Theater work not so lucrative but more fulfilling, say local ‘Jersey Boys’ actors | Inquirer Entertainment

Theater work not so lucrative but more fulfilling, say local ‘Jersey Boys’ actors

By: - Reporter
12:40 AM August 11, 2016

The main actors of the local staging of “Jersey Boys,” the award-winning jukebox musical on the rise and demise of the 1960s band, The Four Seasons, tread very different paths in pop music:

Nyoy Volante, who plays Frankie Valli, was one of the singers at the forefront of the acoustic wave in the early 2000s; Markki Stroem, who plays Tommy DeVito, is into standards and injects jazz sensibilities into contemporary hits; Nino Alejandro, who plays Nick Massi, is a finalist of the talent show, “The Voice of the Philippines” Season 2 with a leaning toward throat-busting rock and roll tunes; and Christian Bautista, who plays Bob Gaudio, has made a name here in the country and in Southeast Asia with his lyrical balladry.

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But these four singers also have many common denominators, perhaps the most pertinent of which — at least for this project — is their inherent curiosity and passion for theater. If it’s exposure or money they’re solely after, they would’ve probably stuck to their routine gigs in mainstream music, which pay more for relatively less effort.

Still, when an opportunity comes their way, they choose to set aside two to three months of their time and devote it to theater. Yes, it isn’t as lucrative an endeavor, but the rewards are often more fulfilling — there’s growth and empowerment, and a fortified sense of discipline.

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Therefore, doing “Jersey Boys” — mounted locally by Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group — is a no-brainer for the four singer-actors, who are no strangers to the company’s productions: Christian was in “Ghost the Musical”; Nyoy, in  “Rock of Ages” and “In the Heights”; Nino, in “The Bridges of Madison County”; and Markki, in “Next to Normal” and “Carrie: The Musical.”

Directed by Bobby Garcia, “Jersey Boys,” whose 2005 Broadway and 2008 West End stagings won Tony and Laurence Olivier trophies, respectively, will run from Sept. 23 to Oct. 16 at Meralco Theater in Pasig City (call 891-9999 or 650-5144).

Armed with only a guitar hooked to a small amplifier, Nyoy, Christian, Markki and Nino recently dropped by the Inquirer office in Makati City, where they regaled the newspaper’s editorial staff with snippets of The Four Seasons’ most recognizable hits, such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Sherry.”

And though they had yet to formally rehearse their pieces then, the mellifluous doo-wop harmonies that made the quartet famous were already there, enrapturing listeners and evoking nostalgia.

Excerpts from the Inquirer interview:

How is this staging different from the original, or the movie version?

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Nino Alejandro (NA): Some of the things that were on film, we narrate here. There are lots of internal monologues. The musical is divided into four segments or seasons (Tommy DeVito, spring; Bob Gaudio, summer; Nick Massi, fall; and Frankie Valli, winter), with each of us narrating our version of the story.

Tell us more about your characters.

NA: Nick is bass and does the musical arrangements. He’s the kind of guy who’s just silent and goes with whatever the others say.

Markki Stroem (MS): Tommy put the group together. He’s cocky and thick-skinned. He’s the play’s villain of sorts … He is the epitome of what the boys living in the ghettos of New Jersey were like. He takes care of business, so to speak…

Christian Bautista (CB): Bob is the last one to join the group. Then, the group — originally a trio — needed another guy who could play the piano and write songs at the same time. He wrote the first three hit songs that catapulted the group to success. Bob is also somewhat geeky … He was the one who introduced the foursome to the bigwigs.

Nyoy Volante (NV): Frankie is Tommy’s protégé. He has a unique, high-pitched voice. He became the band’s frontman.

What were the adjustments in terms of characterization?

MS: It’s difficult to empathize with my character because he’s a bad guy. I had to dig more into his backstory, on why he ended up being the trouble he was, so that I could understand the character better.

NV: Frankie has a very specific sound, whether he’s speaking or singing, so … I need to get close to that sound, or at least touch on what makes his voice special.

NA: I play a bass-voiced character. But in real life, I’m more known for rock songs that are high. This time, I get to touch the other end of my voice.

CB: I actually enjoy singing backup vocals and harmonizing.

What about the accents?

MS: The New Jersey accent was different back then. We were given recordings on how to act with accents, and that’s what’s playing in my car every time. To a certain extent, you also have to sing with that accent, so it’s hard!

Is it a challenge singing in a group, since most of you are soloists?

CB: We’ve recorded songs for the promo, and it’s very doable. What’s great about the group is that we can adjust. We have no problem taking the backseat and doing support, either.

Did any of you experience being part of a vocal group?

MS: I just finished the contest, “We Love OPM” … It was great because, like the characters in the musical, all of us in our group had his own task…

What’s the most important aspect of singing in a group?

NA: We’re just parts of a whole, with different assignments — it’s like a basketball team. As long as we know what our tasks are, then we can come up with a good performance.

What sets the show apart from others?

CB: It’s treated documentary-style; the monologues break that fourth wall.

How familiar are you with the music of The Four Seasons?

NA: Growing up in a musical family, it was something that my elders would always play.

MS:  It’s great because my grandparents loved their songs — ”Sherry” and “Beggin’,” in particular.

The musical also tackles the band’s unraveling.

MS: Not everything’s perfect, except maybe when you’re just starting. Once you know each other, personalities start to clash, certain things happen, and you do stupid things. I guess you just have to figure out how to deal with such problems and move forward, and see if things could still work out.

Why theater, if you can just do mainstream projects?

CB: The first time I saw a musical — Trumpets’ “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” — it was life-changing for me. It was fantastic; it made me want to do it … It’s another world you can escape to. You learn so much, and you’re empowered afterward.

NA:  I’ve done a movie and was part of a soap opera, but the fulfillment in theater wasn’t like anything I’ve ever felt before. The bond you get to share with the rest of the cast is really special, too.

NV: It’s not as financially rewarding, but I was given so many career opportunities because of it. People discover things about me that they wouldn’t get to see otherwise.

MS: It’s fun to do teleseryes and films, but it’s in theater where I really get to hone my skills.

Does your background in theater help you in pop music?

NV: It inspires me to do something different all the time. It keeps me on my toes, always.

MS: Discipline was the most important thing I learned. I want to just practice all the time, because I want to do things perfectly. You become meticulous because there’s no take two onstage.

What are your hopes for the local theater scene?

CB: I long for the day that theater artists would be able to survive by just doing their craft. I hope we could one day be the Broadway or West End of Asia.

E-mail [email protected]

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