Tell us about your new single, "Turn on the Night"
I did it with a friend of mine in Los Angeles. It's a version of a Frankie Valli song called "The Night", but we've really brought it into 2013; it's pumping. It's 150 beats a minute or something. You've got to be really up for it to get your groove on. It was also my mother's favourite tune, so it has a very personal association for me.
It continues your long association with Frankie Valli
I was talking to Frankie about it when he was doing a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I said "what do you think about me doing this single?", and he was like "great idea man, it's one of my favourites". I'm hoping if we get a few sales we can make a video and put the Frankster in it. He's bang up for it.
Have you sung with him before?
I never have, actually. There was talk about it during the Albert Hall concert, but he wasn't very well with a chest infection and it was a bit touch-and-go whether he was actually going to do the gig at all. But he did come over and he rocked it for two nights, it was amazing how the crowd really got behind him. He got me these seats on about the second row, so I was basically on crotch-watch.
‘Crotch-watch' is a term that the Jersey Boys fans use when they sit in the front row. I'm glad that my art is taken so seriously! I'm sure Laurence Olivier got very similar comments.
Are you sad to be moving home next year after six years at the Prince Edward?
I've got so many memories in that building and to move home is going to be pretty crazy. The Piccadilly is a fabulous theatre but it all started in the Prince Edward; it's a very special place and to move away is going to be traumatic, there's going to be tears I'm sure. But Jersey Boys is a strong show and it just goes from strength to strength; hopefully it'll be at the Piccadilly for another six years.
Are you transferring with it?
Negotiations are ongoing, though nothing has been agreed yet. But they want me to go there, and of course I want to go as well. I never want to leave Jersey Boys - it's such a fantastic show and it's been a wonderful opportunity to play Frankie Valli for so long at the Prince Edward. It's been a very special thing.
What about the film version, there was talk of you being involved in that?
I had my auditions and was all ready to go to Hollywood and sit on the casting couch kissing Clint Eastwood [the film's director], whatever it took. But in the end they gave it to an American. What gets me is that there're always American actors coming here and doing theatre and movies, but it never works the other way. No one ever gets transferred over from London to go to Broadway, or if they do it's so hard and it's so rare. I think that door should swing both ways. We've got a lot of great actors here, a lot of great talent, and we don't really get the opportunity to go over to America to strut our stuff.
And you've played Frankie Valli longer than anyone else
Yeah, and Frankie himself has said that the London cast of Jersey Boys is the best. I think we deserved to be seen by Clint Eastwood, but we were the only cast who weren't. We've got a lot of great actors and we could've done a lot of things with that movie.
Do you think the film version will work?
You know they shot and wrapped the movie in 38 days, the movie is done and dusted now, it's kind of all over. From what I heard they wanted it to be raw, dirty, and street, they wanted it kind of unpolished, which doesn't sound like Jersey Boys to me. Jersey Boys is sharp, Jersey Boys is slick, Jersey Boys should blow you away.
How do you keep you voice in shape?
Well it helps that I do six shows rather than eight [alternating with Jon Lee]. The original guy on Broadway was doing eight shows a week and blew his voice out, so it was deemed that Frankie Vallis around the world should only sing six shows for safety. I wish some other shows would do that, because a lot of actors are pushed to the max by producers and lose their voices. I've seen it happen time and time again. And there's not insurance or protection for that over here, unlike in the States. But Jersey Boys has always been great about protecting us - other shows should take note.
Is it hard to keep the energy up?
There's not been one day where I've dreaded going into work or thought ‘I can't be bothered', which is crazy after six years. And I'm not just saying that. I love things which are a challenge - a mental challenge, a physical challenge, an acting challenge, a vocal challenge - and Jersey Boys has got it all. That's why it's so special and why I've stayed as long as I have. No other shows offer a challenge on all those different levels. I actually fear leaving Jersey Boys. I'll probably just explode with the new-found freedom and start running around the streets naked singing Frankie Valli songs!
Besides running round naked, what would you like to do next?
I'd love to do some film and TV, though I'll never turn my back on musical theatre. But I'd have to find a show that is as good as Jersey Boys, and would keep me as interested as Jersey Boys has. And I definitely want to keep up with songwriting and recording. The songs that I write are like etchings into my diary, and I love getting out there with my band. In January I'm going to do a gig, and make sure I do a mixture of songs for all the fans. I'm going to get some cellos down there, some violas and get some special guests, and make it all really intimate, for about 200 lucky people. Watch this space.
Jersey Boys runs at the Prince Edward Theatre until 9 March 2014, reopening at the Piccadilly on 19 March
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