September 13, 2009

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Chicago Cast Member John Michael Dias!

September 13th, 2009

During our trip to Chicago in July, we had a marvelous time chatting with JERSEY BOYS Chicago’s multi-talented cast member John Michael Dias, who plays Frankie Valli at the Wednesday and Saturday matinees. John talked about his musical theatre inspirations, what led him to audition for JERSEY BOYS, his favorites from the show, and the excitement, challenges, and growth he has had in the Frankie Valli alternate role since this company’s beginnings. We also asked John about his other artistic talents and he shared some of his favorite paintings of JB castmates!

JBB: Great to meet you, John. You’ve been with this company since Day One in San Francisco! What has it been like for you personally, from the early days up until now?

John Michael Dias: It’s been great—it’s amazing to experience the different reactions of the audiences from day to day and how it changes. That’s what’s been incredible for me! I feel like I have grown so much doing this show personally and on a performance level. I think being with the show this long has been wonderful experience for me because I’ve learned so much watching so many different people portray these amazing roles. Let’s see, I’ve been through three Tommys, two Nicks, and three Francines. It’s been crazy—the variety has been excellent.

JBB: So, what about your beginnings? What inspired you to pursue musical theatre?

JMD: I used to watch The Wizard of Oz religiously. I would just watch and cry; I wanted to be doing musical theatre so badly. That sounds so stupid (laughs), but I always knew that it was what I wanted to do.

I grew up in Tiverton, Rhode Island and we luckily had a great community theatre called The Little Theatre of Fall River. My grandmother was doing costumes for the production. At the time I was 12 and they needed more boys, that’s all my grandmother needed to hear… I was in rehearsals the next day (chuckles) and I didn’t even have to audition! I was just in the show, all of a sudden.

That was my first show but from then on, I would do all these cabarets, these little shows with my friends at the Tiverton Yacht Club in Rhode Island. We’d put on shows and musical reviews of songs that were completely inappropriate, like me singing ‘Stars’ from Les Miz… at 16… I mean really? What did I think I was? A baritone? Anyway, I’ve been singing ever since. I did a lot more shows at the same community theatre and then later attended the Boston Conservatory of Music when I was 18.

JBB: It’s wonderful to hear how you guys pretty much know at such an early age what you want to do and then you followed your dreams!

JMD: I see so many people after the show who just love it…14-year-olds to 80-year-olds. Lots of people who watch the show contact us on Facebook and write letters and it’s so great to hear from them. We didn’t have Facebook back when I was 14. So, we didn’t have any sort of outlet to talk to the people that were in these shows. I would have loved to do that after I saw their shows!

This is random, but I remember meeting Chuck Wagner when he did Beauty and the Beast. I was probably about 15 and my friend Becky and I were standing at the stage door waiting for autographs; We met Kerry Butler and Beth Fowler, and then, Chuck Wagner finally came out he was the Beast! We were like, ‘Oh My God, Oh My God, this is amazing’…

She was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say so she said, “We LOVED you in “Into the Woods”!

Chuck Wagner said, ‘Oh, did you see it?’

(That was like 1987, we were about seven years old) and she said (imitating Becky in a high-pitched voice), ‘No, but we saw the video!’ (chuckles)

It’s so awesome to talk to young people who want to do this for a living, because it is such a gratifying profession but such a difficult one in so many ways.

JBB: So, what led you to a Jersey Boys audition? Did someone say, ‘Hey, you’d be perfect for Jersey Boys!’

JMD: You know… my friend Ashley Linton, who I went to school with, was in Les Miz on tour at the time. She saw Jersey Boys in La Jolla and she saw David Noroña, the original Frankie. She was like, ‘It’s about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. You HAVE to do this part….YOU WILL DO IT SOMEDAY!’

