Jersey Boys has become an unexpected career for Richard Hester.
Hester, production supervisor for the national tour that continues through Sunday at the Ohio Theatre, began working on the musical well before it became a Broadway hit and the 2006 Tony winner for best musical.
"For us, it was just a summer job near the beach," Hester said.
"The expectations for it werenít high at all, because it came at a period when so called jukebox musicals were closing left right and center," Hester said.

A scene from Jersey Boys on tour. File photo

Based on the true life story of the ups and downs of the New Jersey-born vocal quartet Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the musical had its try-out at the La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, Calif.
Later that same year, Jersey Boys opened to rave reviews Nov. 6, 2005 at New Yorkís August Wilson Theatre – where it is still playing to crowds after more than 3,260 performances, making it the 15 th-longest run (soon to become the 13 th longest after it surpasses the runs of Grease and 42 nd Street) in Broadway history.

The success of Jersey Boys stems from the way it ties the groupís Top 40 parade of songs to a gripping and surprisingly gritty story about their struggles – both before they had their first big hit, Sherry, and well afterwards.
"By the time we get to Sherry (about 40 minutes into the first act), you are so ready for it because you know how hard these guys have struggled," Hester said.
"You can experience the success with them as you never would if it had happened earlier in the show."
Like the boys who have played the title role in the musical Billy Elliot, the young men cast as Valli have a big job to do.
"Itís so difficult to do this part and keep yourself vocally healthy," Hester said.
In fact, the vocal demands of the songs (from Sherry and Stay to Címon Marianne, Canít Take My Eyes Off You and Working My Way Back to You) are so great that the producers no longer allow actors cast as falsetto-voiced Frankie Valli to perform more than once a day or more than six performances a week. (Another actor alternates on tour for the other two weekly shows.)
"We want to protect them," Hester said.
"A few can do it, but even they canít do it for any length of time."

A scene from the national tour of the musical Jersey Boys. File photo

One lesson that Nick Cosgrove has learned from the tour: "Pace yourself."
Actors cast as Valli donít leave the stage in the second act, making it close to a marathon.
"They have little tricks to help us," said Cosgrove, who performs as Valli six shows a week in Columbus. (Hayden Milanes plays the role at the Tuesday evening and Sunday matinee shows.)
"They place water in certain scenes. Thereís real water in that cup in the diner because I havenít been able to leave the stage," Cosgrove said.
To find enough actor-singers with the ability to sing like Valli for even as much as six shows a week on Broadway, in Las Vegas and on the various national tours, Hester supervises a recurrent three-day training camp in New York. He dubs it Frankie Camp.
"Itís a chance for extensive work with all the production supervisors," Cosgrove said.
Along with about nine other guys, Cosgrove attended the Frankie Camp held in February 2011 in New York.
"The first day I worked on the vocal stuff, the second day we worked on the scenes from the show and on the third day, we worked on the choreography," Cosgrove said.

Actors practice their moves and vocals at a recent Frankie Camp. File photo

While finding a good Frankie remains challenging, the task has become slightly easier because Jersey Boys has become so well-known, Hester said.
"When we first started, it was next to impossible to find guys to play Frankie, but now these guys are coming to adulthood seeing this role and they work on it themselves for years before we see them," Hester said.
"Itís a little like test-driving a car," Hester said.
"At the Frankie camps, we see what itís like working with these guys, and see if theyíre somebody we think itís worth continuing with."

Auditions are held about every six months, as part of broader auditions for all the showís roles, and allow the creative team to compile a list of 100 to 120 actors who might be capable of tackling the demanding role.
"We find potential Frankies who seem to have some of the characteristics we need."
Hester often asks actors to read a scene as the older Frankie.
"Since most are young, we need to see if itís even possible that theyíll be believable," Hester said.
After testing their singing and dancing abilities as well, the creative team whittles down the candidates to anywhere from six to 10 actors who are invited to train at the next Frankie Camp.
"We put them through an intensive week of work with a vocal coach, an acting coach and a dance coach," he said.
Usually, by the end of each camp, Hester and his creative team have found two or three performers that they want to move on to the next level.
But even some who donít make the grade at first still might have a chance.
"Some guys we say are too young," Hester said, "but letís see them again in two years to see how they are."

Jersey Boys
Broadway in Columbus, CAPA, Ohio Theatre, 55 E. State St.
Contact: 614-469-0939,; Ticketmaster outlets (1-800-745-3000,
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday Sept. 27, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday Sept. 28, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday Sept. 29
Tickets: $28 to $128