September 17, 2007

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Rick Faugno!

September 17th, 2007

We are thrilled to introduce our newest JBB Special Correspondent–Angel Bessey to Jersey Boys Blog! It is with great pleasure that we present Angel’s interview with Rick Faugno, the incredibly multi-talented Frankie Valli Alternate in the national tour of Jersey Boys!

My first interview – with Rick Faugno (Fawn-yo), the Frankie Valli Alternate of the National Touring Company of the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys– I wondered where to hold it… then, I had a “light bulb moment” and decided on The Four Seasons Hotel – I figured, it must be a sign.

So who is Rick Faugno? His name is Italian – and it does end in a vowel. He was born in NYC, but grew up in a state that’s next to a landfill, that’s next to a dump, that’s next to a turnpike – yes, he’s from Jersey too. His sign? Scorpio.

And how did he get out? With the love and support of his dear parents, Richard and Patricia Faugno. And that is where we’ll start this interview – where it all began so many years ago – in Sparta, New Jersey.

AB: Who or what influenced you to choose the performing arts as your career?

RF: I belonged to a musical family. My dad played the drums for a living – he was part of club band. He was also a tap dancer. He took lessons from a vaudeville dancer. My mom was into acting in college and taught drama to junior high students. My grandmothers played the violin and piano. My father and his mother performed in minstrel shows together.

AB: When did you know performing was what you wanted to do?

RF: I was about eight years old when my parents took me to the city to see Me and My Girl with Jim Dale on Broadway. It was at the Marquis Theatre. I remember distinctly coming out of the theatre and dancing down the street knowing that what I just saw was something that I loved. I didn’t know at the time if I was going to do it but in the back of my mind I knew someday that I would. I never realized that I would be singing and dancing on Broadway – and I look back at that now and it’s just amazing how it happened.

AB: When did you start performing professionally?

RF: I managed to get into a final call back at age 12; The Will Rogers Follies. I kinda fell into it. My parents were thrilled. My mom was a teacher at my school in New Jersey and we would leave for New York at about 3 pm. We had to miss classes when we needed to be in the city for Wednesday matinee shows and various other show related things. I also had what was called “On Location Education” when I was in the rehearsal and preview period of the show and absolutely could not be in school. There would be a teacher there for us four kids, including the two swings, and we would be in a makeshift classroom at the theatre or cramped in a hallway. That was during my sixth grade year. Needless to say, it was quite a tumultuous time in my life.

AB: What does family mean to you?

RF: I owe everything to my parents. They sacrificed a lot for me – not only financially but their relationship as well. They are literally my support. During my freshman year in high school, we would commute to the city. Then in my sophomore year, my Mom rented an apartment to keep the travel down. My Dad kept the house – lived by himself in Sparta. They lived like a divorced couple for 2 ½ years until I finished high school. It was very hard. He’d visit on the weekends then during the week they’d be separated. They sacrificed everything for me. I have to give them all my respect – without their love and support; I would not have had the opportunities to do any of the things I’ve done.

And they’ve been with me the entire journey. Through the successes and failures – all the auditions I went on – the jobs I almost got – didn’t get – and the jobs I did get. They were there during the ups and downs. It’s been a long road.

Fast forward July 2006: Auditions are being held at Chelsea Studios in New York City for the National Tour of the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys.

AB: Could you share your audition process?

RF: On the first audition, Des McAnuff the director and Tara Rubin, the casting director, were there. I sang a Journey song “Open Arms” and from the show – I sang “Walk Like A Man.” I received a call back – did the Joey and Frankie sides. In the third call back – there were 15 key people in half the size of this room. We later worked on some dances, to see how people moved – then by the afternoon they made another cut. Two weeks later I was offered the role of Joey Pesci and Frankie Valli understudy.

AB: What was it like to be Frankie’s understudy and then later transitioning to the official Frankie Alternate?

RF: Basically, being the understudy to a role is like knowing everything about the role and hardly ever getting to do it (save for some rare exceptions). I would practice my lines almost every night along with the show so that I could know them as well as I possibly could. I tried to rehearse as much as I could on my own so that I was prepared if anything came up. The scariest part about being an understudy is that you don’t know when someone might be out and you have to be ready, whether you’re ready or not. And of course, we had understudy rehearsal almost every week, so that gave me a chance to get the feel of doing the show in my body, albeit without any of the technical aspects or the band.

