There may be only one legendary Frankie Valli, but his legend lives on day after day with the hit Broadway production “Jersey Boys,” an award-winning musical that captures the lives of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and all of the hits that has made the group famous for so many years.
In honor of Jersey Boys recently celebrating the fifth Anniversary of their resident show in Las Vegas (Jersey Boys also has a show on Broadway in NYC and a national tour), we sat down with one of the stars of the show, Graham Fenton, who has the tough task of emulating Valli’s one-of-a-kind voice on a nightly basis. And trust us – hitting those high notes four days a week is no small task for any artist.
“Frankie has such an incredible voice and it’s such a challenge to try to sort of imitate his style, because not only did he have that amazing falsetto voice, but he had a great belting voice too,” Fenton said. “Sometimes he’s screaming out these high notes but then he’ll jump up to the high falsetto stuff, so I really have to work on my whole range in order to be able to sing this stuff night after night.”
Fenton fell into the role of Valli after attending an open casting call in Miami more than five years ago. After passing that audition process, he was flown to New York City with nine other Valli hopefuls for a ‘Frankie Valli boot camp.’ Fenton was fortunate enough to be one of four who were cast, and he was placed in an understudy role for the Jersey Boys original cast in Las Vegas.
While each of the 10 hopefuls was talented and qualified to play Valli, Fenton knew he had a leg up on the competition because of his roots.
“I kind of had an advantage playing this role I think being that I’m from New Jersey and I’m Italian,” Fenton said. “I kind of get where he came from, even though our circumstances weren’t quite the same. I grew up in a middle class household and he grew up really in a poor neighborhood in Newark. I feel like I get that get that kind of Jersey thing that only people from New Jersey would get.”
Fenton didn’t set out originally to be a Broadway singer. In fact, with the gift of his wide vocal range, he thought he would be an opera singer. But now that he has been playing the role of Valli for five years (including the last year and a half as the lead in Las Vegas), Fenton has found his personal musical tastes changing.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t say I was directly a fan,” Fenton said of the Four Seasons’ music before he was cast in the role. “I was aware of their sings and I think I liked some of them without even really knowing it was them. One of the things we hear so often when people come to see the show is, ‘I didn’t know those were their songs. I didn’t know that was a Four Seasons tune.’ Growing up in New Jersey, you’re going to hear the Four Seasons’ music, but I didn’t really become a fan until I started getting in to the show and just sort of discovering, or re-discovering some of these tunes that are classics. I was like, ‘wow, these are some really good songs.’”
Much like how the show’s tunes won over Fenton, Fenton feels that this show appeals to a wide array of spectators, from young to old and with varied musical tastes.
“It appeals to so many people: young, old, men, women. It appeals to the younger audience and even some of them, men who think they would never like to see a musical theater show in their life. As soon as they sit down in their seats and the show starts, I think we win them over pretty quickly. I think what ends up winning people over is the story. It’s such a truthful, honest story about these guys coming up from nothing in the streets of New Jersey and becoming huge pop stars and it’s all the highs and lows that come along with that journey. I think people really connect to that and appreciate that they see not just a light, fluffy story on stage – they see divorce, they see run-ins with the mob and all kinds of things you normally wouldn’t see in a Broadway show.”
And staying true to the story of Valli and the Four Seasons, Fenton also says the cast of Jersey Boys in Las Vegas is a tight crew much like the characters they play on a nightly basis.
“These guys spent years together before they ever made it big, so we have to make the audience believe that we’ve been friends for years as well,” Fenton said. “It sort of feels like a fraternity with these other guys and with the whole cast. We enjoy going on stage together, which is crucial because we do this so many nights a week and it’s literally the same thing night after night that we do. I can’t imagine what that would be like to go out on stage with people I didn’t like.”
Fenton is certainly in good company, as Valli himself still has a hand in selecting every single person who represents him in one of the musical theatre shows. And in true New Jersey style, Fenton has grown into a person throughout the past five years that can truly relate to Valli because of their commonalities.
“I’ve been doing the show so long now that it's almost automatic,” Fenton said of emulating the star. “It’s in my bones.”
You can see the hit musical Jersey Boys at the Paris Las Vegas with tickets at exclusive prices from BestofVegas.com and also check out Graham's band, A Million Pieces, for more on this talented Las Vegas star.
Las Vegas, NV - 06/05/13