The latest touring production of Jersey Boys – the Tony-winning, musical biography of pop music's most notable vocal quartet, The Four Seasons – is at Philadelphia’s Forrest Theater though January 5, 2014. For seven years, several different teams of actors and singers have criss-crossed the globe portraying the original members of The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio, and Nick Massi. Langhorne, PA, native Brandon Andrus is a two-year veteran of this musical playing Massi, the quietest Season, its bass voice, its rhythmic underbelly, and its most stylish member.
A.D. Amorosi: So when did you become part of the whole touring Jersey Boys extravaganza?
Brandon Andrus: Two years ago, late December. There was one touring company, the first one, that played in Philadelphia six years ago. I was part of the company that hit the road in 2011. Believe it or not, this is still part of that second tour that we opened at the Forrest.
A.D. Amorosi: Tell me about embodying the character of Nick Massi for as long as you have. He was the hardest Four Season to know, according to those who knew him.
Brandon Andrus: He was so enigmatic. When they first started writing this show, they asked 20 people who knew him what they thought he was, and they got 20 different answers, nearly none of them connected. He was adaptable to any situation. He was fun to be around, a real character. For the purposes of this show, they created a quiet guy who often faded into the background, but was no less essential to the band. You really don’t hear from him until the second act.
A.D. Amorosi: Do you think having such an open-ended character to play with was harder to portray or easier?
Brandon Andrus: The challenge comes from the fact that they have been doing this show for seven years now. There have been just as many Nick Massis as there are Frankie Vallis, Tommy DeVitos and Bob Gaudios. The thing about the Frankies, the Bobs, and the Tommys is that those personalities are set in stone. The casting people know what works and what doesn’t. This is my second batch of Four Seasons with a new Frankie and a new Tommy. Part of my job too is to adapt to them. Despite the manner in which Nick is written, he’s still the wild card. I might not say much, but it is how you play him. I harkened back to the British comedies that I grew up with (To the Manner Born, Dr. Who, Are You Being Served? and Mr. Bean), as well as the period when I lived in London – the British don’t give much away. They allow the text to be spoken without much excess movement. That is my personal stamp. People like my version.
A.D. Amorosi: It also has to be easier not having a living person to answer to, considering that the real Valli and the real Gaudio check in on so much of the show’s production and casting.
Brandon Andrus: Definitely. I just have to honor Nick.
A.D. Amorosi: You mentioned having to play to, or with, other Tommys, Bobs and Frankies. Is this time different than two years ago when you did it?
Brandon Andrus: Two years ago, I was wrapped up, in part, in the emotion of being here, at home. It was the first time I had performed in Philly since Oklahoma (he played Curly) which is a long time ago, like seven years before that. I spent two years waiting to come back to Philly since then. They’re a smart audience and a giving audience. After you play to so many types of audiences and a show grows, it’s nice to find a familiar audience. Plus, we have show runners who fine tune every performance. They let you know when to speed a line reading up, and such.
A.D. Amorosi: What’s your favorite part of Jersey Boys?
Brandon Andrus: I have to admit that I really love my closing monologue. It’s my final goodbye. The opening speech is cool, but the chat where he talks about leaving the group and such is fraught with emotion for me, because I’m leaving the group after this show. Like him, I want to go home to my wife, so much of what Massi was to the band as a member, and to their legacy is all right there, as well as being a man. Throughout the rest of the show, we leave the drama to the other guys. Then again, Frankie Valli once said of Nick, “with that mind of his, you never know.” The best way of showing that was to never give anything away, and to draw as little to myself as possible. Therefore, the few times I took attention, it really stands out.
A.D. Amorosi: So you’re leaving Jersey Boys. That’s radical.
Brandon Andrus: Yeah, on December 20, me and the Frankie Valli (Nick Cosgrove) are having our last shows. There are constantly shifts in Jersey Boys. Understudies move up, other touring members move across. I’ve done this for a couple of years and know what I want to do. The road ahead is scary, but I know I want to be home in New York with my wife and our dogs, and take on the next adventure, whether it is an acting gig there, or something I create myself, or even something back home in Philly. So on December 20, I’m going to have like 35 people in the audience, actors and friends that I’ve known here over the years. I know guys like Steve Pacek and Joe Colarco from school, who are part of the Philly scene now. Philly theater has always been protective of its own; I can’t wait to get involved.
|L to R: Jason Kappus, Nicolas Dromard, Nick Cosgrove and Brandon Andrus in Jersey Boys|
Jersey Boys is at the Forrest Theater, 1114 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, PA, through January 5, 2014. For tickets and information visit www.kimmelcenter.org or call 215.923.1515
Photos: Jeremy Daniel
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Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013