Being an understudy, or for that matter a swing, is probably the most difficult job in the theatre. You have to know exactly what you’re doing at all times without ever having the benefit of doing the role enough to feel comfortable. I was very lucky because I had a lot of people helping me and guiding me in the right direction and I practiced enough so that I felt confident in my abilities. That being said, none of that actually prepares you for going out on stage for the first time, with the lights and the set and the music and the sound and, most importantly, the audience. Everything, up until that point when you step out on stage for the first time, exists entirely in your head. It’s like watching a baseball game on TV and picturing yourself hitting the ball, but not physically being there doing it so that you know how it feels. It’s an extremely terrifying thing, the first time. I was absolutely petrified. I just wanted to make it through the show without screwing anything up. Thank God, I had a wonderful cast and crew who backed me up the whole way. I couldn’t have done it without their support.

My first official show as Frankie was quite different. There was a sense within me that I had arrived and that role was truly mine. Before, when I performed the role, I always knew, in the back of my mind, that I was going to have to go back to playing my regular role the next day, unless something happened. I couldn’t, nor can any understudy or swing, get comfortable because you know that it’s going to come to an end. When I was offered the Alternate position, I no longer had that fear, unless I totally screwed it up! I was still nervous, as I am to this day, but I was happy because it was official and everyone recognized that. And I owe the opportunity to Mr. McAnuff.

AB: After a few official shows as Frankie alternate, Eric Gutman wrote this in his blog about you, he said – “I’m pretty sure I can say on behalf of the whole cast that we feel completely comfortable on stage and I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress with his scene work throughout the tour. But man oh man, what a powerful voice that kid has!” How did your road family help you in understanding the nuances of your new material?

RF: When you’re with the same group for a period of time – the repetition gets you into a groove – and you get to know the beats and moments. They are very supportive in the process and even when I was an understudy, they were supportive as well. They are the nicest, kindest Company – terrific actors. The environment was really wonderful. I was able to grow in the part.

AB: The Ahmanson run is almost finished, and next you will be going to Sacramento – how do you cope with the rigors of touring? As Nick says, does the soap keep getting smaller?

RF: Yes, I think it actually does get smaller. Touring is like an art in itself. It’s one thing to do a show in New York – you go home, you have a life outside the theatre. A show on the road is like being inside a bubble; there’s no home base. It’s almost not real life when you travel all the time; and it’s very taxing. In SF the run was for five months, LA is three – it gives you some sense of a home base. This is my third National Tour and there are times we go places for a week or two and I don’t even bother unpacking. But the fun part is getting to visit all the great sites. And for industry towns like Los Angeles – you can do some business.

AB: Was there a time – from the auditions to Curran to Ahmanson that was most memorable for you?

RF: My most memorable moment was at the Ahmanson, when Frankie Valli came backstage to see me after the show. The fact that he took the time to come back and talk to me, for a good ten minutes, and give me so many words of encouragement and compliments, was very satisfying. He didn’t need to take the time to do that, but he did and I was very humbled and honored by that. I know that Frankie doesn’t say anything unless he means it, so his words meant a great deal.

AB: You said on an interview, that you are usually a featured ensemble and don’t usually get offered “principal work” – do you think this opportunity to play the role of Frankie Valli will move your moon in Taurus?

RF: Definitely. It started on my last two jobs I guess. I played principal work in the Julie Andrews’ directed The Boyfriend, then Shenandoah at Ford’s Theatre in DC, and this is sort of my third crack at being a principal. It really doesn’t get much better than playing Frankie, as far as a male lead role is concerned. It is the ultimate – you get to sing, you get to act and dance a little too – there is so much weight and it is really something you can sink your teeth into –not just as a singer but also as a performer. So, I definitely think it will help – it’s opened doors for me already.

AB: Let’s talk about the cast – if you were going to give a one-word description of each of the Jersey Boys you work with (Chris, Deven, Erich, Mike and Steve) what would it be and why?

RF: Chris – Solid. He’s the kind of guy you can depend on to always give a great performance. He’s the consummate professional. Deven – Sly. He’s the jokester of the bunch. He’s a lot of fun and a great guy and does a wonderful job in the show. Erich – Refined. For a young guy he’s very cultured and such a refined actor and does a great job with his role. Mike – Warm. He’s the warmest, kindest, most giving actor and he always has a nice thing to say. Steve – Genuine. He’s such an honest and likeable person. He’s so different from Michael in the role of Nick, but he brings a really interesting and cool new way of looking at the character.

AB: As for the Jersey Girls, if you were to choose a car that would best fit their personality – what kind of car would each of them drive and why?

