January 28, 2008

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Michael Longoria!

January 28th, 2008

Michael Longoria in his dressing room.

After far too many months without seeing Jersey Boys on Broadway, the JBB Tech Half and I had an marvelous time seeing the show and visiting with the cast earlier this month! Part of the excitement was our interview with the amazing Michael Longoria, prior to his incredible Sunday afternoon performance on January 13. Can a Sunday get much better? After portraying a sensational Joe Pesci since Jersey Boys opened on Broadway, and later the matinee Frankie Valli, since late November, Michael has now taken over the Valli role! We had a great time talking to Michael about his reaction to the news that he would be moving up; the thrills and challenges of playing the iconic pop star on stage; his friendship with Frankie Valli; his early days; and so much more.

JBB: First of all, Michael, congratulations on taking over the Frankie Valli role on Broadway! How did you find out about the big news and what was your first reaction?

ML: Thank you! I heard that John Lloyd had given his notice and there was about maybe three weeks of not knowing who was taking over. And then, one day, I got called down to the stage management office during half hour. I thought, ‘Oh Lord, here we go.’ I thought somebody was calling to say, ‘Hey, you know, we’re really sorry, but somebody else is comin’ in.’

But, it was Des McAnuff on the line. I took the phone call in the stage management’s bathroom and closed the door for privacy. He said, ‘Michael, you’re taking over the role.’

So, I was so excited! Obviously, I wanted it to happen. I had been working so hard on the part, but you never know in this business. You never want to expect anything like that to happen.

JBB: Even though it was such exciting news, at first, did it seem unbelievable?

ML: Kind of a little disbelief. It’s been so long that I’ve been playing the part and as Joe Pesci, as well–I didn’t know what to think. I had to take a moment and really take it in.

Des said he was very pleased to make the phone call. But, I had to be silent about it, because the official offer hadn’t come from the producers yet.

So, of course, being quiet was the hardest thing, because everybody was buzzing around the theatre, talking about ‘Who’s it going to be?’

Finally, I got the call about a week and a half later. So, it was a LONG week and a half.

JBB: Fortunately, because of your training as an actor, you could at least keep a straight face?

ML: (Laughs) Yeah, because it was great news, I felt like everybody would find out when they were supposed to find out. It at least took the pressure off of me, because I was feeling the same way everybody else in the company was feeling—antsy—‘What’s going on, what’s going on—it’s happening soon, but nothing’s been said.’

JBB: Even though you had been playing the matinee Frankie for quite some time, was it a major transition process to become, let’s call it, the ‘Primetime’ Frankie?

ML: You know, it’s definitely been a lifestyle change. Before, I would only have to worry about my Tuesday nights and Friday nights, not doing anything, being quiet, and being a good boy (chuckles).

Now, my whole life has changed. I really have to focus on going home after the show, doing a certain regimen: taking a hot bath with Epsom Salts, drinking a lot of water, having a Gatorade, making sure I’m hydrated, not talking to people after the show, not going to bars after the show, no alcohol — I was never a big drinker before, so that wasn’t a big deal. You have to make sure that you’re just as good as you were the night before. It’s been a really good growing experience for me.

JBB Tech-Half: Do you feel like a franchise player?

ML: What do you mean?

JBB Tech-Half: The STAR.

ML: No, I still feel like a team player because everybody that is involved in the show is responsible for its success and the magic on the stage. Every single actor—adds something. So, I really don’t feel like the star.

Obviously, I have a lot to do in the show, and I’m living the dream as far as being a singer, dancer, actor who gets to really do it all. So, definitely, I have that aspect of it, but I am grateful that everybody in this show is such a great actor and great team player. We really are like a family.

JBB: The ‘family’ is so obvious—not just on stage, but in benefit appearances, TV appearances, or just seeing the cast hanging out together at the stage door.

ML: That definitely takes a lot of time. Especially with me and the other three guys. We’ve been through so much together and I really got to know the other three guys on a personal level outside of the actual building. And, they’re all such sweet guys; they’re talented; and two of them of are fathers. Bobby and Christian both had children during the run of the show. So, we’ve all experienced things that families experience.

