Michael Watson talks ahead of Jersey Boys role at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre
Michael Watson doesn’t feel like he has a proper job. The musical theatre star dons a red coat each night and belts out some of the greatest pop hits ever written when he stars in Jersey Boys – the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
And though the hours are long and the travel is tortuous, he loves every last second.
The show will return to the West Midlands later this month when Jersey Boys hits Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre from August 28 to September 8.
The internationally acclaimed stage sensation, Jersey Boys has won 57 major awards worldwide, including the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. It tells the true life story of four boys from the wrong side of the tracks who wrote their own songs, invented their own unique sound, and sold 100 million records worldwide.
Featuring hit after legendary hit including Beggin’, December 1963 (Oh What A Night), Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Walk Like A Man, Bye Bye Baby, Big Girls Don’t Cry and many more, Jersey Boys is a story full of heart, humour and sheer musical razzmatazz.
Michael, who plays Frankie Valli, says: “I love the show. We’re halfway through and we’ve been flying along with a six-month tour. We’ve been having such a great time with sell out crowds.
“The thing is, I’ve been involved in the show for a number of years. It’s easy to keep fresh because it’s such a joy of a show.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with this new cast. We’ve really found our way with the show. It seems to be growing stronger.”
Michael has strong links with the West Midlands. Having played Frankie in the West End back in 2014, he opened the touring show in Birmingham before visiting scores of other towns and cities. “It’s been a real pleasure revisiting the role for the tour because I feel like I don’t have as much to prove to myself because I’ve done it before.
“I’m a bit older now and a lot of my experiences in my personal life, such as the fact I have a family now, allows me to relate to those situations in the show in a much more profound way.
“It’s always tougher to bring a show on tour as you’re constantly on the road whilst doing a physically demanding job.
“The only hesitancy I had is because it is hard to be away from your family, but from an acting point of view, it was a no-brainer to come back.
“Jersey Boys has been a part of my life for five years. I took some time away to focus on my family and things like that.
“The benefit of doing a show on tour outweighs the negative in the sense of a performer, to take a show to people’s back door is so special. The houses are full, the audiences are ready and it’s a really lovely way to tell the story.”
The shows in Birmingham were a joy and Watson was grateful that audiences were so warm and appreciative. He’s hoping for similar in Wolverhampton as Black Country crowds get into the performances and enjoy their evening out.
“I did a little bit in Birmingham. We started the tour there but this tour is my first one all around the UK and it’s great seeing new parts of UK and we’re looking forward to the Grand Theatre.
“The first night we opened in Birmingham, everybody was singing the song with us at the top of their lungs and it was such a special moment. I think moments like that are perfection.
“We’ve all got a connection and that is what theatre is about at the end of the day. The songs are consequential to the story rather than being a part of it, so sing your hearts out, if anything I’ll get upset if you don’t.
“We’d like to think it’s West End quality but without people having to get to London. A lot of us have played these roles in the West End and it’s a great show.
“I was an understudy before taking the lead role so through osmosis I watched the guys in the show and saw the skeleton of the character of Valli, but you can’t copy someone else, you have to be you, and find your own way. I relate to scenes in the show from my point of view as well as his. But putting my own stamp on it isn’t a conscious decision – it’s something all actors do anyway.
“Luckily my actual voice had some similarities to Valli’s. I have the same sort of range, but I do add an extra nod to his style above what my own voice is like, he has that distinctive twang.
“There’s so much to Frankie, he’s on stage for 95 per cent of the show, so you find something different to enjoy every night. When I left the show the character stayed with me, I felt like I had unfinished business in the role. I was so connected with it, so happy doing it.
“But the weird thing is, that character doesn’t actually have lots in common with me. He’s very cut and dry, he says what he means whether it upsets people or not.”
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