Kool Kat of the Week: Oh, What a Night at the Fox!: Keith White Works His Way Back to Georgia With the Jersey Boys

Posted on: Oct 6th, 2015 By:
Keith White. Photo Credit: Jersey Boys.

Keith White. Photo Credit: Jersey Boys.

JERSEY BOYS, the rocking musical that chronicles the rise of The Four Seasons, is back at the Fabulous Fox Theatre Tuesday Oct. 6 through Sunday Oct. 11 presented by Fifth Third Bank Broadway Atlanta. This true story of how four blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks has become one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were 30. The show features all their hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What A Night,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Working My Way Back To You.”

ATLRetro caught up with Augusta, Georgia native Keith White, who has been performing in the ensemble for the past 13 months, to find out about what it’s like to tour with one of the longest running Broadway shows and why even though there’s been a movie, nothing beats seeing it live on stage.

ATLRetro: Did you grow up with a love for musical theater and/or retro rock n roll? What was your favorite retro band as a kid?

Keith: Both. I grew up with a love for imitating things. In fourth grade, I acted in my first play, and I kind of didn’t really stop. The retro rock ‘n’ roll thing happened in middle school when my dad gave me my first Led Zeppelin album. It was Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and setting up a band in the garage with my friend. I played drums and he played guitar. We were all about that classic rock.

What parts do you play, and what roles did those characters play in the story of The Four Seasons?

I’m in the ensemble so I play multiple parts including recording artist Billy Dixon. I sing one of his songs, “Trance.” I also play some gangsters. One’s named Donnie, and he ‘s trying to swindle some money out of a young Frankie Valli, which really happened. These are real people. I also play a bouncer at a nightclub named Knuckles, who was a real person, too. And I play a music agent at 1619 Broadway, the Brill Building, which was the center of the music world in the 1960s. Songs like “Come Fly With Me” were recorded there, and a lot of Paul Simon and Carole King was recorded there. I’m also the understudy for Nick Massi, the bass player in the Four Seasons and Gyp DeCarlo, the organized crime/mob boss guy.

Photo credit: Jersey Boys.

Photo credit: Jersey Boys.

What’s your favorite scene that you perform in?

I really enjoy doing Billy Dixon because I get to sing. If you get to see the show, it’s funny because Billy Dixon gets to sing for only about 10 seconds, but I get to sing and do some really wild stuff in that time.

Any story about why you especially wanted to be part of JERSEY BOYS and/or your audition?

I saw JERSEY BOYS in 2007 when I was 16 or 17, and it was so good. I truly loved it. I went to the Boston Conservatory to train for theater, and I knew that JERSEY BOYS was still playing – it’s now one of longest running shows in Broadway history. I never thought I would I be in it until I went in for an audition. I didn’t know if I’d cut it. I went through four callbacks. To me, this is huge! The big gig. It was what I was working towards since I was a kid—a national tour of a Broadway musical.

How do the touring performances compare to the Broadway company?

The only difference is that the set has been made travelable so it’s a little condensed. Instead of three LED screens, we have one, but it tells the same story. Whereas on some other tours, you’ll just get a backdrop, you get all the spectacle that is JERSEY BOYS still when you see the tour.

Did you do anything special to prepare?

When first joined the tour, I had to play drums. That’s what really cool. There’s no orchestra pit. Some actors are musicians in the orchestra and they’re out there on stage. It was kind of full circle in that I started playing drums in the garage and now I got to play drums on stage. That’s been the most fun. I was playing Billy Dickson and Knuckles the bouncer and also I was playing the drums

f Walk Like a Man Sept 2015

“Walk Like A Man.” Photo credit: Jersey Boys.

Did the Four Seasons have to come from New Jersey? What’s your take after working on the show?

Did they have to come from Jersey? I think maybe they did. That was their destiny. I think that also was their appeal to the masses. They’re blue collar guys. The people are hard there in the best way. There’s a toughness. And being so close to New York, they knew about the hustle of NY. It’s authentic Jersey no doubt. The writers asked Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio a lot of questions. Yeah, maybe they did have to be from Jersey. They are the Jersey Boys.

Do you have anything special planned to do while you’re here in Georgia? Will you be visiting any old haunts?

It feels very cool to be back in Georgia but as a kid, I only went to Atlanta to go to the airport, and I went on a fieldtrip there once and I saw [The Center for Puppetry Arts] with its Jim Henson exhibit. I’m actually going to Augusta later in the tour, and that’ll be a little surreal. I grew up there until I was 10 and all of my extended family is there—my mom and dad’s side. My family will get to see what I’ve been doing.

As an Augusta native, what might ATLRetro readers enjoy doing if they?

Augusta is where James Brown was born and raised, so that history runs rampant. There are statues of him on the Riverwalk downtown. The Soul Bar also is dedicated to James Brown. There’s obviously also the golf culture with the Masters. So you can feel all that. They’re very proud of their golf there.

Is there anything else that you’d like to tell people about JERSEY BOYS?

The show does a great job of making it feel like you’re watching one of those East Coast mob movies set in the 1950s. It captures that really well. It still holds up. It’s special.

All photos are provided by Broadway Atlanta and used with permission.


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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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