JBB: How do you transform yourself every day into the Frankie Valli role?

ML: I’ve always come from the acting standpoint that you have to live in the moment. So, every time I step onto that stage, it’s a brand new moment. I can’t repeat whatever I did yesterday. I have to really live in it as if it’s happening right then and there. So, honestly, every scene is its own world. I don’t think about the next scene after that, or the next scene after that. I literally am just living in it. So, anything you see is me coming into life; listening to whatever’s happening with whatever the other actor is saying to me; really putting myself into the situation. I am Frankie—how am I feeling when my daughter is telling me that she’s not coming home? Or, how worried do I feel when I’m talking to Lorraine about her? It’s just really trying to put myself, Michael, into this situation. If I was this father, if I was this performer on the road, how would I feel with this? So, that’s how I prepare.

JBB: What’s the biggest challenge of playing Frankie Valli?

ML: The biggest challenge is staying focused and in the moment–reminding yourself that your are meant to be here; and just to relax and sing your heart out.

JBB: We’d like to know about your early days. When did you know you wanted to become involved in musical theatre?

ML: Well, my mom is a singer. So, when I was a child, instead of going out and playing outside with my two brothers, I’d be inside singing along with my mom at the piano.

She was in a band called “Brown Image” in the ‘70s. I remember when I was about three years old, having one of the bandmate’s mothers or grandmothers babysitting all the kids. I would sneak into the garage where they were playing and listen to my mom. She played the keyboards and sang lead vocals. I was just mesmerized–maybe by the community element of the fact that all these different pieces were coming together to create one sound, one beautiful song. Something about it just spoke to me as a kid and I never really let it go. My mom says that I was singing before I could talk.

I went to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts as a voice major, where I studied jazz, Gospel music, choral music, and stuff like that. And then, the English/Dance teacher was looking for boys to be in West Side Story. I had seen the movie, but I never thought I was a dancer. She said, (changing his voice to a hilarious imitation) ‘Longoria, I need you to come to auditions and help me out here.’ So, I went and they cast me as Baby John. Something about that production made me open my eyes into a different world. Up to that point, I was just a singer, looking to record an album when I was older, I guess. When I performed in that, something sparked a curiosity about musical theatre. I was in all the school productions after that. Then, I was accepted to New York University Tisch School of the Arts on a scholarship. I came when I was 17 to New York, all alone, no family, no nothing.

JBB: Was it a bit of culture shock coming to New York from LA?

ML: Absolutely, absolutely! I was very sheltered in my childhood; I didn’t get out much. When I got to New York, I definitely was very excited about how beautiful and crazy and different New York was from my home life. Since I didn’t have anybody here, anything went. So, I was able to trial and error as a person, get to know who I was in the city, and with that, became who I am.

JBB: Would you say your mom and her bandmates were your biggest musical influences as a kid?

ML: Yes, definitely with the voice, and because I was singing a lot as a young kid, a lot of people took notice and got me into commercial work as a child. I did a lot of national commercials for McDonalds and M & M’s and products like that.

JBB: Wow, do you have them on Youtube?

ML: I don’t have them on Youtube, but maybe I should really put them on Youtube. I have one or two. I’m about nine years old, it’s hilarious, with big curly fro-ee hair, before gel was discovered (laughs)!

JBB: On your bio in the Jersey Boys Playbill, you thank Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli for their musical mentorship. Has Frankie Valli offered you advice during your run in Jersey Boys?

ML: Absolutely. A long time ago, Frankie listened to my EP, “Under 1000 Shades of Blue.” I remember him coming backstage one day, I think this is before the matinee Frankie even happened.

I remember him saying, ‘You’re a really good singer, man. I listened to your CD and I really like your voice. You’re a singer!’

Then, the next time I saw him, he talked to me about my music again; telling me what he thought about what direction I should go.

We slowly started to develop a rapport with each other. I would go to his concerts. One time, he invited us—four guys from the show—all on stage and we sang backup on one of the microphones.

