Oh What a Night! Carlos Valdes Works His Way Back to Atlanta in Broadway’s JERSEY BOYS

Posted on: May 30th, 2012 By:

Wes Hart, Brad Weinstock, Brent DiRoma and the Company of JERSEY BOYS Photo: Joan Marcus

By Jordan Barbeau
Contributing Writer

For any up-and-coming stage actor, making it to the Big Apple to perform on Broadway is the ultimate fantasy that drives everything you do. For Carlos Valdes, this fantasy became a reality. An University of Michigan graduate with a passion for arts, he has devoted his life to theater, tirelessly pursuing his dream with a passion that eventually led him where every stage actor dreams of going – New York City.

Playing at The Fox Theatre through June 10, Carlos’s most recent production, the Broadway Across America tour production of JERSEY BOYS, takes audiences back in time almost half a century, chronicling the rise and fall of the famous pop rock quartet, The Four Seasons. In JERSEY BOYS¸ Carlos is a swing actor; instead of having a set role, he is tasked with knowing several of the songs throughout the entire play, and must take the stage to perform these tracks in the event that one of the other actors cannot.

As any actor will tell you, it is impossible to go into every role with the exact same mindset. Every role is drastically different, and if you don’t place yourself in your character’s shoes, the performance will not feel as authentic. Carlos is no stranger to this. He admitted that performing a role from so long ago was difficult, simply because he had never experienced this time period in his own life.

This challenge did not impede his success, however; to prepare for such a role, Carlos says he immersed himself in the music and events of the 1960s. He studied the voice and personality of Frankie Valli, the lead singer of the Four Seasons and one of the show’s main characters. Carlos pointed out that there is a certain timelessness to the music, and that while he did not grow up in the ‘60s, the music is so easy for anyone to connect to that the transition felt smooth and natural.

Carlos Valdes. Photo courtesy of Brave Public Relations.

When asked why he pursued JERSEY BOYS, Carlos had nothing but praise and adoration for the show. He says that JERSEY BOYS is an incredibly well-constructed show, weaving great songs into a gruff, authentic Jersey story. He states that music has such a powerful ability to conjure memories in the listener, and as such, the audience does not simply watch a play; they experience and relive an entire era, a saga from start to finish.

It is not a secret that no work, no matter how good and no matter what medium, can appeal to every single audience. When asked about how a show that takes place almost 50 years in the past would appeal to younger, more modern audiences, Carlos was confident that audiences would have no problem connecting with the play. “I think the difference in the times is actually one of the main appeals of the show,” he says. Despite the fact that many audience members may not have experienced these times, or even heard of the Four Seasons, Carlos believes that the theme of constant change that the show embraces can relate to anyone, assuring a strong connection with the audience.

As a native of Cobb County, Carlos is returning to his hometown for the first time in his professional career. During JERSEY BOYS’ May 22-June 10 run at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Carlos says he is sure to return to his old stomping grounds, such as Marietta Square or Kennesaw Mountain.

Tickets to JERSEY BOYS are available at the Fox Theatre Box Office or online here

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Off to Be The Wizard with Mark Jacoby of WICKED, Broadway’s Upside-Down Journey Back to Oz

Posted on: Sep 14th, 2011 By:

Mark Jacoby as the Wizard in WICKED. Photo © Joan Marcus.

From the original L. Frank Baum novel to the 1939 musical movie version of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the tale of Dorothy Gale, her dog Toto and three misfits who deemed themselves incomplete without a physical brain, heart and courage could easily be called the quintessential American fantasy epic. Like Middle Earth is England in simpler, more magical times, Oz is an expression of Retro-Americana Midwestern know-how and whimsy. And that spunky little girl from Kansas, like her prairie counterpart Laura Ingalls Wilder, is an uniquely all-American heroine.

