Jersey Boys - London

The acclaimed Broadway musical telling the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons finds its way to the West End!

Jon Boydon on Juggling Fatherhood, a New Solo CD and a Long Run in London's Jersey Boys

Jon Boydon is now in his third year playing tough guy Tommy DeVito in the Olivier Award-winning West End production of Jersey Boys. A veteran of We Will Rock You, Boydon, soon to be 36, is now juggling playing a Four Season with the demands of fatherhood, having welcomed son Deacon into the world 18 months ago. (Boydon’s wife is Mamma Mia! alumna Nicky Willson.) The affable Birmingham-born actor spoke to one recent afternoon about family life, keeping a long run fresh, and his forthcoming gig at London’s100 Club to showcase his debut album, Three Four.

You’ve done two and a half years in Jersey Boys and counting: You must be very happy there.
At the moment, I’m [signed on] till March 2013, and I did two years on We Will Rock You previously. But, you know, to be in a position where you contemplate staying on for a third year just goes to show the draw that our show has and, for performers, that it has such a rich book. You don’t feel saturated or bored the way you might in another show.

Maybe you’ll become the London equivalent to someone like Howard McGillin, who played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera more than 2,000 times.
Let’s hope we have that long a run [laughs]!

How did the role of Tommy fall into place for you?
Once I started toying with the accent and the voice and the physicality, it all began to make sense—and it helped that I turned up at the audition wearing a good suit!

I gather you attended Jersey Boys boot camp?
Yes, Eugene [McCoy], who plays Nick Massi, and I did a week’s rehearsals just on the choreography before we learned anything else. We then flew out to New York and had 10 days with [associate director] West Hyler, where we did all the dramaturgy and really looked at the script and the music and the characters. We saw the show on Broadway and flew to Toronto and saw the touring show there, so we had a sense of it in London, New York, and Toronto before we started performing ourselves.

Did that feel liberating or constricting?
A lot of it is: “This is how it’s done—you stand there and sing that line.” But there is room for your own personal versions of Tommy and Bob and Frankie and Nick. Of course we’re playing real people who are still alive [except for Nick Massi], but because the show offers a version of events, you have some flexibility. In many ways, this is the most rigid show I’ve ever been put into because of its speed and its precision. But within those narrow confines, you have all the freedom you want.

It must be great when, say, the real Frankie Valli drops by to have a look.
He was touring over here so he came to see us the other week, and we tend to know when he’s in because it is often arranged that we will meet him afterwards. The audience sometimes doesn’t know he’s there because he will come in late or sit at the back or on the side, but what’s great is how totally amenable he is to the success he’s enjoying and that Jersey Boys is enjoying. It’s good for him and great for us, and he’s so fond of the London production, Ryan [Molloy, who plays Frankie], in particular.

Did you know a lot of this music already?
My dad has great taste in music, and although he worked in an office, he was on stage singing the day I was born—though I think he managed to get to [the hospital] before I popped my head out [laughs]. As a result, I think I had a pretty healthy encyclopedia knowledge of the music of that era even if, for anyone in the UK, that period was about the Beatles more than anyone else.

Maybe your next job could be with Let It Be [the Beatles musical coming to the Prince of Wales Theatre].
I’ve always thought John Lennon would be such a great part to play, and a friend of mine is musical director on that show. In fact, I actually did a Beatles show, All You Need Is Love, that ran at the Queen’s Theatre in 2001. And I’m well tied-in to Jersey Boys and wouldn’t dream of even looking anywhere else.

You’ve clearly developed a rock ‘n’ roll niche for yourself on the West End.
I do seem to have got away with not doing any serious musical theater, though I’m not sure that’s really my thing anyway. I haven’t trained and I don’t have that history of the Les Miz/Phantom/Cameron Mackintosh-musical vocal sound. I just kind of do what I do—a lot of the time with a guitar on my lap! [Laughs.]

How has becoming a dad affected your schedule?
Obviously, the first few months were really hard because no one was getting any sleep and I still had to go to work. But now that our son Deacon is older, he has his own routine, and my performance schedule means that I have plenty of time to take him out during the day and picnic and play.

In the middle of all this, you’re preparing for your first London gig at the 100 Club, singing from your debut album, Three Four.
I’ve featured in cabarets and things like that but this is the first time it’s me heading the poster, and I will be with my backing band, The Wondersmiths, the whole night. My album takes at least an hour and we wanted to do every track from that, and I have spoken to Ryan about getting up and maybe joining us for a song or two. The really great thing is that the 100 Club is a historic venue, so it will be a treat just to say I’ve played it, that I’ve done that.

Tell us about the title of your album.
Everyone assumes it’s some kind of Adele thing, since she called her albums 19 and then 21, but far from it. The fact is I recorded it when I was 34, during a week off last summer when I went up to a friend’s studio in Peterborough. I would stay there all day singing; it was pure indulgence. It’s a pocket book of the music I was growing up with, I guess, along with a song called “Fallen Angel” that I wrote at university; I just had to wait till I was 34 to record it!