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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

'Jersey Boys' South African actors on playing America's pop icons

Posted: 20 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Four South African actors talk about walking the talk, dancing the steps and singing the songs of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

After a successful run in South Korea, Jersey Boys is now showing at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur. Organised by Milestone Production Sdn Bhd, the musical depicts the true-life story and remarkable rise to stardom of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, one of the most iconic American pop groups in history.

The guys playing Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we caught up with them before the opening night last week. Turns out they managed to fit in some sightseeing in the city centre after they arrived at the airport the weekend before, ahead of taking to the stage as The Four Seasons.

Grant Almirall, who plays the falsetto-voiced Valli, said that the appeal of the award-winning show is, at its core, the music. "The music of The Four Seasons have been around for so long. Growing up, we've all heard these songs somewhere before, so they are always in the back of our consciousness.

"But it is also a story that everyone can relate to – of brotherhood, family, betrayal and how you cope with such things," the 34-year-old said, adding that he finds Frankie's self-development, how he blossoms as a singer and person, the most intriguing thing about the character.

When asked how it felt playing someone who is still alive, Daniel Buys, 29, who takes on the role of Tommy DeVito (one of the founding members of The Four Seasons who is now in his 80s), confided that it was a little intimidating in the beginning.

"A little overwhelming as well, especially since these are characters who come from the wrong side of the tracks, people who were scary people for their times, or at least mixing with scary people," he said. "But once you know your lines and get into the swing of things, it stopped being about playing somebody that is still existing and became about just giving it your all and being honest with the story."

¿It is a really slick and well put-together show ... and, hey, you¿ll be seeing four hot guys on stage!¿ Jersey Boys cast member Emmanuel Castis said cheekily. Well, they do look rather smooth on stage.... ¿ RICKY LAI/The Star

Cast member Emmanuel Castis calls 'Jersey Boys' "a really slick and well put-together show". -RICKY LAI/The Star

Kenneth Meyer, 27, who plays Bob Gaudio, agrees that it is the songs and story that will touch the audience. "You come to the show wanting to listen to the music, but you go home remembering the story. It's an emotional roller coaster, you will laugh and you will cry," he said.

Being part of the touring Jersey Boys group has been an amazing and unforgettable journey, he shared. And just like the original guys from decades past, these four lads have bonded over rehearsals, performances, and being on the road together for the past year and a half.

The biggest challenge for Meyer on Jersey Boys is the getting the choreography down to a T. "The harmony came kind of naturally, but when you put the dance moves to that, that's when it gets hard. It's very precise and you've got to do it at the same time with everyone else," Meyer said.

Emmanuel Castis, 38, who plays Nick Massi, added, "Jersey Boys is such a good story, you start with the highs and then you reach the lows. By the end, you are crying for Frankie and with Frankie. It is as entertaining as it is heartbreaking."

As if all that isn't reason enough to catch the show, he then grinned and added, "It is a really slick and well put-together show. And, hey, you'll be seeing four hot guys on stage!"

> 'Jersey Boys' is showing at Istana Budaya, Jalan Tun Razak, KL until April 27. Showtimes are 8.30pm nightly, with 3pm matinees on the weekends. For tickets, go to or call (03) 92228811. For more details, visit 'Jersey Boys' is organised by Milestone Production Sdn Bhd. The Star is the gold sponsor and Red FM is the official radio station. The Star readers can enjoy a 20% discount in all ticket categories. To do so, key in the promo code "STAR" when purchasing via or at outlets.


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