Jersey Boys hit a high note
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It's the story of four boys from the wrong side of the tracks making it big. But for the star of Jersey Boys, it's the grittiness of the show that makes it a role of a lifetime.
Dion Bilios has just started rehearsals for his role as Frankie Valli - the little guy with the high-pitched voice who, along with The Four Seasons, invented a unique sound and sold more than 175 million records all before they were 30.
Jersey Boys has been a smash hit around the world, with more than 14 million people watching the story of the four blue collar boys, with chequered pasts, drag themselves up to become pop sensations.
And Bilios says when he saw it for the first time in his native Australia he knew it was a show he wanted to be a part of.
"As soon as I saw it, I wanted to be in it - it's the role of a lifetime. I love the music and the show itself - the acting, the story -it's just so exciting as an actor to get into. There is just so much grittiness, there's a bit of comedy and there are laughs - there's a whole variety of stuff."
The story of Valli and his band mates Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Mass is one of a band of brothers - figuratively of course. And Bilios says while there is the added pressure that comes with playing a legend that is still alive and kicking, his co-stars are helping to keep the 24-year-old grounded.
"The four of us have become really close. We only met a couple of months ago and they are like brothers to me already, giving me noogies and slapping me around - the little guy, you know - but that's what brothers do."
Featuring 20 Four Seasons hit songs including Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Rag Doll, it's no surprise Jersey Boys is often described as more of a pop concert than a theatre performance. What did surprise the five-foot-six star, however, were how many well-known songs the four-piece had created.
"It's really strange, I was sitting there, watching the show and I thought 'I know that song, and that one and that one'. There are 20 songs and I know most of them. And I'm pretty young as well, so it's kind of like the music just keeps resurging."
He's right. Can't Take My Eyes Off You was a hit for Lauryn Hill; while Oh What a Night has been covered more times than anyone can count.
But what about that voice? Bilios worked with Four Seasons original, Gaudio on getting the sound of Valli in the bag, but says the distinctive high range isn't always the easiest thing to pull off.
"Not in the mornings, I'll tell you that. I do the bass lines in the mornings - Barry White - but by the time the show comes, there's a lot of preparation, a lot of warming up, a lot of herbal remedies, a lot of honey and that kind of thing. I do tend to have a bit of a naturally high voice, but I had to work on it as well."
And it's crucial the performance is down pat for opening night in April - the real Valli will be performing in Auckland while the show is running. And Bilios is a little bit excited and worried about running into the man himself.
"It's hard; you want to do them justice... They are really interested in the show, because it's about them. I haven't met Frankie yet, but I would love to - he's here at the same time, so he might just pop in and sit down the back. I would be definitely be a bit nervous."
Where: The Civic Theatre, Auckland
When: April 10 - May 17
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