BWW Interview: Connor Lyon of JERSEY BOYS at The Saenger Theatre
Get ready, New Orleans, one of the most rockin' shows of the season opens at the Saenger Theatre tonight! JERSEY BOYS is coming to us for the third time in recent years, and I couldn't be happier. In the show we learn about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, their rise to stardom, and the work it took to get to the top. Featured in the show are hit songs like WALK LIKE A MAN, BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY, and SHERRY.
As we learn about each of the Four Seasons, we find out that their lives on the road greatly differ from their lives on the road. Here to tell us more about JERSEY BOYS and her journey in the theatre industry is Connor Lyon who plays Lorraine, Frankie's love away from home.
Tell me a little about yourself and how you became interested in performing professionally.
Well, I am from Rockport, TX. It's a really small town on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It's actually about a nine hour drive from New Orleans. I don't really know when it started, but my mom's always tells me this story of when I was five years old. We were all singing in the car and my mom and sister heard someone singing really well, and they both stopped and were like wait that's Connor singing, that's my five year old child singing in the back and she's actually quite good. So I started ballet when I was six, and then did my first full blown musical when I was eight, and it kind of just blossomed from there. I kept dancing, kept singing, and I went to New York City for the first time with my mom when I was thirteen. It was at that trip when I was thirteen years old that I just somehow knew. I don't know what I was struck with, but I knew with the lights and energy and everything that I wanted to be on Broadway. That was the goal and that's how I wanted to live my life. That was my dream.
I was about that age the first time I went to New York, too. What was your first impression of seeing the city?
I came from a small town, I mean Rockport is a town of 10,000 people, and I think a lot of people when they go from small towns go to New York for the first time are super overwhelmed, but I was intoxicated by it... the lights, the way the bus fumes smelled. I liked all the noise and the taxi horns and everything. I loved it. I thought it was magical. Even Times Square with all of its gaudiness and all of its lights, I truly thought was magical.
Tell me about tour life. It's so different being in a show that's in one theatre as opposed to being in a different city every week, so what's that been like for you?
Tour life has had its challenges, but all of them have been good challenges. I just feel like I've learned to be so much more flexible and to go with the flow, and to just relax and stick to the work. It's not glamorous, but it is very rewarding because also the audiences while you're on tour have never seen the show or they haven't had the opportunity to see a lot of theatre. We don't always go to super affluent areas, and the audiences love it. You can see their smiles even from stage, and it makes all of the travel feel so worth it.
What are some of the challenges that you experience with being on the road and making sure that you're staying healthy?
I think you hit the nail on the head. It is difficult to stay healthy because it's hard to find enough time to rest. For a while there we were traveling every single day. We twelve states in twelve days. We would do a show, get off at 11, and then wake up at 7 or 8am the next day, get on the bus for 6 to 7 hours and then do our show again, and then repeat. Finding enough time to sleep and rest and eat well has probably been the biggest challenge. We're in hotels. We don't have kitchens for the most part, so eating well is tricky, but people get very creative. We find ways to make it work.
Let's jump into JERSEY BOYS! This is a show that's been around for a while and people are familiar with a lot of the music, and maybe don't even realize they know the music. What was your first exposure to this show? Was it seeing the show, hearing the music?
For me it was actually auditioning for the show for the first time. That's when I got to know it really well. I'm one of those rare breeds that I did not grow up with the Four Seasons, which has kind of been great because then I get to make an opinion about it as an adult. I worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines on a ship doing a different show, and then was auditioning for JERSEY BOYS with Norwegian Cruise Lines because I knew that I liked the company, and I knew that I would like to work with them again. When I was going through that audition process is when I got to know the show, the characters, the music, and everything. Funny enough, I did not end up getting that contract. I did not end up booking the Norwegian Cruise Line, but then it opened the door for me to audition for this tour and end up getting that instead. So it was a happy accident, a "meant to be" kind of situation.
For those who may not know the show, can you give me a summary of what the show is about?
Sure! The show is about the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. These guys come from pretty humble beginnings in a neighborhood in New Jersey. It's about all of their struggles and all of their successes as they rise to become international superstars. It's a lot about the sacrifices that they had to make, and some of the shenanigans along the way.
You play Lorraine in the show. Can you tell me about her and about her relationship with Frankie?
Yes, Lorraine is one of the only characters who actually isn't from New Jersey, so she feels a bit like an outsider. She is also a career woman trying to make her way in the industry of journalism as a woman in the sixties, when it really was not typical or easy for a woman to be taken seriously. That's what I've loved about her. She is not looking for love when she comes into Frankie's life, but it just kind of happens. And ultimately she winds up finding love, but choosing herself in the end, which I love about the character especially in the culture climate right now where women are becoming more empowered in the workplace. It feels very close to home.
Within the show, do you have other tracks, or is Lorraine your sole character?
Oh no, not at all, I play sixteen different characters and change costumes twenty times, and most of those costume changes involve a wig change. So I am busy!
How do you go about learning all of that?
We rehearsed for about 3-4 weeks, and then a lot of it is just... I mean you do your work outside of rehearsal memorizing everything. A lot of the tricks to the trades are just staying calm and being very present in the moment so that you can be ready for anything, so that you're fully aware and ready for whatever the show may throw you next.
If you could play one of the Four Seasons, who would you want to play and why?
That's a great question! I love that, thank you for asking that. Actually, I think I would really love to play Tommy. Tommy DeVito is... let's see how I can describe him well... he's kind of the bad guy, but he's the bad guy that you love in a way. It would just be so much fun to play this really layered, morally ambiguous character, and to just kind of be a bit of a... can I say asshole? Yeah. It'd be fun to play an asshole, it'd be great. Corey Greenan, the guy who plays it now, plays it very well. He's also just a very nice guy, but he plays a really great asshole, so I think that brings even more interest to it for me.
To wrap us up here, what would you say to audiences are you top three reasons to come see JERSEY BOYS while it's in New Orleans?
Number one is the music. It's timeless music. I mean, it will be good 50 years from now, and it was good 50 years ago when it was written. It's truly, musically integral. It's just catchy. It's well written, it's well played. Our band is incredible. Reason number two to see it is our cast. Our cast is pretty fantastic. And yes, I am biased, but we have multiple Broadway veterans in the cast, we all gel very well. It's a very hard working cast, it's just star-studded. And, number three would be to come for the story because it's a really great story about the American dream, about starting from nothing and building an empire and building your dream through a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice, and using your talents and skills, and chasing your dreams.
Come out to the Saenger Theatre tonight through Sunday to experience the sound of the sixties and learn about one of the greatest music groups of all time in JERSEY BOYS. I hope to see you there! Tickets and more information available at www.saengernola.com.