I had no idea what she was talking about, because it was so early on. The story of how I got my initial audition is a great one. I was non-union at the time and was singing at an open call for We Will Rock You. Ron Melrose was the accompanist for that audition and got me in to audition for the show. I would have never been able to get an appointment without him. My first audition for it way back then was when they were looking for replacements and fillers for the Broadway company. My voice wasn’t ready for it then—I really didn’t know as much about the show in those days. It wasn’t as accessible when it first started and frankly, I didn’t have money for a ticket.

Of course, I knew who Frankie Valli was and his sound, but back then, you couldn’t sing any songs from the show; you had to go with a Frankie Valli-like song. I wondered, ‘Do I sing Beach Boys or the Bee Gees?’

JBB Tech Half: Or ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight?’

JMD: Exactly! So after about 13 auditions and two years, I finally got it.

JBB: We saw it the first time back in La Jolla, too.

JMD: It’s so crazy, how far it’s come since then, isn’t it?! When you think of seven companies, seven times three, all those people, all those Frankies! It’s crazy!

JBB: So what about being the Frankie Valli Alternate? Are their any specific or particular challenges as the alternate?

JMD: Yeah, there are. I find it easier to sing the show when I do six shows a week. It sounds so weird to say that. The way my voice works–the more I use it, the stronger I get. So, when the main Frankie goes on vacation, it’s usually me who does the six shows. I find it so much easier when it comes to physical and mental stamina. I always say the margin of error is so huge in this show to screw up. You have this huge palate of songs and lines. You’re going to screw up somewhere…it’s going to happen—whether you stutter, or you’re going to say the wrong word, or you feel like you’re flat somewhere, it’s going to happen. But I find for me that it’s harder for me to do two shows, because I have a hard time jumping in, ‘Oh, I’m back in the show now.’ ‘Silhouettes….’

You have Monday off, Tuesday off, Wednesday–I’m doing the show, Wednesday night off, Thursday, and Friday off, Saturday I finally do the show again. It’s just like this vicious cycle of trying to stay focused. When the Alternate Frankie comes to the show, I think it shakes everyone up… in a good way. You play differently and you have your own things you do with the other cast members. That’s also what’s so fun about doing a show for this long, developing the relationships with people.

JBB: What about the role of Frankie Valli? What are your challenges of putting him on stage?

JMD: My challenge with the Frankie Valli role is making sure I am doing him justice. I’ve never played an actual person before who you have to represent in a good light and do justice to, vocally, alone yes, but also story-wise, mannerisms-wise. You have to acknowledge the fact that this is someone who exists and is still doing his thing. There’s a certain responsibility and I find that pretty challenging.

JBB: Definitely. He’s out there and could be in the audience.

JMD: I don’t think he’s ever seen me do the show. When he comes, it’s usually at night for big events—like opening nights or anniversaries—and it’s usually the main guy. I’ve met him a bunch of times and he was at my audition, but aside from that, I don’t think he’s ever seen me in the show.

JBB Tech Half: Have you heard of the Frankie Valli growl?

JMD: The growl?

JBB Tech Half: Mostly in his early work, he has kind of a growl and Susie’s looking for the growl!

JMD: I incorporate that now; my voice is finally up to the fact that I can do it, like in ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’…[John does a sample growl that is fantastic!]

It’s hard to do. Frankie would do it four times in a recording. If you do that during six shows a week every song, you can’t really do it; you would fry yourself! I only do it twice a week, so oh, sure, I’ll do it!

JBB: What about your favorites in the show?

JMD: My favorite moment in the show is ‘Cant Take’ for sure.

My favorite song in the show—there are too many (chuckles)! I have three top songs: ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,’ ‘Let’s Hang On,’ and I LOVE ‘Opus 17’!

I remember seeing the show the first time with John Lloyd Young, and I remember that moment and thought to myself, ‘I would LOVE to do that!’

You’re a recording artist! [John sang beautifully, ‘Oh I can see there ain't no room for me’...]

That moment, when they all go down stage together—and all of a sudden, there are four new guys! It’s all so cool! Such an amazing moment in the show!