We started talking on the phone here and there. They were very short conversations; he’d be yelling at one of his kids, telling them to turn the Nintendo off (chuckles).

And, when I finally got the part, I remember him telling his manager, ‘The kid finally got the part!’–making a joke about it.

He brought me up on stage again when he was in town recently during the strike. This time, I was there by myself and I thought, ‘Okay, fine, we’ll do what we did last time.’ Frankie then said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve never done this before, but we’re going to share this song.’ It was “Let’s Hang On.” He literally said, ‘I’ll take a verse; you take a verse; we’ll go back and forth.’ So, of course, he takes the first verse, which is the verse that I sing in the show. The second verse, which I don’t sing in the show…I’ve listened to the song several times, but I wasn’t prepared for that. So, I started singing it, and I totally forgot the words. The audience went crazy; it was hilarious! It was one of those moments. I used the whole excuse that it was the strike. I told the audience, ‘Oh, we’re on strike. I need to brush up; I need to brush up’ (laughs).

Frankie Valli and Michael Longoria
Photo courtesy of Linda Lenzi at BroadwayWorld.com

JBB: Great story, Michael! It must have been incredible that he called you up to the stage and made you a part of his concert.

ML: I was very honored that he was so gracious about it.

JBB: Frankie sounds like he’s so supportive of you. I realize that you are playing his life out there, but it looks like he’s taking a genuine interest.

ML: He really does care about me and I care about him. I think he knows that I’ve always cared about his life and his story. I really admire everything that he’s done—all of his music. I’ve really gotten to know him just by playing the part. There’s a special connection there.

You know, maybe he sees a lot of himself in me. Definitely, he sees his little wavy hair (laughs).

JBB: Exactly, Michael, with your new pictures on your website, I thought, ‘He’s got Frankie’s look, even the hair!’

ML: And, the height, right? (laughs)

JBB Tech-Half: You know what, just when you’re talking about Frankie Valli, you start to sound like him a little bit.

ML: Oh, yeah? You know, I’ve been saturated in Frankie Valli for so long; he’s lived in my I-pod for the past two and a half years that I’m sure I’m influenced by him every day.

JBB: Considering you were born quite a while after The Four Seasons’ heyday, were you familiar with their music before Jersey Boys?

ML: You know, I didn’t realize that I knew it, but I knew it. In rehearsals, I remember opening each page. I remember opening each new song and would think, ‘I know this song! How did I know this song?’ Then, realizing that these guys did all these songs that I knew. So, I did know them, but I didn’t realize that it was Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons that were singing those songs.

JBB Tech Half: I really enjoyed your NY Lotto commercial—it’s very clever–and your rendition of “Dominick the Donkey” on Carols for a Cure is one of our favorite holiday songs now!

ML: The New York Lotto song was so fun to do with the three other guys; so was the Christmas song.

JBB: Your debut EP “Under 1000 Shades of Blue” is terrific! I especially love the title cut and “Jill.” How did this EP come about and could you tell us about what inspired you to create it?

ML: I was a swing in Hairspray on Broadway. Since I had a lot of time on my hands, I decided to be creative with the time when I was not on stage. So I picked up a guitar and started writing. The EP was originally an experiment and meant to sell to fans at gigs and send as a demo to industry. I’m writing new material for a full length CD, so I decided for the moment to stop reproducing and selling the EP. But you can still hear it on my website.

JBB: What about your Jersey Boys-related favorites—how about your favorite JB musical number & why?

ML: I love “Bye, Bye Baby”…It might be my favorite Valli song, and it’s one of the few numbers in the show where I’m not singing on the stage of a concert, but actually in the life of Valli…“Fallen Angel” is that way as well.

JBB: Favorite JB line and why?

ML: I think I will always hold dear the first time I spoke the line: ‘Cause I told him your a fuckin’ genius!’, because I said it to Daniel Reichard over 800 times on Broadway.

JB: Favorite JB scene and why?

ML: The church scene where Frankie first hears what his voice sounds like in a big space. I like that Frankie is so innocent and untainted by the future choices his talent will force him to make. I also like the picture that it makes when you sit in the audience.

