Seasons Change
As fall Arrives, the Jersey Boys Return for an Encore Engagement at the Fox

By Lee Valentine Smith

Jersey Boys is the popular “ jukebox musical” that details the inspirational rise to fame of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the popular vocal group of the ‘60s. Still a massive hit on Broadway, the tuneful production has spawned a number of national and international tours and even a major motion picture. As the song-packed show heads back to Atlanta for another run at the Fox, INsite spoke with Matthew Dailey, the multi-talented singer-dancer-actor-musician who plays Four Seasons’ guitarist and singer Tommy DeVito.

Tell us about your international journey to ‘Jersey.

It was pretty crazy. I initially auditioned about a year and a half ago and I didn’t hear anything back. Then about 8 months later I was working on a cruise ship in Europe and got an email from the casting director that they wanted to meet me. I flew to New York and did this six-hour call-back day while metting with the director the next morning. I then flew back to Spain to meet up with the ship. When I landed back in Europe I had a call saying I had the job. I joined the show in January of this year.

When did you first decide you wanted a life in the theater?

I was really born into it. My dad was a choreographer and dancer and my mom was a singer, pianist and music director. My whole life was spent going to the theater and playing soccer and baseball. But one night we were at a show and I was like, “I want to try that,” and it stuck.

Prior to this, the production you toured in Europe was Saturday Night Fever.

Right, all over Spain, France, Italy, the Caribbean. Really, all over.

That shows the universal appeal of great music. People instantly know the ‘70s music in Saturday Night Fever and they also know the ‘60s sounds in the Jersey Boys.

Exactly, it’s really the same appeal because everybody knows those songs. They may not know the name Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons but they definitely know the songs.

When did you first see Jersey Boys? And what was your first impression of it?

I saw it for the first time in 2007, it was the national tour when it came through Denver. I was still in high school and I didn’t know anything about it. And then the show started, and it was so funny. Song after song, I was going, “Oh I know this one, I know that one.” It’s amazing, the sheer amount of music that these guys created and how much of it has lasted through the decades.

Even a lot of fans don’t know the actual story of the band, and with the advent of American Idol and The Voice, it’s a great time to see how people became famous in a very different era.

Totally, it was a whole different time. People can relate to it because it was just these guys growing up in the neighborhood. One of my lines in the show is, “Growing up in my neighborhood, you had three ways out. You could join the army, you could join the mob, or you could become a star.” And that truly were your three options back then. It’s the rags to riches tale that everyone loves to see, and we love to tell. It’s so simple: it’s four guys just off the streets of Jersey who eventually reach the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

You play [guitarist/vocalist] Tommy DeVito. What’s it like playing a real, living character? Have you met him?

I haven’t met him yet but I hope to one day. It’s very fun and it’s different than anything I’ve ever done before. You have to maintain the integrity of musical theatre and these are real people, a real story. The show is told in such a humanistic way that it’s apparent these are real people and I think that’s really what resonates with the audience.

The show is obviously quite popular yet the movie wasn’t a huge hit. What happened?

I saw the movie and I enjoyed it but I just think there’s something about the live show, where so much of the story is being told through performance in a concert setting. There’s a definite energy between the performer and the audience and you really don’t feel when it’s on screen.

That’s the beauty of life performance. And the music is all live, too.

It’s all live. Even my guitar is all either live from me or the guitarist who doubles in the orchestra. Sometimes the dance steps are just so crazy, and I’m swinging guitar around, but 90% of the time it’s live coming from me. I play through the whole show and the steps are so complicated, and I’m throwing the guitar around but I’m still making that G chord!

Jersey Boys runs from October 6–11 at the Fox Theatre. For more information visit foxtheatre.org.

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