Belleville, New Jersey, native Dominic Scaglione Jr. has played Frankie Valli in the Chicago and Las Vegas companies of Jersey Boys as well as covering the role on Broadway. After four and a half years, he is understandably thrilled to be headlining the Broadway production of the Tony Award-winning musical. Though he was born more than 40 years after the legendary Four Seasons frontman, Scaglione feels a connection to Valli since both were raised in Essex County in Italian-American families, and both became singers with heart-stopping falsettos. The new Broadway star recently chatted with Broadway.com about the best advice he received from Valli, why social media-savvy fans at the stage door can be initimidating and what else he hopes to tackle on Broadway.
How does it feel to have the part of Frankie Valli on Broadway as your own? Are you relieved?
It’s pretty unbelievable! It was always a dream to get here, so it’s surreal. I got really proud once it all sunk in.
Did you always know that you could produce Frankie Valli's signature sound?
I was born 100 steps away from where he was born and raised in Belleville, which is cool. My father was an East Orange cop, so he would see Frankie and Bob [Gaudio] around the neighborhood when they were performing at clubs in Newark and Belleville. There were always two Franks playing in our house: Sinatra and Valli. I didn’t go to college or study theater, so I hooked up a mic and sang the stuff in my parents’ house and tried to get that sound as close to him as possible. It was definitely something that I had to study.
Which songs in the show are the most vocally demanding?
The big three are definitely the most demanding: “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” are sitting in a crazy place, one after another, and they don’t let up. It all depends on the day, though. If it’s flowing, it’s flowing.
You sing a crazy number of songs! How much of a monk do you have to be when it comes to resting your voice?
I’m a very wound-together kind of person, and as long as I keep up with my physical routine—stretching, chiropractors and acupuncturists—I’m usually in pretty great shape. I don’t really drink and I can’t go out to parties and talk too much. But I found that the resting is sometimes worse for me; I’d rest all day and then my voice would go into a little bit of shock when I’d go sing the show. The "monk" thing is just something you have to do. It’s a guarantee.
What have you learned from watching other actors play Frankie?
Well, it was cool having the original, Tony winner John Lloyd Young, around for little bit. Some shows hire people and they want clones. But our producers give us artistic freedom to give the role what we want and not have to do it like everyone else. Watching John was definitely surreal because he was the one I saw, before doing it myself was even on the table, and I was like, "Wow, this would be really, really tough." I try to be as unique as possible, but seeing other guys like Jarrod Spector, who’s a good friend, is definitely comforting. He said to me, "It’s a little bit of a fraternity." Nobody really knows what it’s like to go through this role, from start to finish, having to lace those sneakers up and jump on stage.
What do you remember about the first time you stepped out on stage in Jersey Boys?
When I joined Jersey Boys, they needed somebody in Las Vegas in two weeks, so I had nine days to learn this thing, and the only play I had ever done was a high school production of Evita. I got to Vegas, and they were like, "Upstage, downstage, stage left, stage right," and I had no idea what was going on. I was like a fish out of water, but I knew the music, so that’s why they hurried me along. I told my mom and dad, "Give me a minute before you tell the family to come out, because I want to get my bearings." They were like, "No problem, no problem." The first night, I had 30 loud New Jerseyans in the first five rows! I remember just putting my head down, going out there, doing “Silhouettes” and at the end of the show, not being able to believe that I actually got through it.
What were your career goals, if not theater?
I didn’t go to college because I got a record deal right out of high school. I was signed to Columbia Records with Tommy Mottola, and I went out on tour with Destiny’s Child and Christina Aguilera, so I was chasing the dream myself, only to have it ripped away by a managerial situation. We signed with Mathew Knowles, Beyonce’s father, and it turned out that he just wasn’t the type of businessman that we needed. So, being an Italian and a singer, there’s definitely that connection [with the story of the Four Seasons]. I can’t imagine another role that would fulfill me as much as this one.
Have you gotten any advice from Frankie Valli?
I remember when I performed at the White House. It was a last minute thing; Jarrod had to back out for some reason, so they put me in, and we had to sing, like, nine songs in a row. Ten minutes before we performed, the producers said, "There’s one little thing: Frankie’s coming." So it wasn’t only George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Justice Antonin Scalia, Rudy Giuliani and the prime minister of Italy, but Frankie Valli, too. He came up to me after and he was like, "Dom, you’ve really got me down." And his son said, "My dad doesn’t really talk about it, but he thinks you’re one of the most authentic ones out there," so it was a really, really, really proud moment for me. Frankie’s protective of his sound. It’s his thing, he loves what the show is doing, but he really protects what he’s about, and he’s given me some great advice. He helped me find that simplicity and that smoothness and that sweetness.
Would you say you come from a protective Italian-American family, like Frankie?
Absolutely! My father was a cop and an FBI agent, so you don’t get much more protective than that. I’m a grown man and I still have to call my mother every day or I get a phone call saying, "Hey Dom! Call your mother! We’re worried about you!" I taught them all how to text because sometimes I have to rest the voice, but they’re definitely overprotective in a good way. A lot of my actor friends are like, "Your parents have seen the show like 50 times! I don’t get it." You hear stories about parents telling their kids not to get into the business, but my parents saw me in my first play and said, "This is what you have to do."
Are there any other roles you’d love to play at some point?
The plan wasn’t to be in this show for four years, but I was chasing the brass ring of starring on Broadway so I could leave content, knowing that I finished the journey where I wanted to finish. I’m a big fan of the straight play. I would love to get into that world. I’ve been to a couple of general television and film meetings, and a lot of people are like, "When he’s ready, we have a lot of work for him." Everyone has to play Fiyero once in his life in Wicked, so I would love that. The Phantom of the Opera would be something I would die to do. When I was a kid, I wanted to play sports more than I wanted to do theater, but I would always listen to Phantom in my bedroom and sing “The Music of the Night.” That would be a dream come true, as well.
What’s life like away from the theater?
Ha! What’s that? [Laughs.] I’ve been in a relationship for the past two years with a dynamic girl named Brooke. She’s away studying in Hawaii, doing research. I try and keep my personal life pretty quiet.
Finally, what's it like to interact with Jersey Boys fans?
Oh man, they are extremely passionate [laughs]. They have their favorites, but they’ve definitely taken to me. There’s this Jersey Boys blog, and they have this crew of people who have seen the show like a hundred times, and they welcomed me with open arms. I didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or any of that stuff, and my sister was like, "You have to get Twitter now. You have to get Facebook." I said, "I have no idea what any of this stuff even means," but I got it because it’s what you need to do. I would get all these Facebook friend requests, and they would meet me at the stage door upset that I hadn’t accepted. So I made sure I accepted everyone that I possibly could!
See Dominic Scaglione Jr. in Jersey Boys at the August Wilson Theatre.