’s just getting out there and doing the work and working with good people – it rubs off on you.

11. You have recorded an album – is this a reflection of your musical taste? Do you write your own music and are there any plans for another?

My album ‘Three-Four’ was a collection of some of my favourite songs. Also with the knowledge that my market-base was going to be primarily Jersey Boys fans initially so it was deliberately pitched in places at the ‘Doo-wop’, sixties sound, but these in a way are the songs I grew up with, listening to stuff that my Dad used to play, so I haven’t just gone through and deliberately picked songs that sounded a bit like Jersey Boys songs – they’re songs I’ve known since I could walk and talk.

There’s a little walk down the rock ‘n’ roll side of me, not very heavy rock but enough to fit in with the taste of the album and ‘Fallen Angel’ is one of my own compositions on there, which was ironically titled since there’s a fallen angel in Jersey boys. I wrote it when I was about 20, at university, and never really did anything with it, so in coming to do the album I decided I wanted to put it on there and do a full arrangement with the band, so it was really nice hearing a song that I’d only really ever done with an acoustic guitar and voice come to life with full orchestra, keys and drums etc.

It was quite an expensive process and I was doing it for myself, I wasn’t doing it to make money, but it did in fact cost quite a lot – I haven’t recouped the cost of doing it and I still have several boxes of CD’s that are, as yet, unsold (laughs) in the garage. But even saying this, I do plan to do another one next year, I think we’ll go about it in a slightly different way. The first one was, primarily for me, to spend a week in a recording studio and have some fun and lovingly doing it for the fans. I think the next one will be more directed at the fans ’cause I’ve fulfilled my ambition of recording an album with the last one. It will be funded differently, it’ll be marketed differently, it will be available differently. As to the content, I have had some good ideas and… watch this space!

12. Which three words would you choose to best describe yourself?

The impossible question of three words! (After a lot of thought) For today we shall go with optimistic, dedicated and stubborn.

13. What single item couldn’t you live without? (Family is a given):

The item I couldn’t live without would be a guitar.

14. Do you have any advice for budding actors or people wanting to break into theatre?

People do ask me advice at stage door or when I see them, or “Oh, my friends’ daughter is thinking of doing this…”. Advice is an odd thing to give because everybody’s  journey is a little bit different. I, for example, didn’t go to college but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you don’t go to college but I can’t recommend that you do go to college ’cause I don’t know what the college will give you.

I think you have to be true with yourself, you have to be honest and ask yourself “Am I really good enough?” “Am I better than the thousands of other people out there that are going to be trying to get ahead in this very difficult industry where there are a very small amount of jobs for a very large amount of people?” And “Is it worth my time and money pursuing it if I’m just average?” That’s quite a hard thing to come to terms with especially if you come from a small town where you’re the greatest thing in every production and play and drama group. Suddenly you come to London and you realise you’re a small fish in a big pond so you’ve GOT to be honest with yourself about your likelihood of succeeding if you want to do it to make a career and a living out of it.

And then just be determined. Just be strong. You will get a hundred knock backs before you get a door opened and that’s all part of the business. There was some very good advice I heard online recently where there was a guy going to auditions worrying about getting a job and he suddenly realised that his job was going to auditions as much as doing the productions. So if you’re an actor, as soon as you walk into an audition room, that’s when your job has started – you’re performing to a very small number of people, and you have to not fret about whether you’ll get the job but just go in and do a good performance, a good audition. That’s your job, that’s what you do and eventually you’ll get some financial reward for it.

I would also say to look after your body. It’s very easy when you’re 19 and bendy to throw yourself around or to not take as many safety precautions for yourself. Just because you’re keen and want to work hard and get on, you HAVE to look after your body. You have to look after your knees and your back and your shoulders and all these things that when you suddenly turn 30, start to say ‘hang on a minute, we’ve had enough, you’re working us too hard.’ But enjoy it. I love what I do, I make a lot of friends and it’s very lucky to be able to do that every day and still get paid for it and say I am a professional performer.

15. Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you whilst performing? Can you tell us about them?

