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By: Oct. 26, 2009
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Hi, Glenn, how are you?

I'm good, thank you.

You've been in Jersey Boys for quite a while now.

Eighteen months. It's fun, it's a great show, all working together. So yeah, it's been fun, and the guys, all of us who play the main roles, the five of us including Scott [Scott Monello, the alternate for Frankie Valli], we all get on so well. We hang out, it's a very social job. It's been a really lovely experience.

I was going to ask - I guess you have to get on.

You say that, but I've had jobs, not in this show, where I just haven't got on with people. I'm a team player when it comes to working in theatre. It's a team sport. Although we're all soloists, it's the same as a soccer player, everyone's a soloist when they've got the ball. Everybody has a moment when they're doing their thing. It's absolutely a team sport. Some people, some actors, don't view it like that. I don't hold with that sort of ethos. It can get quite fractious in some companies. I've absolutely worked with people I haven't liked. Not often. But there have been a few when I have not respected their way of working, their way of treating other people, their way of behaving in a company. We haven't had that issue with the principals here!

How do you deal with that kind of thing?

Off stage, I avoid it. On stage, I work. I've worked in jobs where principals have been very insecure about their understudies and have them removed. I understudied a principal once who refused to go off, even though he was absolutely so ill, and the management had to approach me to say would I mind giving up the understudy role, because he needs to go off and he won't. Some people behave like that. It's not my thing. I don't like that. I'm not like that with my understudy here, Ben. He's great. He's different to me. He's a good guy. He's very good at the role. He's very solid, very direct. He's fantastic.

A lot of Jersey Boys fans like to see a particular interpretation and they're used to that, so it must be difficult for the understudy to come into that.

I don't read those things, ever. I don't read press about myself either. Or reviews. I've never read a review. Actually that's not true. Somebody pushed a review at me and said, "Oh, you've got to read this," when I was on Broadway. That's the only review I've ever read, and I got halfway through and I said, "Why are you asking me to read this?" and he said, "Oh, I just thought you should read it." I don't read them, or press, or forums. Honestly, you've got to do your best work, whatever that is. If it doesn't please 50,000 people, it'll please 50,000 people, and 50,000 people aren't going to give a monkey's whether you live or die. You're always going to make people happy, you're always going to make people unhappy. So the best thing to do is do the best work you can. The fans can be picky, but they can also be very supportive.

They're obviously very committed to the show, so that must be nice, knowing you've got that support there.

Yeah. Having positive support is always lovely. It's something you can't rely on, something you can't live by, and something you shouldn't need. I've done roles when people have said, "Oh, you're brilliant in that role." And I've felt really uncomfortable because I've not thought I was doing a particularly good job, or it's a role that I don't really think I'm right for. I think what's important is that, yes, people enjoy it and that's great, but I know I'm doing the best I can. If you listen to compliments or negativity...I've got to listen to my director. That's it. People might say, "Oh, I like it when you do that," but the director says, "I don't like it when you do that," and I have to listen to that person, so it's kind of irrelevant. So I don't necessarily like to confuse myself with it.

So it's like when sportsmen say they just want to listen to their manager.

Yeah! You're there to do a job. It's like a striker. The fans might be jeering him because he hasn't scored a goal in five matches. The manager's going, "You've played so well, you've set up so much." An actor is a tool of the director. A puppet, if you like. An actor is there to be creative, yes, to sustain a performance, and yes, to be as strong as you possibly can on the daily running of the show so the director can go away and the actor can carry on in the same way. But you are ostensibly a tool, and the director shapes that and sets it in motion. Anybody else's opinion outside, family, lovers, fans - that's nice. But it's sometimes best not to listen or engage with it.

You won a lot of awards at the Whatsonstage Awards earlier this year.

We did. I think the show's done well here, and it's done well globally, it's hugely popular, because it's a quality piece of theatre. There's no getting away from that. Whoever plays the roles, it's a quality piece of theatre, and it will always achieve the standard it needs to attain to do the piece justice. That has been reflected in the awards. I think my character Tommy is quite difficult here because he's a very American character. The humour in the script, which is undoubtedly there, doesn't necessarily translate into English humour. I think that's a bit of an issue, because there's a raucous response to Tommy in America. There's not quite such a raucous response here. I read the lines and I know the way that it's written that is a punchline and that is a gag, but I also know that's not funny. But it works hugely well as information, as a tapestry, as characterisation, as colloquialisms. The characters show their route, it's brilliant on that level. So even though some of the gags that don't translate to English humour they are hugely important to understanding the character.