RF: Sandy – Corvette. She’s passionate, knows what she wants and goes for it. She’s a great singer and dancer and she gives a powerful performance. Jackie – Cadillac (new 2007 luxury model). She has an air of coolness about her. She doesn’t rush, and she has fun. She’s a talented actress. Melissa – Mazda Miata convertible. She’s a fun-loving girl and a little ray of sunshine. She’s a free spirit and she’s also very funny.

AB: In The Boyfriend’s National Tour, Julie Andrew’s directorial debut – you were a lead, dance captain and more importantly, the Assistant Choreographer. How does the creative process rank in your career goals?

RF: If I were offered the chances to play lead versus choreograph a show – I will take the lead role. Maybe in 10 years, I would like the opportunity to pursue choreographing a show.

AB: What would you say to aspiring actors who want to make it to Broadway or be part of a national touring company?

RF: Commit fully – 100% to what you’re doing. Don’t hold anything back. If it’s a hobby, it’s okay to not fully commit, but as a livelihood, it’s not. This is an extremely competitive business. My father always says “The cream always rises to the top” – and if you’re talented, you will succeed. This work is all consuming and you’ll have to give up a lot. Are you willing to make sacrifices for your art? If you say yes – then do it.

AB: Could you share a few highlights about these three projects: The Boyfriend, Wonderful Town, and Fosse?

RF: In The Boyfriend, I was stepping out as a principal for the first time and I was communicating as a person. I was in a relationship – people were listening and not just watching. At first, I felt it was a burden because of the different weight that goes along with it.

In Wonderful Town, I was featured ensemble, primarily a dancer/singer. It was a different kind of commitment – very physical versus mental (Jersey Boys). The dancers were almost like a character in the show– we moved collectively. It won Best Choreography that year. It validated what we were doing and that was very rewarding.

Fosse – This was like a dream come true for me, being a dancer. I remember seeing the original company on Broadway and watching that and saying to myself “I’m going to do that. I’m going to be in this show.” Looking at this role – watching Scott Wise perform this role – saying, “I’ve got to be in this show. This is what I love – I have to do this.” So I auditioned for the National Tour, got to the very end and found out that I didn’t get it. A few weeks later, something must have happened, but I received an offer. I’ve studied so many years as a dancer and this was a dream come true for me. This is something I will always hold dear to my heart. Performing these numbers and getting to work with Ann Reinking and doing the Bob Fosse choreography is pretty amazing and I’ll always think fondly of that. I was part of the National Tour, then Broadway later on.

AB: I understand dancing is what you’d like to do again.

RF: Yes, eventually I’d like to be in a big dance show again. I love to sing and dance and act – all three together. That’s been my ultimate goal all these years. I want to do something in New York on Broadway – like American in Paris – something like that, where I get to incorporate everything. I think it’s possible. If you believe it can come true and if you want it to come true, and if you work hard enough for it –it’ll happen. So hopefully, one day. But Jersey Boys has been a fantastic challenge and I’m grateful for it.

AB: What is the best advice you have ever received?

RF: My mom and dad said keep plugging away no matter how hard it is – no matter how many rejections you get – just keep your head down and keep going.

There’s something else I’ll always remember. Tommy Tune gave me a card on opening night of The Will Rogers Follies; it said “Keep singing… keep dancing… keep acting… and everything will be just fine.”

AB: What is your motto?

RF: Keep working no matter what you’re doing.

AB: How about some Fun Facts about Rick Faugno:

  • Favorite dance number in Jersey Boys: “Big Girls Don’t Cry”
  • Favorite song: “Rag Doll”
  • Favorite scene: Sit down scene

AB: This concludes our interview – could you please share some closing comments for our Jersey Boys Blog readers?

RF: Hello Jersey Boys Blog readers. Thanks for reading this interview. Come and see us out West. Hopefully, I’ll see you back in New York.

AB: Thank you so much for your time, Rick. We really appreciate it.

We would like to extend our appreciation to the amazing Rick Faugno and to JBB Special Correspondent Angel Bessey for this terrific interview!


  1. Hi,

    I really appreciate for you having an interview with Rick! He is definately going to go places, and I’m not just saying that. Not only is Rick extremely talented, but he is also very, very nice. =)

    Thanks for the wonderful interview!

    Comment by June — September 18, 2007 @ 1:10 am

  2. This was a great interview, Angel; welcome to the Blog. I really enjoyed Rick’s analysis of the function of an understudy/swing; I never realized how much responsibility it entailed. I also could relate to his encounter and advice from Tommy Tune…many, many years ago, I received an autographed picture from the great fighter Marvin Hagler where he wrote: “Keep on punching in life, no matter what…”

    Those were also great questions from you, Angel, asking for one word descriptions of Rick’s castmates and what sort of car each of the Jersey Girls would make. Are you an aspiring Barbara Walters? (I recall when Walters asked Katherine Hepburn what kind of tree she’d be most like, and Hepburn’s serious answer, “an oak tree” because it’s solid.) I was especially happy to see Rick’s description of Mike Ingersoll as warm, kind, and giving–he’s the same way to his fans.

