Aaron De Jesus is wowing audiences on the road with his vocal acrobatics as the legendary Frankie Valli in The National Tour of Jersey Boys. Aaron takes us on his journey of playing the role of a lifetime.
Joel: Tell me about yourself-where you grew up and where you got your theatre and vocal training. What other shows have you appeared in on the stage?
I was born in NYC and lived there till age 5. Grew up in Provo, UT. Earned an AA with an emphasis on Theatre from Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University). Earned a BFA in Music/Dance/Theatre from Brigham Young University. Some important vocal teachers were Mark Child, Gayle Lockwood, Jeffrey Skousen, Rob Moffat, and Katie Agresta. Some of my most recent and notable credits are: Timon in The Lion King, Patsy in Monty Python’s Spamalot, Boq understudy in Wicked, Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened…, and Tom Sawyer in Big River.
When did you first get the ‘Theatre Bug’ and what memories do you have about your first stage appearances?
I did my first musical at the local high school as an eighth grader – The King and I. I continued to do theatre and choir through high school and loved it. But it wasn’t until college that I really caught the bug. I worked in the theatre scene shop and had long discussions about acting and theatre with the foreman, Bob Manning. He was also a brilliant director and teacher.
When did you first audition for Jersey Boys? What did you sing at your audition? How long did it take before you were offered the role of Frankie Valli? Did you audition for any other roles in the show?
My story is unique. I first auditioned for the show in March of 2004. Before the initial workshop of the show at La Jolla. I wasn’t prepared to sing a falsetto song that wasn’t from the Four Seasons’ cannon. So I threw together a quick version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight – the only falsetto song I knew. Didn’t go over well. Spent the next eight years auditioning for the show on and off. I was finally cast as Joey after what I had determined to be my last audition for Jersey Boys. I played Joey in the Las Vegas company for 3 1/2 years before moving up to Frankie here on tour. I always knew I was right for the show and never really gave up.
How did you prepare for the role? Did you go to Frankie Camp?
I did go to Frankie Camp in 2009. Again with no result. I prepared for the role by familiarizing myself as much as I could with the show and the characters. When they moved me into the Frankie role, I had a special Frankie Camp with the real Bob Gaudio. It’s two days of working on the songs with him in studio. You get a real sense of the songs, their history and style under his amazing tutelage.
What do you remember about the first time you stepped on the stage to play Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys?
Not much. It was mostly a blur. There is so much to think about, you can’t really enjoy it. I think it went alright.
Have you ever performed in DC before? What are you most looking to performing at The National Theatre?
I’ve never performed in DC. I’m super excited to play the National. It will be a pleasure spending such a great chunk of time in our Nation’s Capital.
What are your two favorite songs in the show and why?
I love “Working My Way Back to You.” It comes at a time in the show where Frankie’s on top. And I really get to rock out. I also like “Beggin’” because of its dramatic and visceral nature.
What are you doing to rest your voice for the show? Any suggestions to other singers and other actors playing Frankie in a production of Jersey Boys?
There are two key secrets. Rest and hydration. I know how much rest my body and voice needs. I am also familiar with what hydrates me best. I run and exercise along with doing the show, so I need electrolytes along with my water.
Why do you think Jersey Boys is still selling out everywhere it plays. And what does the show have to say to today’s audiences?
The show is successful because of the attention to detail. Every aspect of the show has purpose and is perfectly polished. This goes for everything from music to choreography to scene changes, lighting and props.
Its universal rags to riches story makes it accessible to so many audiences.
What advice do you have for young actors and singers who are considering theatre as their career?
Work hard. Don’t give up. Hope for the best and expect the worst. It’s a difficult career but extremely rewarding and so much fun.
What other roles in music theatre are on your “Must Play this Role” list and why do you want to play these roles?
I love Into the Woods and I’d love to play the Baker.
I’ve also always wanted to play John Adams in 1776. It’s not only a fantastic role but one I could play opposite my wife Gail Bennett.