THE BEAT

Popular musical Jersey Boys runs through Sept. 4

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Joseph Leo Bwarie has met Frankie Valli plenty of times.

But the singer-actor told The Beat that what he does for a living isn't part of their conversations. Bwarie's job happens to be portraying Valli in the musical production Jersey Boys, first in Las Vegas and, more recently, in the show's touring production.

"We never talk about the job," Bwarie said. "We understand that he's Frankie and I'm playing Frankie."

If that comes across somewhat comical, that's not his intent.

"Most of the time, in the theater, you don't have to portray a real person," Bwarie said. "It can be a great challenge."

A challenge which includes, in this particular instance, singing in the style of the legendary Valli falsetto. Bwarie knew he was up to the task, though, before auditioning, despite the fact that his natural singing voice is quite different.

"I knew I could sing it," he said. "And I have the dark hair, and my short height for once would come in handy. At that point, it was up to the producers to see if I had what they wanted as an actor and personality.

"Getting your voice right to sing Frankie Valli night after night requires you to find something in your genetic makeup," Bwarie said. "That bright, cutting sound is why he's so famous."

None-theless, Bwarie's approach to the role has often involved removing the singing star aspect from his character. Jersey Boys requires it.

"Being in the mindset of Frankie Valli is looking at him not as a celebrity but as a man," he said. "Take away the voice and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and you have a husband and father and friend - someone who was not always successful at all of these elements."

Which is not to suggest the show isn't about the singing. The writers provide a lot of backstory early in the show, forcing audiences to wait a full 40 minutes to hear Sherry.

"Then the place comes unglued," Bwarie said.

For his part, Bwarie particularly enjoys singing the songs in the second act, "when the band has transitioned out of the high falsetto."

"Working My Way Back to You makes me feel good as a singer; it fits my voice," he added.

 

For more from The Beat's interview with Joseph Leo Bwarie, read the BeatBlog at www.ThisWeekNews.com/blogs.

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