Ben Joyce made his West End debut in the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. Here he tells us how it’s going, what it’s like to be in The Four Seasons and his unusual pre-show ritual.
For anyone who hasn’t seen Jersey Boys, what can they expect?
It’s just the best night out in London you could wish for. The soundtrack is so iconic and all the songs by The Four Seasons are known and loved by all. Plus, there is a great story that goes with it.
You made your West End debut in the show, how have you found getting to grips with the production?
It’s been really good. Obviously, it is everyone’s dream to come out of drama school and go into a leading role. I’ve always loved Jersey Boys since I was young anyway and Frankie Valli has been a dream role of mine, so it was just perfect timing. I was graduating as the auditions came out and luckily they took a chance on me and I’ve loved the experience so far. It was a tense wait, but the audition process was really fun and I’m so grateful to be in this part.
“As a kid, the thing that probably inspired me to do musical theatre the most was Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys so I’m really thankful because it’s not only my first West End role, but also a part I’ve always wanted to play.”
Can you remember what it was like stepping out on to the West End stage for the first time?
It was honestly a dream come true moment, which I know is the cheesiest thing to say, but literally every single person that trains at drama school dreams of that day and that moment. The rehearsal process is quite long and intense, then that’s followed by tech rehearsals where you actually use the stage for the first time in a costume, so it becomes pretty real then. However, it’s not until you get the first audience in front of you that it hits you in the face and you’re like ‘wow, this is it, I’ve managed to achieve what I’ve always wanted to achieve’. I do feel incredibly lucky to be in this position.
I can only imagine how amazing that must feel, what’s it like to play Frankie Valli and head of The Four Seasons?
It’s tricky because the audience will see Frankie’s journey and watch him grow into the person that he becomes. He starts off as this young, wide-eyed, wannabe singer in these little bars and by the end of the musical he’s in his 60s and it’s quite mind blowing to reveal all the things he has experienced in his life.
Is there an added pressure playing someone who is real, rather than a fictional character?
Yes, one hundred percent. I really want to do him justice and do it with as much empathy as possible. I’d love to have Frankie in one night to see my take on the role, that pressure of him in the audience hasn’t hit me yet, but I bet it would be surreal. Adam Bailey (who plays Bob Gaudio) and I sang for Bob across a video call at the beginning of the rehearsal process so that was a pressure in itself as Bob helped write the songs, but luckily he loved it and what an amazing experience it was. I’d love to meet Frankie one day too.
What do you love most about Jersey Boys?
As an actor I love the journey of the show, the things that Frankie goes through are horrific. The band start off on a high with these big hits like Sherry, Walk Like a Man and Big Girls Don’t Cry and as time goes on, without ruining it for people who haven’t seen the show, lots of circumstances change which sees the characters face a range of terrible situations. Frankie has been through the most unbelievable life so as an actor, I’m privileged, and it excites me to take the audience on that journey every night.
Do you still get nervous before a show?
I think I can control it much better now. I do still get butterflies before I go on, but like most of the cast would say, nerves and butterflies in your belly are always a good thing. It gives you that little shot of adrenaline just before you go on stage.
Have you got any weird or quirky rituals that you must do before going on stage?
I know this is so silly, but I have to brush my teeth before I go on stage. Not just so I have nice breath but it’s just something I have to do! Me and the boys also have a little hug before we go on to say good luck, but I try to not get too superstitious.
Jersey Boys is booking until 2nd October 2022 at the Trafalgar Theatre. Groups of ten or more can benefit from discounted rates on certain performances. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.jerseyboysmusical.co.uk.