PREVIEW: Jersey Boys at The Civic

Bob Gaudio teaching Dion Bilios the tricks of the trade.

Perfectly pitched performance predicted [by Sharu Delilkan]

Bob Gaudio teaches Dion Bilios the tricks of the trade.

Having grown up when Grease the movie hit the big screen I was keen to speak to Dion Bilios, when I heard that he was cast to play Frankie Valli in Dodger Theatrical’s production of Jersey Boys – The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

The 24-year-old Sydney-sider’s first comment to me was “There aren’t many opportunities for a short guy to be up front singing, so I jumped at the chance to play Frankie.”

The 5 ft 6 in singer, dancer and actor says although he has never been in a band, getting together with the other three other performers as The Four Seasons – Declan Egan (Bob Gaudio), Anthony Harkin (Tommy De Vito) and Glaston Toft (Nick Massi) – has felt very much like being part of a musical group.

“And with us touring to promote the show, doing a few excerpts from the musical, it almost feels like we’re a band on tour,” he says.

Broadway’s gritty smash hit musical tells the story of how four blue collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop sensations of all time. Valli, Gaudio, De Vito and Massi joined forces to become The Four Seasons, writing their own hits and developing their unique sound, eventually selling over 175 million records before they were 30 years old.

Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, choreography by Sergio Trujillo and directed by two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys features 20 Four Seasons hit songs including ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Rag Doll’, ‘Oh What a Night’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’.

One of the biggest challenges Bilios has faced, playing Frankie, has been mastering the exact sound of his Falsetto voice.

But luckily he had the unique experience of working with the real Bob Gaudio in Nashville for two whole days in a recording studio.

“It was a little bit surreal meeting and working with Bob. It has also been rather odd playing people that are still alive, and performing the experiences that they actually had. Going to Nashville was a real eye-opener, especially seeing how much the Country Western vibe is still so alive. And knowing that big Country stars like Taylor Swift had recorded in the same studio I was working in, was beyond my wildest dreams.”

But most of all it was the “one-on-one coaching that Bob gave me that was worth its weight in gold. I’d basically sing a song for him and most of the time he was loving it. But then he would ask me to think about the emotions that were going through Frankie’s mind, which really helped tell the story.”

Mastering the Jersey accent has also been challenging, but nothing that the budding actor can’t handle.

“It’s been great learning the mafia, ‘Soprano-esque’ accent. It has added a great deal to the gritty nature of the story being told,” he says.

Besides the obvious role of singer, Bilios says he is really enjoying finding out the story behind these amazing icons.

“It’s interesting how everyone knows their famous songs like ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ but few really knew their personal story. I love the realistic nature of the whole piece which has everything from the Mafia, money and relationship problems. It’s an incredible story, which I feel privileged to be able to tell.”

Dodger Theatrical in conjunction with The Edge present Jersey Boys from 10 April at The Civic. Details see The Edge.

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  1. REVIEW: Jersey Boys (Civic Theatre) « Theatre Scenes: Auckland Theatre Blog (Reviews, interviews and commentary)

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