Hopefuls want to walk like a man
By SIMON PLANT
WOO-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooh-wah . . . Frankie Valli's tough falsetto warbles out of the Abbotsford rehearsal room, but it's not Valli singing Walk Like a Man.
It's another young hopeful auditioning for a leading role in Jersey Boys, the hit Four Seasons musical that opens here next March.
The show's casting panel is in town for round one of auditions and hunting down talent. Not just good actors ("comfortable with narrative text") but versatile singers who can handle ballads, dance-floor pop and body-swivelling soul.
"Vocally, very good," US casting director Merri Sugarman says after one would-be Valli exits. "But his music-theatre style is not for us."
Sugarman's fellow talent-spotters include producer Rodney Rigby and Australian musical director Luke Hunter. They share a long trestle table, set with mineral water and nuts, and scrutinise 10 male and female performers in one long morning session.
Auditionees enter the room, some lugging guitars. They sing a song of their choice, accompanied by an upright piano. And they run up and down the scales.
Daniel Scott, now playing Felicia in Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical, gives the panel Save The Last Dance for Me.
But Sugarman, from Tara Rubin Casting in America, seems especially taken with Scott's acting and asks him to repeat a scene, again and again.
"We're getting people who are right on the money," she tells me during a break. "But we're wanting them to take the theatrics out of it. What we're looking for here is something more conversational. Heightened theatrically, of course, but appropriately so."
Scott says afterwards: "Auditions are the most nerve-racking part of the entire process, but if you're a professional, you just go in and show them what you can do."
Another contender, Jolyon James, goes into his Jersey Boys audition with one Four Seasons role in mind . . . and leaves with a request to tackle another.
"You can never predict what's going to happen," he says later.
The Jersey Boys panel has already held auditions in Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. Tomorrow they are in Perth, and a Melbourne call-back is planned for next week.
This is just the start. Members of the Tony Award-winning Broadway production will sit in judgment when round two begins in June.
Scott is philosophical: "There are infinite reasons why you won't get the job. And, usually, there's one reason why you will."