JBB Tech Half: How would you compare being a Broadway star with a rock star? Has playing Frankie Valli given you any insight into the life of a rock star?

ML: I’m sure it’s more fun to live the rock star life, but you can’t live the rock star life when you play one in a Broadway show. Broadway stars have to really take care of themselves if they want to be at their best night after night.

JBB Tech Half: Is there one single thing that you’d want readers to know about Michael Longoria that they may not already know?

ML: Just that I’ve worked really hard to get here and all because I believed, as a seventeen year old in California, that it was possible.

Thank you so much to Michael Longoria for taking the time for this wonderful and insightful interview! His perseverance and hard work over the years, in addition to his amazing talent are extraordinary (Sunday’s show was spectacular, by the way)! We wish him all the best as he continues to thrill audiences as Frankie Valli, and we are looking forward to news on the progress of his future full length CD!

Michael Longoria signing autographs at the stage door.


  1. Thank you Susie and Dale, Michael sounds so happy about his new role..What an exciting time for him, conngratulations Michael..The line in the show that is his favorite, I gave him a magnet with the same line :-) I’m glad it was his favorite…Jody

    Comment by Jody Cardillo — January 28, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

  2. Saw Michael Longoria in Jersey Boys last Nov ’07 about a week before the strike. He was gloriously fantastic. Can’t wait to go back & see him again.
    Love you Michael!

    Comment by Zanna K — January 28, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  3. Had the chance to see Michael as Frankie earlier this month and thought he was fantastic!

    Thanks for such a great interview! I especially liked hearing about his friendship with Valli.

    Comment by Matt — January 28, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

  4. This was a wonderful treat, Michael…thanks for sharing that!!

    Michael, of all the cast members, you have perhaps been the most successful in branding yourself…Michael Longoria–not Frankie Valli and not Joe Pesci. Whatever it is…the voice, the enthusiasm, the hair, the persona, the energy…I don’t think there is anyone in NYC associated with the theatre that doesn’t know you and doesn’t like you.

    I also had the pleasure last spring of meeting your mom and brother Danny, also an actor, in LA. Danny looks exactly like you except that he’s about 6’5″. When will he be cast as Bob Gaudio to your Frankie??
    And why was Mom so quiet about her musical talents? I learned about them above for the first time.

    Thank you for that great CD “Under 1000 Shades of Blue”. And thank you, Susie, for agreeing with me that “Jill” is arguably the best song on the album. Actually, when I first said that to Michael, he acted surprised since it is so “sad”. Michael, it’s taken 40 years, but “Jill” has finally replaced Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” as my favorite sad song!!

    Finally, it took forever for me to see you as Frankie, Michael, but I’ve now seen you three times. During “Who Loves You” the sense of family you describe above came through loud and clear each time, with Sebatian, Christian and Bobby demonstrating their appreciation of not only Frankie Valli’s stellar career, but Michael Longoria’s as well.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — January 28, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

  5. That was an awesome interview! I loved everything Michael said. Thanks for the great piece, Susie and Dale!

    Comment by Lauren — January 28, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

  6. Great interview. The story about “Let’s Hang On” is a crackup! I’d like to see that pop up on YouTube. What I like even more is how the real Mr. V is still so involved with, well, everything. He just keeps goin’ and goin’…

    Comment by stubbleyou — January 28, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  7. Loved this interview! It’s nice to get to know Michael a little bit better. The relationship with Frankie Valli is so special. (How about that pic with Michael and Frankie, with JLY in the background – he looks like he’s thinking, “hey, what about me?”;)

    Comment by Catherine — January 29, 2008 @ 9:08 am

  8. What a great interview! In addition to being fabulously talented Michael is obviously smart, gracious, … and he’s funny. Thanks to Susie and Dale for letting us see what a cool guy Michael really is!

    Comment by Jenco — January 29, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  9. Great Interview!
    Thanks Susie and Dale for sharing this interview with us.
    We enjoyed reading about Michael and wish him all the best in his bright future.

    Damaris & Joe Dugan

    Comment by Damaris Dugan — January 29, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

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