BWW Interviews: Adam Zelasko and the JERSEY BOYS Cast Leave DFW Breathless
During a show, clapping after a song is the norm, as is giving a standing ovation after the show is over, theatergoers are used to that. What I have never seen is an audience give a standing ovation after a song, but that is exactly what I saw when I went to see JERSEY BOYS at Bass Performance Hall.
The show is the story of Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi-aka The Four Seasons-and will have you dancing in your seats with hits such as "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man," and "Can't Take My Eyes off of You." Also, with many one-liners and 60's references (as well as the short cameo from "Joe Pesci") the laughing rarely ceases. But, while the music is incredible and the humor is important in the telling of the story, it's the actors' performances and the way they capture each mannerism of the singers that gives this show the character and heart not always seen. Hayden Milanes, Quinn VanAntwerp, Nicolas Dromard, and Adam Zelasko put everything they have into their roles (in same order as I listed the real Four Seasons) to give a performance that at some points I forgot I was watching a musical and not intruding on a very tense meeting between the real group or at a real concert.
Speaking of Adam Zelasko, I got to interview the actor who played Nick Massi and ask him questions about the show, his background, and life on the road.
BWW: How did you get involved in performing?
Adam Zelasko: I had always been involved with school productions when I was younger, but it wasn't until high school that I realized that I could do it as a profession. So with the encouragement from my high school drama teacher, Darcy Young, I went to SUNY Buffalo and got a BFA in Musical Theater under the skillful tutelage of Lynne Kurdziel-Formato, moved to NYC and started auditioning and working.
BWW: Did you see Jersey Boys beforehand, how did you come to being involved in the show?
Adam: Yes, I remember going to the box office at the August Wilson the day after it won the Tony Award, and I saw the show shortly after. I was still so new to NYC that I don't think it even occurred to me that I could be in the show at that point. About a year later, when I was 24 I went in to audition in front of Richard Hester (our global associate director) for the role of Nick Massi. I read some of the material for him and I could tell that I just didn't have the maturity that he was looking for at the time. That was it, no callback or anything. I didn't hear from them again until four years later when my agent got me an audition for a swing replacement in the Broadway company. At the end of the second day of the audition, there were three of us left and we learned that there were actually three positions available, not just one. The position they were interested in me for was the swing on the first national tour. I was extremely reluctant to go back out on tour (this would be my 3rd national tour at the time) but after some thought and a few harsh words from my agent, I accepted the offer. Jersey Boys is just one of those shows that you don't say no to. I'm glad I did too, because now three years later, after two years of swinging on tour one, I'm still with the show. Only now I'm on tour two and playing the role of Nick Massi. It was a slow and steady climb, and an accomplishment almost seven years in the making.
BWW: What is your favorite part of the show?
Adam: My favorite part of the show as Nick has always been reuniting with the group at the very end of the show to sing "Who Loves You". It's one of my favorite songs, and if we've all done our jobs, it's an overwhelming moment for the audience to see all of the boys back together again after everything they went through.
BWW: What is your favorite song from the show?
Adam: It's a tie between "Who Loves You" and "Cry for Me"
BWW: When I went and saw the show last Tuesday, I was surprised to see people giving you standing ovations after songs, it that a normal occurrence for this show? What has been the best audience reaction?
Adam: I wouldn't say it's a normal occurrence, but it definitely has happened a number of times for us. Here's the thing about that, it's extremely gratifying to see people stand for these songs, but not for the reason you may think. The show is intended to transport the audience and give them the feeling that they are watching the ACTUAL Four Seasons. So if we get to that point, for example after their third hit song "Walk Like a Man", and people stand, it's doubly thrilling because we know that not only are they cheering for our performance, but we've also transported them back to a specific place in time and they're really standing for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
My favorite audience reaction is when they begin to stand and clap along to "Who Loves You". This happens even more rarely than other ovations, but every once in a while you'll get that audience where we'll hit the bridge of the song and the "sun rises" behind us and one person will stand, and then another, and then another, until the whole audience is on their feet for that very last high note. It gives me chills onstage, so I can't even imagine what it must feel like for the audience.
BWW: Do you have any pre-show rituals or anything that helps you get into character?
Adam: My pre-show ritual, as ridiculous as this sounds, is doing my hair. Nick is this meticulous, OCD, repressed man, and nothing puts me in his frustrated mind more than trying to get my hair perfectly styled around that big fat microphone wire. God bless microphones, couldn't live without 'em, but they're a real pain in the butt sometimes.
BWW: I saw that you are in the movie Jersey Boys, what part did you play and how was it going from performing it on a stage to seeing it being brought to life on film?
Adam: I am basically just an ensemble musician in the movie. No big deal really, but it has a very personal meaning for me. Clint Eastwood decided last minute that he wanted there to be a finale sequence done to "Oh What A Night", so our choreographer Sergio Trujillo called me up and asked me be in it. I was so excited that it happened because I just wanted to be involved in the movie in ANY capacity. I got to see a special screening of the movie with the cast last night actually, and not only did I get to be on screen, but I'm in a shot with my best friend and former fellow swing Kyli Rae who plays the Lead Angel in the movie. We spent pretty much every minute together for a year and a half on tour one and because of that time together she is one the most important people in my life. Now that memory of being in the show together is forever immortalized for us, and I have Sergio to thank for that.
BWW: What makes Jersey Boys different from any other show?
Adam: The magic is in its construction. It's one of the most perfect combinations of script, music, choreography and direction that I have ever seen in a musical. It transcends time and appeals to absolutely everyone.
BWW: Do you get any time to sightsee while on tour, and if so what has been your favorite thing to see or place that you've been?
Adam: Although I'm not HUGE on sightseeing, we have been to a few pretty cool places. Just recently we got to go into the vault at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and see some of the actual ORIGINAL lyric sheets and newspaper clippings from Bob and Frankie's personal collections, stuff that most people will never be able to see in person. My favorite city that I have visited on tour has been Portland, Oregon. We were there for the month of July two years ago and it is just the most beautiful magical city.
BWW: Do you have a favorite role that you've played, if so what?
Adam: Ya know what's interesting is some of my favorite roles have been just random little bit parts that I have had here and there. Some of the most fun that I have had onstage has been in smaller productions where the pressure is not so great, but as an actor every part we get is a blessing, and getting Jersey Boys is like winning the lottery.
JERSEY BOYS will be at Bass Hall until June 15, and trust me; you don't want to miss this one. Buy your tickets at www.basshall.org and then go see the movie June 20th.