Few Broadway musicals have name recognition like Jersey Boys. The show is one of the most beloved modern-day musicals, and it will be making it’s way to Memphis next week. The show is a Tony®, Grammy ® and Olivier Award-winning Best Musical about Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. It features some of the Four Seasons biggest hits, and as you probably can guess, has a huge cult following.
Like most hit musicals, Jersey Boys was made into a movie but surprisingly received a tepid response. Perhaps the weak box office showing proved why Jersey Boys is best experienced live and in person: The magic is not nearly as electric on a screen.
To gear up for the show, I spoke with David LaMarr, who plays the role of Barry. Barry is the only character played by a non-caucasian, as LaMarr notes, and he is a reminder of many African-American musicians whose music was stolen by caucasian performers. LaMarr has a hefty resume, and is a gifted performer. He’s also incredibly knowledgeable and personable in his answers.
Jersey Boys begins Tuesday, October 25 and runs through the week. Tickets and show date information are listed below.
1) Hi David! For those readers who have never seen Jersey Boys, how would you describe the show?
JERSEY BOYS tells the true-life story of how four blue-collar kids from Jersey became one of the greatest successes in pop music history. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sound, and sold 175 million records worldwide, all before they were 30.
2) The show focuses on the story of Frankie and the Four Seasons. When did you first discover their music?
Truthfully, I only knew what we on tour call the “Big Three”: Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like A Man. I remember hearing those on the oldies station back in Los Angeles where I grew up. I didn’t really know their entire catalog until I saw the show on Broadway earlier this year. I was mesmerized as I sat watching, listening to all these tunes. And we don’t even use ALL of their music. Maybe about 1/3rd of their entire catalog.
3) Tell us about your character Barry. What is his role in Jersey Boys?
Barry is just one of about 10 characters I play. If you’re not one of the Four Seasons, you’re doing quite a lot – we all play multiple roles (besides Bob Crewe).
To be honest, my role is the only non-Caucasian role in the show. Originated on Broadway by Tituss Burgess (Emmy nominated for his role in Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), the role – as I’ve been told – is there to make a statement & remind the audience that Frankie Valli wasn’t the first guy to come along who could sing high. There were other groups, “colored groups” as most people called them back then. There’s actually a part in the show where Frankie is trying to get the group signed & the representative at the door says: “Come back when you’re black.”
As for what I actually do in the show, I’m the first one you see when the show starts – I come out as Yannick, a French rapper who covered the Seasons’ “Oh What A Night” back in 2000. Other notable appearances include Hal Miller (who sang “An Angel Cried” back in 1961); Barry Belson (a radio announcer); and an Ohio cop (who starts Act 2).
4) I know touring can be very atypical, so how would you describe a week on the road in a Broadway show?
I love it. I’ve been on the road most of life working for three different cruise lines; spent a year working in Japan; and have moved about 20 different times in NYC, going from sublet to sublet. I’ve lived out of suitcases since 2009. Mama says, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” But I’ve always wanted to travel through the USA. The idea is to travel as light as possible (more or less) while ensuring that you’re saving enough money & having tons of fun.
If you’re in the cast or one of the musicians, your travel and work schedule is MUCH different than that of our crew members. Much recognition goes to them making our lives that much easier. Our travel day is usually on a Monday. Sometimes, depending on distance, we’ll travel by bus or plane. We’ll all arrive Monday night with Tuesday being our first work day. A new city means sound check before our Tuesday show to check levels & get a feel for the space. That’s usually around 4pm. We break for dinner. Our “call time” for the show is 30 minutes before curtain. So while the audience is being sat, the actors are getting ready. The crew, however, spends much of Tuesday morning/afternoon installing our show into the new space. JERSEY BOYS travels with its own stage – meaning our crew members have to put the puzzle pieces together, making sure everything is safe before the actors arrive. Meanwhile, our wardrobe & hair department set up shop backstage – we hire local folks to be certain cast members’ dressers & wig team, so they’re usually learning the show all on Tuesday. We travel with 7 trucks full of costumes, set pieces & equipment. So you can imagine how much time it takes to put this show up and take it down.
I’m lucky because I don’t understudy anyone in the show. So my mornings are usually free to explore the city & EAT. Haha. Usually though, understudy rehearsals are on Wednesday and Thursday for those in the cast who cover roles just in case someone (knock on wood) can’t make a show due to illness or some random emergency.
Sunday nights, after our last show, the cast is excused while the crew takes everything down & gets ready to travel to the next city. I tell ya man, these people work their butts off!
5) What are you looking forward to about visiting Memphis for the show?
This will be my first time in Memphis – so I want to do everything, see everything and EAT everything. On the top of my list is the National Civil Rights Museum, formerly the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated. Next on the list is Beale Street, including the Memphis Walk of Fame & Stax Records. In the 1960s, there was a specific soul sound that came from Memphis which included some of my favorites: Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. It would be nice to immerse myself into Memphis’ history. If I’m not doing any of that, you can find me stuffing my face with some local grub, haha. Did I mention I’m a huge foodie?!
6) Do you have a favorite number or scene in the show that you would like to share with readers?
Yep, anytime I’m on stage. Haha. I’m a bit biased but I do love my Ohio cop scene. Otherwise, my favorite part of the show would have to be the very last song before our bows: “Who Loves You?” – the whole cast enters one by one and starts JAMMING OUT. It’s incredible. The band is onstage. The sound is rocking. The audience is singing along. Toes are tapping; hands are clapping. That’s about the time it dawns on me: YOU ARE LIVING THE DREAM!
7) What do you find most rewarding about being in the cast of Jersey Boys?
THE EXPERIENCE. This is an opportunity of a lifetime! To travel the USA, doing a show that audiences rave about, singing songs that channel memories to generations. JERSEY BOYS was a hit when it first came to Broadway in 2006. That’s the year I graduated from high school. I didn’t know anything about the show until a few years ago & at the time, all I knew was that there was one black guy in it. I never thought I’d be that guy. I’ve worked my entire life to be part of something like this: a Broadway national tour. This is only the beginning. I get to work with amazing people doing something we all love to do – something we’re all very proud of. THIS is what I call “living the dream” – so please don’t wake me up anytime soon, haha.
8) And finally, why should audiences come out and see this latest version of Jersey Boys?
As I said before, I saw the show for the first time earlier this year. I thought it was just going to be another jukebox musical. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. I wouldn’t even call JERSEY BOYS a musical – it’s an “E! True Hollywood Story” with music. Think of a cross between The Godfather & The Sopranos, add The Four Seasons’ music & you’ve got a show. It moves quickly, while telling a story full of HEART and DRAMA. And the message? If you DREAM, you can DO it. It could happen. It DID happen.
DATES: October 25 – 30, 2016
• Tuesday, October 25, 2016 7:30 PM
• Wednesday, October 26, 2016 7:30 PM
• Thursday, October 27, 2016 7:30 PM
• Friday, October 28, 2016 8:00 PM
• Saturday, October 29, 2016 2:00 PM
• Saturday, October 29, 2016 8:00 PM
• Sunday, October 30, 2016 1:00 PM
• Sunday, October 30, 2016 6:30 PM
TICKETS: Starting at $25
BOX OFFICE: 901.525.3000
GROUP SALES: 901.529.4226