That is, until Gregory Maguire turned that heroine’s journey on its head, gave the Wicked Witch of the West a name, Elphaba, and had the chutzpah to suggest that things went down considerably differently and were rewritten by a government-run, propagandist media, as it were. (Shades of contemporary media politics? Well, the original Oz may have had some circa 1990 political satire between its pages, too.) The Broadway version of Maguire’s novel WICKED is more a twist on the familiar movie than the book, and whether or not you approve of tampering with a classic, the imaginative sets and costumes look even more magical on the Fabulous Fox Theatre stage, where it opens today and will be playing through Oct. 9 as part of the Broadway Across America series.

WICKED focuses on who’s the real good witch and who’s the real bad witch. But actor Mark Jacoby, a Georgia State University alumnus, got to tackle the conundrum of an all-American carnie man who landed in Oz accidentally and found himself, thanks to his seemingly magical balloon-borne arrival, declared Wizard and ruler of the capitol Emerald City. Jacoby is no stranger to playing sympathetic villains, having donned the mask of the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA for three years on Broadway. He’s also stepped into the shoes of many of American musical theater’s most iconic characters including SHOWBOAT’s Gaylord Ravenal (Tony Award nomination for Harold Prince revival), FIDDLER ON THE ROOF’s Tevye (Barrymore Award) and Father in the original Broadway run of RAGTIME. ATLRetro caught up with Mark recently to find out how he approached America’s most famous humbug in this villain-friendly version of Oz.

How is the character of the Wizard different in WICKED than in the 1939 movie WIZARD OF OZ and even the book? Do you think it is different? One of the intriguing things about this piece is how it’s been overlaid on the story we’re all so familiar with, mostly from the movie WIZARD OF OZ. They are the same people theoretically in context. You’re just looking at them from a different angle. I suppose an actor doesn’t have to take that literally. He can do what he wants. But I tend to think and the powers that be also do, that I should approach him as the same character we encountered in THE WIZARD OF OZ.  You just find out different things, and different things are emphasized. He’s flushed out a bit more. There’s more explanation as to how he got there, why he’s there, and what makes him tick.

The Wizard's dramatic counterfeit persona from the original Broadway company of WICKED. Photo © Joan Marcus.

I think the Wizard of Oz was someone who was in the right place at at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time, whichever way you look at it. He’s regarded by the people of Oz as somewhat supernatural. As he says, I never asked for this, I was just blown here by the wings of chance. One could take that literally or is he telling a story? I choose to think he is talking literally. He has wound up in this situation, but he wasn’t malevolent. He wasn’t planning to become a tyrant or anyone overbearing with the population, but now he’s stuck with it. I’m not saying he’s a perfect man. He got hooked with all the adulation and all the power and all he has to do to maintain it.

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Kool Kat of the Week: A Lover and a Fighter

Posted on: Jan 25th, 2011 By:

Name:  Cary Tedder
Age: 24
Hometown: Marietta
Retro Job: Performer, Snowboy, and Tony (understudy), WEST SIDE STORY
Location/Dates:  The Fox Theatre, Tues. Jan. 25-Mon. Jan. 31
Favorite Retro Movie: SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
Favorite Retro Performer: Gene Kelly
Favorite Retro Show:  ON THE TOWN

WEST SIDE STORY. Been there, done that, you may feel inclined to say if you grew up seeing the movie on TV most likely in the wrong aspect ratio with its dynamic dance moves chopped and cropped. Or maybe you were lucky enough to catch a big-screen revival probably at the Fox Theatre if you grew up in Atlanta. So like many, including Cary Tedder, you may not have been blown away.

But flashback to the original stage play bursting onto the Broadway stage back in 1957, which critics were declaring it revolutionary from Jerome Robbins’ dynamic choreography and Leonard Bernstein’s powerful score to its controversial setting in the harsh, angry reality of urban street gangs and racism. The recent Broadway revival, now on tour via Broadway Across America, tries to recapture that sense of danger, according to Tedder, who plays “Snowboy”—one of the Jets—and also is leading man Tony’s understudy.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus, 2010

“You’re not going to see the movie on stage,” Tedder says. “You’re going to see something far more original, something different every night and something far more alive.”

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