Entertainment

‘Jersey Boys’ star says it’s a ‘guy’s musical’

The Four Seasons in the recording studio in “Jersey Boys.” Aaron DeJesus, as Frankie Valli, is second from left.
The Four Seasons in the recording studio in “Jersey Boys.” Aaron DeJesus, as Frankie Valli, is second from left.

Frankie Valli remarks in “Jersey Boys” that he’s like the TV Bunny, he keeps going and going, The same could be said for the Tony-winning musical about his life and his bandmates who formed The Four Seasons in 1960.

Since it debuted on Broadway in 2005, “Jersey Boys” has been a musical juggernaut, continuing to entertain audiences worldwide. The smash hit returns to the Fox Theatre now through Sunday.

The show remains popular because of its solid elements and the fresh perspective of new talent, said Aaron DeJesus, who has been playing the leading role of Frankie Valli for seven months, but has been with the show over four years. He played the Joe Pesci character for 3 1/2 years in the Las Vegas production.

“It’s so well put-together. It’s fun to be a part of such a show,” he said during a recent phone interview from New Haven, Conn.

“It’s a perfect show for a musical. It’s a real story of turmoil, drama, and struggles. It resonates with people,” he said.

The story of four guys from the wrong side of the tracks in Newark, N.J., who became one of the best-selling pop groups of all-time won the 2006 Tony for Best Musical and the Grammy for Best Musical recording.

The Tony-nominated book was written by Rick Elice and Oscar-winning screenwriter Marshall Brickman, with the group’s music written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe. Such pop hits as “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night”) and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” are included.

“The songs might be from 50 to 60 years ago, but you know these songs. They have such a big catalogue, and the songs are iconic. I just saw an ice cream commercial where you can hear ‘You’re just too good to be true’ playing. It’s 2016 and people are still playing those songs,” he said.

“Frankie Valli wanted to do something good for him and for his family. He and his friends were blue-collar guys who grew up in poverty and went through rough times,” he said. “They wound up selling 175 million records worldwide.”

To play the pop icon, DeJesus drew upon his father.

“Frankie reminded me of my dad. He grew up in the South Bronx in a tough neighborhood,” he said.

When he met Valli, he said the legendary singer made it clear he did not want him to mimic him or do an imitation.

“We bring our personalities to the characters, and the four of us have our moments. We very quickly became a brotherhood. We are a team – they’re so talented, hard-working and dedicated,” DeJesus said. “To go on this journey every night with them is fantastic. We trust each other.”

Matthew Dailey plays Tommy DeVito, Keith Hines is Nick Massi and Drew Seeley is Bob Gaudio.

DeJesus was born in New York City, but his parents moved to Utah when he was a boy, and he began singing in church and at school. He was raised in a very musical family, he said.

“It was a great place to grew up, and we were exposed to music and theater. It became a big part of my life,” he said.

When he was performing in summer theater during his college years, more opportunities opened up, and he realized he could do this as a career. He earned a BFA from Brigham Young University and then followed the work.

He and his wife, Gail Bennett, live in New York City with their 4-year-old daughter, but travel for their work, juggling the jobs with family life. His girls will accompany him to St. Louis, and they are looking forward to spending time at the City Museum, Forest Park and other sites.

He has performed in “Wicked,” “Spamalot” and as Timon in “The Lion King.”.

In Las Vegas, he enjoyed playing Joe Pesci because of the future Oscar winner’s involvement in the group’s beginnings.

“It’s a small role in the show, but because of his part in the conception, and now that he has since become a big star, it’s a fun character to play,” he said. “I had a chance to meet him, and he was a bit larger than life. But it was an honor to meet him and he was very nice. His tough-guy character in ‘GoodFellas’ is named Tommy DeVito, after his friend.”

DeJesus said “Jersey Boys’ continues its runs on Broadway, Las Vegas and London, in addition to tours, because of its special meaning to the audience. Ten years later and it’s still going strong.

“People come back time after time, and it means so much to us that people come back again and again. We met a couple who had seen the show 25 times, and seen it in different cities. There is such a connection with the music and the story,” he said.

One thing he’s noticed, though, is that the show is very popular with men. “A lot of times a girl has to drag a guy to a musical, but not this one. This is a ‘guy’s musical’,” he said, chuckling.

"Jersey Boys"

  • When: May 18-22
  • Where: Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand, St. Louis
  • MetroTix: 314-534-1111
  • www.fabulousfox.com
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