JBB: Hearing that voice of yours is giving me goosebumps! Fabulous!

JMD: Thank you!

JBB Tech Half: ‘Opus 17’ has always been one of Susie’s favorites.

JBB: What about your favorite line—you have so many great ones?

JMD: I think it would be, ‘A da passa a nuttata. This too shall pass.’

That’s one of my favorite ones, because I’ve been through lots of ups and downs with this show and that always is the one that I think of…the good and the bad pass. That’s life and that’s the best, most basic line in the show.

JBB: It says it all…

JMD: It says it all for everybody…

JBB: You are quite the artist, as well, John! That painting you did for the BC/EFA auction was fabulous! Have you always been painting, in addition to performing?

JMD: It’s funny. I took one art class in high school, but I’ve always drawn and sketched.

My grandmother once again–I’d always go over to her house and she’d have water colors and oil paints, acrylics, and pads. She’d always say, ‘This is your area where you can do whatever you want.’

She has all my sketches from when I was little. She would always encourage me to be creative; she is very, very creative. She’s 83 years old and she was just here last week to see my cabaret. It was so great to see her!

Well, in San Francisco when I first started with the show, with so much time on my hands. I didn’t know anybody aside from my cast and I was bored.

My mother said, ‘I’m redecorating my bedroom; paint me three pictures. I’m going to get you to do something where you don’t spend money. I’m going to buy you the canvasses for my room—here are my dimensions for my room, go get the paint, I’ll pay for it…’

I hadn’t painted since high school. I use acrylics now; my mother pretty much started me off again. Now, there’s this tradition that we have with the show where I paint character portraits for the people who are leaving the show.

JBB: I’ve seen some great ones you’ve done on Facebook!

JMD: So, I have to go home and finish Sydney’s [Morton], who’s leaving. I just did Dominic’s [Bogart] the other day. You can get a sneak peak [John shows us the paintings on his phone]. Here’s Sydney as Frankie Nolan and Dominic as Stosh.

JBB: These are phenomenal!

JBB Tech Half: I love that style—the block colors! It’s incredible!

JMD: Thanks!

JBB: So, earlier this month, you had your first one-man show, ‘Dias with an S’. We heard it was great! Tell us about it.

JMD: It was one of those things where I said, ‘I have no reason for putting this off. I’ve wanted to do a one-man show for a really long time.’ I asked Michael Ingersoll for advice—what did you do first, who did you call?

So, I got a band together, from members of Jersey Boys. I got all theses songs together–It was not Frankie Valli music, it was not even musical theatre music, even, it was just stuff I love to listen to. I sort of made a story of my life before and during Jersey Boys. It wasn’t really about the show at all, but it was what got me to the show.

JBB: So, it was your journey?

JMD: Exactly. My journey to Jersey Boys. The Jersey Girls made an appearance. I stole ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ and started to sing it and they interrupted me and said, ‘What are you doin’? That’s our song!’

It was a lot of fun and the response was great!

JBB: So, John, you’ve been with the Jersey Boys Chicago company since the very beginnings in San Francisco. What have you learned about yourself that you didn’t know before?

JMD: I learned that I’m more patient than I ever thought I could be in so many ways. I think the show has definitely taught me not to sweat the small stuff and not to take anything personally. It’s never about you.

JBB: Wow! You guys have all learned so much about life’s lessons!

JMD: Absolutely!


  1. Wonderful to find out John Michael Dias’ journey to Jersey Boys! John is definitely a talented artist as well!

    Comment by TeresaJ — September 13, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

  2. John Michael Dias is terrific as Frankie Valli at the matinees. Before January, we’re definitely getting back to see him perform.

