The final callback is the moment of truth for an actor. You have made it to the short list, beating out perhaps hundreds of competitors to be among the three or four or five stage artists placed under the casting microscope in a high stakes audition. Your career could be changed forever by the outcome.
Pressure? Add this to the mix. You would be playing a real, high profile person who has final approval on whether you get the job.
This is the process for casting the actors who portray singer Frankie Valli in the hit musical "Jersey Boys." The title refers to Valli's band The Four Seasons. The musical tells the story of their rough and tumble rise from the streets of New Jersey to pop-rock superstardom in the 1960s.
From 1962 to 1964, only the Beach Boys matched the Four Seasons in record sales in the U.S., and the group was among the few American bands that weren't trampled by the British Invasion. Baby boomers adored their catchy hits featuring Valli's high falsetto, and still do, but most were unaware of the Seasons' scruffy backgrounds.
"Jersey Boys" won Broadway's best musical Tony Award five years ago and continues to be a hit in New York. Additional companies are currently in residence in Vegas, London and Sydney, Australia. The national touring company of the show makes its Milwaukee debut tonight at the Marcus Center.
Add the understudies for each troupe, and there are a lot of Frankie Valli impersonators running around. They must be dark, diminutive – Valli is reportedly 5' 4" – and be able to hit those high notes.
"I'm a whopping 5-6," reports Joseph Leo Bwarie, the actor who is portraying Frankie here. "Everybody says I look just like him, and I say, you must have been sitting in the balcony."
Valli's hits were instantly recognizable for his trademark falsetto, so it is amusing to note that Bwarie's first professional work was as a boy soprano in Hollywood when he was about 8. He recently recorded his first CD, "Nothing But Love," a big band-swing album of standards such as "Night and Day," "Old Devil Moon" and "What'll I Do?" Legendary jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli accompanied him on "What'll I Do?"
Playing a real and living entertainer who is still performing could be daunting for an actor, but Bwarie, who has been on the road with "Jersey Boys" for four years, does not fret. "I offer up the most honest interpretation of him I can," he said.
"Jersey Boys" will be here through Aug. 14.
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