    Looking to see a lot more great journalism, Angel, and a lot more great performing, Rick. You’ve both got gifts.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — September 18, 2007 @ 5:55 am

  3. Just a great interview Angel, congratulations. Being a Jersey boy, I can tell the readers that Sparta is about as far west in New Jersey as one can go without crossing into Pennsylvania, so it really is a commute to go from Sparta to NY City, a good 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or more, depending on the traffic on Route 80. Wonderful parents to do what they did for their child and a very appreciative son. Doesn’t get any better than that. Best wishes in all your future endeavors, Rick.

    Comment by David Cace — September 18, 2007 @ 6:51 am

  4. I had the opportunity to see Rick perform once in SF and thoroughly enjoyed his performance. He really has a fantastic voice (especially his falsetto) and great acting ability. I had no idea what a good dancer he was too. I would love to see him dancing to Bob Fosse’s choreography. Best of luck, Rick.

    Comment by LindaL — September 18, 2007 @ 9:22 am

  5. It would have been great to see Rick fill in as Frankie. Since the first time I met him this past February at a public appearance in SF, I knew that he would do great as Jarrod’s replacement as the matinee alternate. The “SRO” crowd at the bookstore were treated to Rick and Jennifer Evans’ short but entertaining rendition of “Sherry”, with the Jersey Boys’ publicist’s blessing….. He definitely can hit the falsetto effortlessly!

    I’m glad to see his star rising and want to thank him for being so accommodating to my family by taking the time to chat about life and the play, (so sorry to the others behind us….) and giving us our first “Frankie” autograph on our dual cast signed Jersey Boys music/lyric songbook!

    Comment by Mike B. Magbaleta — September 18, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  6. FINALLY this boy is getting the recognition he deserves. I have been waiting patiently for the world to wake up! He nailed the Frankie role when I saw him at the Ahmanson and, as a result, couldn’t get anywhere near him at the stage door…DRAT! This guy is multi-talented and I can absolutely see him in “American in Paris.” He could certainly breathe some new life into a classic like that. You’re tailor-made for that one, Rick. Count me in as a fan! Great coverage, Angel…you’re great at what you do.

    Comment by Gary — September 18, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  7. Oops, I have been mis-pronouncing his name all along!! I have remember the “g” is silent.

    Comment by LindaL — September 18, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  8. Angel, what a fantastic interview! Rick seems like a great guy and judging from other fan’s reactions, I would really like to catch him as Frankie some time.

    Comment by Lauren — September 18, 2007 @ 11:12 am

  9. You’re absolutely right Gary ! Rick is finally getting the recognition he deserves. I have been his fan from the get-go and not only is he talented but he is also a very humble person. We have met him at the stage door at Ahmanson and he was always friendly and accomodating not only to us but to every one who approached him for autographs or photo op. I have a feeling that when you said you could not even get near him at one time, that we were part of that group. I have to share an experience we had with him when we first met him at the stage door, which I think impressed me initially. At that time, we were all congratulating him for his performance, telling him how good he is as Frankie and that we have seen JB several times and then you know what ? He asked us “have you seen Chris ? “. I was impressed with that question because I realized he did not want to mislead us into thinking that he is the regular Frankie. He wanted to be sure we know he is the alternate and not the regular performer…and that if we have not seen Chris, then we should see see him. That tells me he is not someone who will take advantage of a situation. He could have easily just kept quiet and let us think that he is the regular Frankie but he did not do it. From then on, we became his avid fan. Rick..we wish you the best !
    Angel did a fantastic job making fans aware of another great actor.

    Comment by Mila — September 18, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  10. Thank you so much for this interview! I have been looking for interviews that Rick has done, and I found one! I had the chance to see him as Frankie in Los Angeles, and he was absolutely fantastic! I met him at the stage door afterward, and he was so sweet to all his fans. He takes the time to talk with you a little bit and seems so gracious. I love when I have those experiences with the talent because it completes the experience. That was a very insightful interview. I also love how his parents were such a huge part of his life. I have the same kind of admiration for mine. They are the most amazing people and so incredibly encouraging and supportive. Anyway, thank you for such a great interview and best of luck Rick!!

    Comment by Debra — September 18, 2007 @ 10:16 pm

  11. Thank you so very much for the wonderful comments! I really appreciate it. As you all know, this is my first interview and I must say, it has been a very positive experience.

