Ryan Molloy is the winner of the Whatsonstage Best Actor in a Musical Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in the multi award winning West End smash hit Jersey Boys. As Ryan is a fellow Geordie I thought it was time Whatsonstage North East caught up with him. I wanted to know how a “local lad” moved from the region, via way of Los Angeles, to become a multi award winning leading man, in a West End musical that is playing to packed houses night after night.

Ryan told me he is originally from North Shields and became a pupil of North Tyneside College (recently renamed TyneMet and a landmark on the regions Coast Road which leads from Newcastle to Tynemouth) before moving to London and studying at The Poor School. But being influenced by films such as St Elmos Fire and The Breakfast Club, he set off to America with two hundred and fifty pounds of travellers’ cheques in his pocket (a gift from his Mother) determined to further his career.

In my mind there was no doubt from speaking to Ryan that this young man is totally focused on his career and he would follow whichever path he believed would further his career. So far it cannot be faulted.  

Settling in Los Angeles he studied acting at the University of California while singing in clubs and bars in the evening. After a few years Ryan returned to London for a record deal and appeared in the 2002 Edinburgh Festival, starring in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Musical Adventure.

Ryan told me his time in Edinburgh had reminded him of Los Angeles, with its street theatre and the City had a vibrancy and energy all of its own.

Two years later he was appearing in the West End version of Jerry Springer-The Opera, during which time he won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor. After this he appeared in Boy George’s Taboo, playing Steve Strange.

Playing the lead in the UK tour of Tonight’s the Night, the Ben Elton musical featuring the music of Rod Stewart followed. I mentioned to Ryan that I actually recalled reviewing this show when the show played the Sunderland Empire.

Then via the ENOs second outing of On The Town and the tour of Godspell  (both 2007) Ryan landed the role of Frankie Valli in the West End smash hit version of The Jersey Boys.  

I wanted to know what it was like to play someone who is still alive and Ryan told me he does not mimic the real Valli, who he has met several times. He looks at the persons strengths and uses his own interpretation. Judging from audiences’ reaction, and the awards both Ryan and the show have won, he is getting it completely right.

So just how does an award winning West End star relax in the little free time they have I wondered? Well on the day of our conversation he was actually moving house and had broken off in the middle of the move to talk to me. Moving at any time is stressful but to stop to carry out an interview, with the knowledge that you have to be at the theatre in a few hours to perform in front of several thousand people, is something I really appreciated. Also being a born and bred Geordie I should have guessed that he follows “The Toon” even though things are not going too well at the moment to put it mildly, he still keeps up with the trials and tribulations of Newcastle United and watches televised games when possible. He even sympathised with my wife when I explained she had worked in the St James’ Box Office for a while.

Our chat returned to Jersey Boys and Ryan believed its success is down to word of mouth business and the four main leads committed to staying with the show. People are returning time after time to see Jersey Boys one of whom is Victoria Beckhams’ Mother, who has even brought her famous daughter and son in law along with her.

So what will the future hold? Immediately there is settling in to his new flat, appearing in the Jersey Boys for the foreseeable future and his nomination for an Olivier Award, with the winners being announced on 8 March. Once the London run of the Jersey Boys is over, which is not for at least another year, he plans to return to America. Hopefully a run on Broadway in Jersey Boys will be possible and then to pick up where he left off in Los Angeles a few years ago. As Ryan puts it he still has a “few boxes to kick” in America. There is no doubt this young man is as focused on this, as I think he will be on every aspect of his life.

Unfortunately, work often prevents trips back to his native North East, with eight shows a week there is not a lot of time left. But Ryan tries to return to his family at least at Christmas time whenever possible. 

I mentioned to Ryan that late last year I saw him and the cast of Jersey Boys perform at both the Whatsonstage Awards Nominations and the following week at the Royal Variety Performance and on both occasions had noticed the incredible audience reaction they received. He kindly told me if I had the opportunity to pop in and say hello at the Prince Edward Theatre, where Jersey Boys in playing, I should do so. That is an offer I will try to accept so we can carry on our conversation, as I am sure there are many stories Ryan can tell about his journey from native Tyneside to West End star.   

In North Shields there is a statue of the great Stan Laurel who lived there for part of his life. I somehow feel that the people of the area will also be making it very well known that Ryan Molloy, award winning West End star, is another famous face from the town.

 John Dixon