May 15, 2011

Details on ‘Frankie Camp’

May 15th, 2011

Judith Newmark, Post-Dispatch Theater Critic has an in-depth look at “Frankie Camp,” an audition process that JERSEY BOYS production supervisor Richard Hester and his colleagues dreamed up that is very unique in musical theatre. Newmark interviews Hester and current JB national tour “Frankie,” Joseph Leo Bwarie, about what goes into Frankie Camp.

Frankie Camp — which takes place in place in a Broadway rehearsal hall, not the woods (the Four Seasons were the ultimate city kids) — “is decidedly unglamorous,” Hester said. But it works: It keeps the “Jersey Boys” pipeline stocked with performers capable of playing a very big, very satisfying, very challenging role.

Each session of Frankie Camp starts with an invitation to about 50 actors who seem promising. Some were noticed in auditions and other shows, some sent the casting director recordings and headshots. “We really do look at them all,” Hester said. Some were in the right place at the time. (Joseph Leo Bwarie, who plays Frankie in the production at the Fox, was spotted by singer/songwriter Carole King when he was appearing in a different musical. She stuck around to tell him about “Jersey Boys.”)

The performers who are chosen also have to have the right look: 5 feet, 9 inches or shorter and “Mediterranean,” Hester said. “You have to accept that he’s Italian.

“And on top of that, you want somebody with presence, somebody the audience will keep their eyes on.

“We know that we are asking for a lot.”

For the first couple of days, all the performers are asked to sing, read scenes and learn some dance combinations for Hester and his colleagues.

Then they say goodbye to 40 of them.

The 10 who survive the big cut are in for quite a week: dancing lessons with associate choreographer Danny Austin, an intensive acting workshop with Hester or associate director West Hyler, sessions with famed vocal coach Katie Agresta.

Visit to read the full details on Frankie Camp.

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