It’s the story about how four blue-collar boys from New Jersey went from singing on the streets between stints in jail to becoming a successful pop group and, eventually, the subjects of a popular Broadway play.
Performing in Jersey Boys is often considered a dream opportunity for many actors, especially those taking the role of lead singer Frankie Valli, who was known for his unique falsetto voice — and actor Evan Taylor Benyacar is no exception.
Benyacar jumped at the chance to bring Valli to life on Stage West’s stage, fully knowing it was the first regional performance of the Tony Award-winning production in the country.
“As soon as I saw the audition notice for this, I contacted my agent right away and she worked so hard to get me into this position,” the Toronto actor explains. “After seeing it the first time on tour in Toronto, it’s always been a dream role for me. I was really fortunate director Liz Gilroy put me in this position and gave me this chance, and I cherish every moment of this.”
When it comes to Valli and the Four Seasons — Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi — everyone may know the songs but they may not know their faces. Or their stories.
“If a song is playing, people may not go, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons,’ but somebody will be like, ‘Oh yeah, I know that song, I love that song.’ And their name doesn’t get thrown around as much, but everyone has one of their songs on their (play list.)”
Timeless tunes such as Sherry, Oh, What a Night, Walk Like a Man and Big Girls Don’t Cry, are just a sampling of the music the Four Seasons performed night after night to many adoring fans.
But it wasn’t always easy and the group faced their challenges, eventually breaking up. That’s all detailed in Jersey Boys, which captures the essence of the Four Seasons: the successes, the failures and of course, the boys themselves.
“I think that they do a really, really great job of staying true to the story, and it showcases not only just how good of musicians they were and how talented they were, but what hardships they went through to get there, what experiences they had to make them that great,” Benyacar says.
Of course, their voices and unique songwriting helped put the Four Seasons on the musical map, and Benyacar was up for the challenge of bringing Valli’s voice to life. After all, he too has been singing his whole life.
“I didn’t really take lessons until I got into college, but singing was always in my life. I grew up with a lot of punk music and a lot of punk singing, which is also very high, but a different style, obviously,” he laughs.
But the most challenging part of the production wasn’t the singing.
“The hardest thing, for me at least, is getting the choreography and singing down together, especially for the boys who play instruments in this show. They had to add that extra layer on. But, this is what we love and what we are trained to do, and we work hard at it.”
With only a two-and-a-half-week rehearsal, Benyacar and the rest of the cast — including Daniel Greenberg, Douglas Walker, Jonathan Gysbers, Josh Wiles, Matt Alfano and Niko Anastasakis — knock this performance out of the park.
“Everybody did their homework every night and they showed up ready to go. And it just made it that much easier,” he adds.
“Every single person on that stage is so talented and so giving. I always make jokes during rehearsals, ‘All right, when will be starting our own band? No more of these cover songs.’ We all bonded pretty quick, which I think is necessary in a show like this.”
Benyacar says Jersey Boys offers something for everyone.
“It’s something that everybody can relate to. It’s not strictly musical theatre, it’s not strictly pop — it’s something where you can find the middle ground and everybody will have a good time.”
(Photo courtesy John Watson Photography.)
Stage West’s Jersey Boys runs until Feb. 3, 2019. For more information and tickets at please go to stagewestcalgary.com.
Krista Sylvester is a freelance writer (and creator of that’s all she wrote) with a journalism background. She has worked for Metro, CityTV and the now defunct FFWD, and specializes in arts and culture, sports, film and entertainment, social issues and more. When she’s not writing, she can often be found at the poker table or ice rink playing hockey.