Interview: JERSEY BOYS' Joseph Leo Bwarie Talks Career and November 15 Album Release Concert in Washington, DC Area

Joseph Leo Bwarie may be best known to theatergoers for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in the Broadway production of JERSEY BOYS, but throughout his career thus far, he's assumed a variety of other roles as a writer, director, and recording artist. On Sunday, November 15 at 8:00 PM, the young talent will be sharing his music - more specifically songs from his newest album The Good Stuff - at one of the newest music venues in the Washington, DC area, AMP by Strathmore. Mr. Bwarie graciously took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions from BroadwayWorld.Com - Washington, DC about where he's been in his career, how he approaches the creative process, and of course his upcoming concert in North Bethesda, Maryland.

Here's the exchange:

To the theatergoing public, you're probably best known for your portrayal of Frankie Valli in the Broadway production of JERSEY BOYS. In fact, you've played the role more than any other actor. What attracted you to the role and what keeps you interested in playing it?

The letters 'J' and 'B' have always been good to me. My initials (with "L" sandwiched in the middle). And the greatest show (JERSEY BOYS) is celebrating its 10th year on Broadway! On Friday, November 6, 2015 we performed the anniversary show and I still marvel at its reach and power and poignancy. I find myself shaking my head saying, "I have played 'Frankie Valli' 2,000 times." Because of that record number of performances, in the theatre community, I am known best for my portrayal of the pop icon. And in the "XM Siriusly Sinatra" community, I am known best for my work as a recording artist with my signature take on decades of American songwriting. In both arenas, I get to do what I like most - singing for people. In both my real voice and in my 'Frankie" voice, I get to connect with people.

What other roles would you like to play, if given the chance, onstage?

Well, who doesn't want to be in HAMILTON, right? Talk about an incredible history brought to life through an audio/visual feast for the ear and eye. I am in awe of what those actors do each night. This is the must-see show on Broadway (after you see me and the cast of JERSEY BOYS).

Besides acting, you've also filled roles as both a writer and a director. Tell us about those recent experiences and how your performing experience has impacted how you approached those responsibilities, if at all. Is writing and directing something you'd like to pursue further? If so, why?

When I was graduating from Emerson College, one of the acting faculty took me aside and said, "You know, in addition to your performing - you really are a director and a producer." A kid in my cap and gown, I scoffed at that idea. I was 21. Acting was my passion and my craft. By my 22nd birthday, I was collaborating with Garry Marshall and his daughters on writing, directing and producing a series of original musicals that, to this day, has been a highlight of my career. Again, one afternoon I was in Garry's incredible office (it's like a time-capsule of the entertainment industry) and he said to me, "Joe, you need to act and write and sing and be funny and direct. Do it all." When Garry Marshall says, "Jump," you say, "What is the funniest way to jump, Garry?" (Because Garry knows funny). So in 2015, I am lucky enough to be creating in all these areas. And yes, each facet does inform how I approach the others.

You've also made your mark as a studio singer for film. What are some of the things that make that experience different from performing a concert or in a live theatrical production? Do you prefer one over the other and, if so, why?

They are very different. And yet, all very intimate when the stars align. My heart lives in the studio. Recording my albums (Nothin' But Love, The Good Stuff, A Little Christmas) has been my greatest personal achievement. Performing live in concert with live musicians is unparalleled. Standing at a microphone as myself and connecting with a room full of people who have chosen to be in that room - is an honor, always. Meanwhile, the spectrum of theatrical performances I have been blessed with spans the gamut. I have learned so much from being directed by others and originating characters with a creative team. There is nothing like live theatre.

You already have one album out entitled, Nothin' But Love, and had another one recently come out in November entitled, The Good Stuff. Both sonically and artistically, what did you want to achieve with the first album? Your second album?

My second album "dropped" on November 10, 2015. It's called The Good Stuff and the title does somewhat summarize my approach to making music. "Only the best." "Can we do better?" These are both phrases that dominate the beginning of my creative process when embarking on building an album. I want each listener to be treated to an experience, but I never want to control what that experience is. My goal is to offer a soundscape that is sonically cinematic. There are surprises and moments of unpredictability, and even theatricality that hint at my personality and sensibility as an artist.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

In high school I took two semesters of painting with a great teacher, Mrs. Turner. She taught me so much about color and texture and rule bending and expression. Every one of my creative collaborations is some extension of that high version of me with some tubes of paint and a handful of brushes.

You'll be performing at AMP by Strathmore in mid-November in the Washington, DC area. What might fans expect from the performance? What kind of music will you be performing?

First of all, I have the best fans. And they will be there. And they are ready for The Good Stuff live in concert. And so am I. The night is built on incredible arrangements by music industry legend Charlie Calello. I will be at the microphone swingin' with the JLB band (wait 'til you hear this horn section). And forthose coming to AMP and my concert for the first time, this is concert is from the heart. We are going to share a night celebrating good music, good lyrics, good fun and good company - "The Good Stuff."

What's next for you?

I am really enjoying the present. I have been working on this new album and A Little Christmas, my Christmas EP (also is being released this November), for about two years. Many people have been involved in the development of these records. And we all are beaming ear to ear with the final result. So, with the holidays approaching, I am looking forward to continuing to share my music with anyone who loves a good song. Cheers!

For tickets to the November 15 concert, visit the AMP by Strathmore website. AMP by Strathmore is located at 11810 Grand Avenue in North Bethesda, Maryland. Doors open 90 minutes before the 8:00 PM showtime.



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