The internationally acclaimed production of Jersey Boys is out on tour for the second time, travelling the UK to tell the true life story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Stepping into the role after his West End success, Michael Watson spoke to me about taking the huge character on the road.
Michael played Frankie on the West End back in 2014, and not only is it a role that goes on a rollercoaster of emotions, but it’s a massively challenging sing. Having opened in Birmingham in December, they are visiting cities across the whole UK. “It’s been a real pleasure revisiting the role for the tour because I feel like I don’t have as much to prove to myself because I’ve done it before,” Michael explained. “I’m a bit older now and a lot of my experiences in my personal life, such as the fact I have a family now, allows me to relate to those situations in the show in a much more profound way.”
It’s always tougher to bring a show on tour as you’re constantly on the road whilst doing a physically demanding job. “The only hesitancy I had is because it is hard to be away from your family, but from an acting point of view, it was a no-brainer to come back and play Frankie,” he said. “The benefit of doing a show on tour outweighs the negative in the sense of a performer, to take a show to people’s back door is so special. The houses are full, the audiences are ready and it’s a really lovely way to tell the story.”
They had a short rehearsal process so having played the role before gave Michael a strong advantage, and it allowed him to really dig deeper into the role. “I’ve never worked with any of the other three Jersey Boys before so we were really playing around with our relationship which led to some different moments and subtle differences to how I’ve ever done it before,” he said. “The cast is literally the best group of guys and girls, we are always laughing despite working really hard.”
Asking what the biggest challenge of the role is, Michael told me: “The challenge when you’re doing something eight times a week, is trying to remain as truthful as possible because at the end of the day you are portraying someone’s life and you almost have a duty to give it your all to not do a disservice to them.” Aside from researching into Frankie’s life, Michael expressed how the writers of the show have done a tremendous job in the script, allowing him to really connect to the character through his dialogue.
It’s such a universally loved production by both musical theatre fans and Frankie Valli fans. “The funny thing is, the real Frankie Valli fans then become fans of musical theatre and the musical theatre fans become fans of Frankie Valli. “He’s a musical legend because of his unbelievable vocal range and the number of songs in the production makes it an incredibly vocally demanding show. “I just try to be in the moment with the show because if I am in the moment it doesn’t feel as epic, as I am not looking as far ahead, so you take each scene and each song as it comes to you and that’s how I think you get around playing such a role,” he said. “I believe that’s how most actors would approach playing Hamlet.”
As a frequent attendee at West End Live myself, I told Michael how Jersey Boys always absolutely own the crowd and really put on a fantastic set as everyone is singing and dancing along. Michael expressed how Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You is his favourite number in the show. “The first night we opened in Birmingham, everybody was singing the song with us at the top of their lungs and it was such a special moment,” he said. “I think moments like that are perfection.” With all the current discussion on theatre etiquette, I asked Michael his opinion on the matter and he explained: “I think the only time it is an issue is if someone is on their phone or distracting during a poignant moment. Singing and dancing along is the whole point of doing this, we have to embrace it because it is a show that is in concert form.
We’ve all got a connection and that is what theatre is about at the end of the day. The songs are consequential to the story rather than being a part of it, so sing your hearts out, if anything I’ll get upset if you don’t!”
Michael Watson leads the cast of the Jersey Boys on their UK tour and all information on tickets can be found on their website.