The year after Jersey Boys debuted on Broadway, it won four Tony Awards in 2006, including one for Best Musical. A jukebox musical featuring many of the hits of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons -- fitting in all of the favorites would be impossible since dozens of albums by Valli and the Four Seasons have charted over the last 50+ years -- the show was also the winner of the 2009 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. While 2017 saw the Broadway staple close after a 12-year run, the show quickly moved several blocks out of Times Square into the excellent New World Stages. As with its New World neighbor Avenue Q, Jersey Boys is still offering the same top-tier production since re-opening in November, only now in a more intimate setting.
On behalf of OnStage Blog, I had the pleasure of speaking with two of the stars of Jersey Boys. Nicolas Dromard portrays Tommy DeVito, the Four Seasons guitarist that made most of the band’s business decisions in its early days. Mark Edwards plays Nick Massi, the deep-voiced Four Seasons bassist, who has his own take on how things really went in the early days. Both Dromard and Massi look and the sound the part, and both had some fun yet inspiring responses to contribute.
What was your first exposure to the music of Frankie Valli?
Nicolas Dromard: Growing up I listened to a lot of French music and oldies, and so I remember hearing The Four Seasons play on the radio when I was seven or eight.
Mark Edwards: My first exposure to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons was in elementary school. My mom would always have the oldies station or the easy rock station on the radio, so I would hear their songs and sing along. The first time I heard “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)” was actually when my brother's high school marching band played it during their halftime show. So often, people will come up to us after the show and tell us how much they loved it because they "grew up on this music." Well, I grew up on this music too, and that is why I love performing the show so much.
Has being part of Jersey Boys led you to meeting anyone affiliated with The Four Seasons?
Nicolas Dromard: I’ve met Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli. I would love to meet Tommy DeVito, but I hear he spends most of his time in Vegas.
Mark Edwards: Yeah, we actually got the chance to meet Frankie during the rehearsal process for the New World Stages company. He came to see how rehearsals were progressing and watched the first half of our run-through that day. It is quite surreal to perform a show about a portion of someone's life while that person is sitting three feet in front of you watching you do it -- but what a cool experience it is at the same time. Bob Gaudio was at a few rehearsals leading up to the big “friends and family night” that started our official run. I got to chat with him a couple times about life and the fact that he and my nephew share a birthday!
Mark, I've read that you're originally from Pennsylvania, and Nicolas, you're from Ottawa. Have either of you been to any of the spots in New Jersey that are referenced in the play?
Nicolas Dromard: I’ve been to Newark and going to the Belmont Tavern in Belleville, New Jersey is on my list of places to go to.
Mark Edwards: I haven't been to any of the specific places referenced in the show, but I'm from the Philadelphia area, right across the river from "South Jersey." It's always interesting to hear the differences between the South Jersey and North Jersey accent, but every New Jersian has the same awesome toughness!
As a guitar player, when watching the show, I noticed that both of you had your hands in the right places when playing the songs being performed. When in the process did you learn how to play the songs?
Nicolas Dromard: I’ve dabbled in guitar since 2002, but really started playing more when I was auditioning for this show.
Mark Edwards: I was with the Second National Tour of Jersey Boys last year and one of my tracks was understudying Nick Massi, so I had a bit of a head start on the bass guitar parts. But we had a couple of private sessions during the beginning of the rehearsal process. It was really important to me to marry the bass playing with the choreography, so both feel like second nature. The earlier you do that in the process, the better.
Was your background as an instrumentalist key to your being cast in Jersey Boys? Were you in any bands before becoming an actor?
Nicolas Dromard: I wasn’t in any bands growing up aside from the orchestra in school -- I play the flute and piano as well -- but I do think that playing an instrument gives us an edge when auditioning for Broadway shows. Reading music is so important.
Mark Edwards: I don't know if being an instrumentalist was key to me being in Jersey Boys, but it certainly doesn't hurt. To be fair, my primary instrument isn't guitar, it's tuba, but I have always wanted to learn to play guitar proficiently, and Jersey Boys certainly gives me that opportunity. My background is actually as a music teacher and vocalist, so that deep history in reading all types of music and teaching all types of instruments helps in the learning process for any show, especially Jersey Boys.
The Jersey Boys play and film have some major differences within the story itself. But is there a part of the Four Seasons story that you connect with most?
Nicolas Dromard: These guys were just your blue-collared guys trying to make it and I think that everyone connects with that. Doing something you love and working hard at it until you finally are recognized, that is something that everyone strives to do.
Mark Edwards: For me, getting the opportunity to dig into the life of Nick Massi and portray this real life person every night has connected me with the story and myself in an interesting way. When I originally auditioned for the show, I remember always telling casting that I thought I was more like Bob even though they kept saying I was more right for Nick. Well, they knew what they were talking about because I have found so many similarities between Nick Massi and I that I really had to dig to find. Above all else, Nick Massi cared about the music. He didn't want to be involved in the drama, he just wanted to play. It didn't matter if it was in front of a crowd of 50,000 people or in a tiny jail cell, he just wanted to avoid the drama and play music. I don't jive with the jail time as much, but I definitely connect with the feeling of wanting to avoid the drama and just do what I love.
What was the first role in your career as an actor that you were really proud of? Or at least felt like this was going to be a career and not just a lucky break or two?
Nicolas Dromard: My first job as a dancer in the Radio City Rockettes show in Branson, Missouri! I was so excited and I love Christmas, so to celebrate that and have it be my first job ever, I was really proud. Every show I’ve booked since then I feel is so special and different and I love them all.
Mark Edwards: I'm really proud of everything I have done so far because even the early years are a solid foundation to build a career on. You learn from each experience and apply it to the next. In that sense, they all become moments of pride. I will say that when I toured with Beauty & The Beast as the understudy for Beast and understudy for Gaston, and got to perform both, those were moments when I came into my own and took ownership of my career as a business!
When not busy with Jersey Boys, how do you like to spend your free time?
Nicolas Dromard: I love to spend time with my wife and my dog, and coaching CrossFit and going on adventures.
Mark Edwards: I love to cook, read, and workout, so you can usually find me doing one of those three things, though at the moment I am doing my best HGTV impression while decorating my apartment. During the warmer months I will probably be out on the golf course as much as I can!
Do you have any other projects going on at the moment? Or is Jersey Boys all you have time for?
Nicolas Dromard: There’s a bun in the oven, so that’s my other project starting in May...
Mark Edwards: No other "projects" currently, though I am constantly taking classes and working on my craft. You can always find opportunities to get better each and every day.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
Nicolas Dromard: Learn everything you can at a young age. Take as many lessons as you can: dance, music, guitar, piano, voice -- do it young and do it all. You’ll have all the tools to get the most jobs.
Mark Edwards: Come out and see the show -- and if I accidentally hit you with my ball on the golf course, I apologize.
More on Jersey Boys can be found at www.jerseyboysinfo.com. Dromard is on Twitter as @NicolasDromard, while Edwards can be followed via @MarkEdwardsNYC.