    Comment by Don — September 13, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  3. This is the interview I’ve been waiting for. John Michael Dias is absolutely amazing. I bought tickets to a December 2008 show, Sat. matinee, thinking I’d be seeing Cory Grant (Jarrod had Wed/Sun. alternate, so I assumed it’d be the same with Cory – it wasn’t). So, out comes JMD, totally blowing the roof off the place. He took my breath away. The look, the acting, the singing…all of it. After that I bought tickets just to see him. Then, hearing good things about the new Frankie, I decided to see a Saturday night show this past July. Well, imagine my surprise to find, on that particular night, the part of Frankie is being played by….John Michael Dias! Fate! It was wonderful, as usual. And, he’s such a talented artist. I can’t wait to see where he’ll be performing next cause…..I’m there!

    Comment by Lynn — September 13, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  4. John is such a great guy. He really is. I was just a fan from the show, I wrote to him on facebook, and he was really open about the show. I, being a kid, was very interested on how all of this stuff goes together. What it’s like to make audiences be this happy after the show that they want to meet the cast more than anything. He talked to me, I met his mother, it was all great.

    Comment by Dylan — September 13, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

  5. I’m so glad that this interview has come up. I’ve met JMD several times and he’s such a nice guy. There’s a time or two that I thought he should have gotten the full time frankie job in Chicago because I really think he’s that great. No matter when you go to Chicago, whether it’s Dominic S, JMD, John Michael Coppola or Steven Goldmith, you always get someone good. John is no exception. I love his voice and he has a few things he does in the show that I really really like that I feel are unique to him. I have to go see him again before it leaves.

    Comment by ally — September 13, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

  6. Just wanted to add my praise for John Michael Dias. He is super talented, super nice, and super patient. It’s nice to read that he, too, waited for autographs of performers he admired. Sometimes I feel like a pain hanging around hoping to say hello, take a picture, or ask for an autograph, but it sounds like he understands. I love his ‘Frankie’, and love his singing outside of Jersey Boys as well. Got to see him at the Arlington Race Track and the Italian Fest this past summer – wow! – what a treat!!

    Comment by Rose — September 13, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

  7. The Michelle Knight and Drew Gehling renderings are spot on!

    Comment by Gary — September 13, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

  8. This is SUCH a great interview. I’ve seen John perform twice and I’ll definitely be going back. I went to my first matinee not knowing what to expect, and wow..John was just incredible! His voice is so beautiful, and he’s such a talented actor. So many parts brought tears to my eyes. I love what he brings to the role of Frankie. Not to mention, I’ve met him a few times after the show, and he’s nothing but absolutely sweet and gracious. I’ve seen four Frankies..John is definitely my favorite. I hope he joins another Jersey Boys cast when it’s over in Chicago, I don’t know what I’m doing to do!

    Comment by Amy — September 13, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

  9. THIS IS AMAZING!! I love JMD, he’s such a great Frankie, so amazingly talented. Just wonderful. He could easily be the main Frankie.

    Comment by Laura B — September 14, 2009 @ 2:51 am

  10. Kudos to John Michael! He is such an incredible performer, I can’t wait to see him again!

    Comment by Becky — September 14, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  11. Such a multi-talented, sweet guy. His “Moody’s Mood For Love” is off the charts. UNREAL!

    Comment by Tina — September 14, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  12. I would like to thank John for always giving a stellar performance and for being such a sweet, kind young man. His portrayal of Frankie is incredible, and when he sings “Can’t Take” I just about lose it. I know he has many great things ahead of him. God bless you John!

    Comment by Carly — September 14, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  13. Great interview – I was hoping a JMD interview would come up soon! JMD is so super talented and such a nice guy, you will not be disappointed if you see him!

    Comment by Jill S. — September 15, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  14. I have never been so inspired by a performer like I was when I saw JMD in Jersey Boys. He went on a tuesday evening that I got rush tickets for the show and I believe it was fate because I have gone to 3 other matinees since just to see him perform the show! He is absolutely wonderful and I can’t wait to see what he does next!

    Comment by Kelsey — November 29, 2009 @ 1:56 am

  15. We saw John Michael Dias as Frankie last month. He was totally amazing! His performance was very moving!

    Comment by Sandy — December 1, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

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