    I’d like to thank Susie for giving me the opportunity to write for the JBBlog. To the Tech-Half for doing what he does best. To Howard for having that knack of bringing people together. And lastly, to Rick Faugno, for being so gracious and generous with his time – and for giving me (a first time interviewer) the opportunity to share his story with the Jersey Boys Fantastic Fans.

    Thank you and good night…

    Comment by Angel — September 18, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  12. Saw Rick perform in Sacramento. I’ve also seen Christopher Kale Jones and Jarrod Spector in the Frankie role. Rick’s performance is in the same stratopshere as the others. He ROCKED!

    Comment by NYJBfan — September 21, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

  13. Great article! It was a great read. And it really gets in-depth with regards to performing, understudying, etc. It was very informative. Thanks for doing the interview!

    Comment by airvincent — September 22, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

  14. OMG! Thank you so much for this article. I have been trying to find a way to contact Rick and this is the perfect chance to tell him how amazing he was. Caught the show in Tempe this past weekend and he seriously owned. He had us laughing, crying, singing, the works. He really is going places and I hope this isn’t the last time we can see him perform. Sadly, we didn’t get to meet him, but at least this is a way to spread our excitement. Thank you so much for the interview.

    Caroline and Stacy

    Comment by Stacy — October 16, 2007 @ 2:18 pm

  15. Reading this interview again after having seen Rick do Frankie for the first time in Las Vegas (my first time seeing him and his first time performing in Vegas) gives it a whole new flavor. He was absolutely sensational onstage, both acting and voice-wise, and was a total delight mingling and joking at the Eizens’ afterparty.

    Now, Gary and Mila, Rick’s REALLY getting the recognition he deserves. I did have some advance warning as some friends had tickets in Tempe, and anticipated seeing Chris. At first they were disappointed Chris was on his honeymoon at the time (happy for Chris, but upset they wouldn’t see him), but came out of the theatre raving about Rick, and called me cross-country after midnight to tell me how good he was.

    I think you have a great future ahead, Rick. And hearing about your devoted parents proves that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I wish you the best.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — April 9, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

  16. Howard and I must be on the same wavelength. I just stumbled upon this article today after seeing him for the third time last weekend. Rick is a great actor, singer and dancer and I’ve enjoyed seeing him evolve as Frankie. What talent! I’m impressed by his humility, friendliness and humor. I look forward to seeing him again in Vegas!

    Comment by Krystal — April 10, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  17. I saw Rick perform last Friday night in Las Vegas. He’s now the lead Frankie. I had front row seats and was blown away by his performance and the show in general. It’s good to see hard work rewarded. Go see Rick at the Palazzo 7 pm at night. By the way, the show has been open since May and there were empty seats. I expect that will change when the summer ends and Vegas occupancy increases. So, go get seats while you can!

    Comment by Steve Shapiro — August 27, 2008 @ 12:33 am

  18. I just saw this interview with Rick and was very impressed with the content and questions.

    Angel, you are a fabulous writer and you asked some very interesting questions! I love your intro paragraph, too, and how you tied things into the Jersey Boys show!

    I’ve had the opportunity to see Rick twice as Frankie–once in Sac and once in Vegas, as well as talk to him at the stage door. He’s a really nice, good guy and I think he’s got a great future ahead of him.

    I’d love to see him dance, too…sounds like he can do it all!

    Great job!

    Comment by Dina F. — August 27, 2008 @ 11:15 am

  19. I saw you last night in Vegas. Every time I go to a Broadway play I look for your name – I knew your dad for years and years while he worked for Offray and your mom lived with you in New York. I want to offer my congratulations! You were amazing and you so deserve everything that is wonderful and successful!!!

    I would love to talk to your dad again and offer my congratulations to him. If you get the chance forward my email.

    My best Always

    Comment by Jo Packham — October 20, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

  20. Just curious if anyone knows how to contact Rick Faugno, my mother is his cousin.

    Comment by Simone Morales ( Houser Faugno ) — June 17, 2009 @ 2:29 am

  21. Simone, you can email him:

    Good luck!

    Comment by Leanna — June 17, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  22. Thanks for the info.

    Comment by Simone Morales ( Houser Faugno ) — June 17, 2009 @ 8:11 pm

  23. Great news! I am happy to share that on Dec 16, 2009 Rick was honored with a caricature at Sardi’s Restaurant in New York, a Broadway landmark for over 80 years. What a perfect way to cap off 2009. Congratulations Rick and best wishes for 2010!!

    Comment by Angel — December 17, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

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