I’ve never really had any terribly embarrassing things happen. In any long run you’re going to have moments where you forget your lines, forget your dance moves, a prop breaks or a chair (or something) isn’t on stage when it should be, and whilst at the time they seem to be quite horrendous to you and maybe minutes and minutes are passing by, generally nobody notices. Even people that have seen the show before, you say “Did you notice such and such happened?” and they say “Oh no, I had no idea,” so the more you work you learn to deal with it – with experience comes confidence and if I’ve stuffed my lines up I just take a beat, take a breath and carry on. The worst thing you can do, and it happens when you’re young and inexperienced, is you get into a flap and you break out in a sweat and then you start shaking and you’re constantly thinking about everything and you clam up basically. The best thing you can do is just relax into it and almost have a sort of  ‘well, I don’t care, I can’t take it back’ attitude and just get on with the show.

Aside from general things that everybody goes through in their career, I’ve not had any huge moments where I’ll be writing my memoirs and must include the funny story about x,y and z, whatever so no juicy bits I can give you there, sorry!

Once again, a massive thank you to Jon for answering everything so thoroughly, I have really enjoyed compiling this post. I am very much looking forward to seeing Jersey Boys at the end of January – I will of course write a future post containing my thoughts about it. In the meantime, for those who have seen Jon in action then I hope you have enjoyed this, and for those who haven’t – why ever not? Get yourself some tickets to this toe tapping production and see what the fuss is all about.

Signing off for the final time in 2013, hope to see you all in 2014.

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Challenges

Published December 29, 2013 by samssister

Well its been a year since I wrote a post like this one and it’s been just over a year since I started blogging. I must say (from a blog point of view) it’s been amazing. I have been lucky enough to interview some wonderful people and to see some fantastic productions.

I have flipped and flopped and ummed and aahed countless times. I’ve pondered and wondered and I’ve laughed and I’ve cried. I’ve questioned everything and worried even more. But I am eternally grateful to all those who have taken the time out to answer my questions and to all of those who have read my posts.  It has made everything worthwhile.

I have been extremely thankful for the number of reviews which have come my way this year, including those which, for whatever reason I have not been able to make. A shout out must therefore be made here to The Public Reviews, London Theatre and Official Theatre, all of whom have offered me the chance to review productions and therefore represent them. I thank them so much, hope I did them all proud and I also hope they will think of me again through 2014.

Sadly, the main reason for turning down numerous reviews in the last fee months has been because on October 6th my horse and I were out for a ride and we had a nasty accident. Many of you already know this, but the outcome was 2 dislocated and shattered wrists and therefore the inability to do anything for myself.

As it stands, I am thoroughly miserable, not to mention bored,  and I am awaiting a second operation on both wrists. My surgeon, a wrist specialist, did not exactly comfort me when he said they were the worst injuries he’s ever seen. I am guessing from this that you can see why I have been unable to go to the theatre or review anything since. Even typing is painful and an extremely slow process, every day I am able to do a little more but this second surgery will delay my progress for another short while.

All most frustrating.  I think it will be hard for 2014 to be worse than 2013, as also this year we have had my Godmother who is suffering from breast cancer, an aunt in hospital for months (she’s still there, she weighs 5 1/2 stone) who is very poorly and an uncle with a heart attack (he already has diabetes and recently started epilepsy). I think it is about time for some good news so I am trying to be optimistic as 2014 rapidly approaches.

I go through regular phases where I feel I should stop blogging. Although I do this for myself, I love for others to read my posts, mainly because, if they are interviews,  folk have taken time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions.  Not something they have to do, so I feel that when people read the interviews it makes it worth the while of my interviewees. I always enjoy feedback and I’d also be interested to know if there is anyone YOU would like to see interviewed.

I have one more interview to write up – Jersey Boys fans watch this space – which I’ll attempt to do before the year is out. Next year I already have five or six plans which I desperately hope my arms won’t prevent me going to so I can blog those as well.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed my posts through 2014. If you have any suggestions so I can improve my blog then please let me know, also posts/interviews or anything else you would like to see.  This blog is as much for you as it is for me. Please do feel free to follow me on Twitter too: @JustSamssister.

I’d like to end by thanking the following:

Killian Donnelly
Niall Sheehy
Nadim Naaman
Steph Parry
Kit Orton and Robert Gould
Simon Bailey
Craig Mather
David Muscat
Scott Alan
Geronimo Rauch

Rebecca at Official Theatre
Neil at London Theatre
Jacqui and Marina at The Public Reviews

YOU. For reading, for supporting and for sharing.  I never thought my little blog would be read so far across the globe. I can’t thank you all individually but each and every one of you visiting here and sharing my posts means so much to me.

Thanks again to all of you and I wish you a very happy, prosperous and above all healthy new year. May 2014 be good for us all.

Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx
 

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