Did you research Tommy the man?

To a degree, yes. We also had dramaturgy - a history of the piece, where they grew up, what the characterisations were based in, the popular culture of the time, etcetera. I was given some material to read outside that, and I chose not to read it. I didn't think it would be helpful to playing this Tommy. I played Jesus [in Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End and on Broadway] - well, people say, "What was it like playing Jesus?" and I can't really say that I did. I don't think you ever really can. You can only play somebody's idea, and your interpretation of that character. It's never going to be the real Jesus, it's never going to be the real Tommy. It's never going to be that. What I think is important is that it works on the stage for the audience. That's all I worry about.

You get a huge response at the end of every show.

Yeah. We get an amazing response. We've got 100 per cent standing ovations. We've done really, really well as a show here. When the time comes to move on, it will be a good thing to move on, but it will also be something that lives on for all of us who have done it, and fondly, because it's been a great experience.

Does the success of the show surprise you? It's so quintessentially American and it's done so well here.

To a degree, yes. And to a degree, no. And I say that to qualify it. To me, ‘Jersey Boys' sounds like four strippers. I didn't know what it was. I thought it would be like The Chippendales, Jersey Boys, when I first heard about it. I didn't necessarily have any idea of the story of the Four Seasons. I had no idea of the quality and depth of their catalogue of songs. I knew some of them, and I knew songs very well but I didn't know they were their songs, because other artists had done them. When they asked did I want to audition for it, I said, "What is it?" and it was described as a jukebox musical coming over from America that's done very well there, and I said no. I was doing Shakespeare, I was about to do my third Sondheim musical in two years, I was in Derby, and I said, "Do I want to do a jukebox musical? Jumping up and down with my bobby sox on?" No, I don't. My agent said, "I've got a copy of the script, do you want to read it?" I said, "Well, I won't have time to read it. Can you just send me some of the scenes that he does?"

So I was sent four or five scenes from it, and I thought wow, they're really well-written, really well-structured. I asked friends about it, did they know about the Four Seasons, and most people said no, although they knew the name, and knew Frankie Valli and so on. I googled it when I could, and looked at some things from the actual show. It was a little bit glittery, a little bit glitzy, a bit dancery a show for me. The script was great, and I thought, "Well, that looks quite interesting. It's a show that will entertain people, and it's got a really gritty script." So I said OK, I'll audition, and see how it goes.

So I came down and auditioned for it. I was auditioning for Bob Gaudio initially. They said, "I think you're perfect for Tommy."So I said OK, I don't know anything about Tommy, so they handed me a script. Then I went away, and THEN I read it on the train back to Derby that night. I thought, "It's brilliant. That's the part I want." He's so arsey, so aggressive, not like anything I'd played before, loud, and raucous, and crude, and rude, and all of those things - I just thought it was really interesting. I didn't like it, and then when I looked at it, I saw the depth to it.

He's a real anti-hero, Tommy. You can't help but kind of like him, but he's also awful.

Yes! He is awful! I don't think this is the real Tommy. In the real Tommy's defence, I don't think he would ever or could ever be like this. It's not conducive to an image of a human being, this show, it's just a certain aspect of a human being's personality. It could not be possibly all his personality. Someone would have killed him. It's impossible for that to be a complete human being. However, it works really, really well as a show. You view it all through his eyes, really, although you hear from each of the Four Seasons. He is the main influence in all of those interpretations, the main person that's talked about in all of the seasons, because the show is split into the four seasons. Tommy is actually the protagonist. He's the main engine behind everything that happens in the whole show. It is an amazing character to play. It's a great character.

Any plans when you come to move on?

There are a couple of things. I tend not to think about it too much. It's six months away yet. The show will continue on after me. I don't know what will happen. Maybe I won't do anything. Maybe I'll never work again!

Do you have a wishlist?

There's lots of things I'd like to do, but none of them are around. They're all new things. So I don't know. In reality, anything that came along, I would consider. I hope something does come along. You never know.

Glenn Carter plays Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre.



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