Curtis Wiley is glad to be a part of the genius piece of theater known as “Jersey Boys.”
“Its an incredible story. We all know the music and when I first went to see it, I was floored at how people related to it. Audiences loved it. You know how Black people feel about ‘Dreamgirls?’ That’s the same way people feel about ‘Jersey Boys,’” explained Wiley, the lone African-American in the production. The versatile actor plays a myriad of characters throughout “Jersey Boys” including Hal Miller and Barry Belson.
CURTIS WILEY STARS IN ‘JERSEY BOYS’
Wiley said Blacks shouldn’t dismiss the charm of “Jersey Boys” because of the lack of people of color in the cast.
“‘Jersey Boys’ is damn good. The story is relatable to Black people; to anyone and to everyone who had to pull themselves up and find a way to make it out,” Wiley said. “The Four Seasons were singing everywhere to get noticed, trying to find a way forward.
It’s an American story and that’s why audiences keep coming back to see it. The story is real and it’s happening right now. Audiences across the board will enjoy it and understand it,” Wiley continued.
“Jersey Boys” tells the story of the stardom, fame and eventual break up of the Garden State’s greatest musical group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The jukebox musical, which opened on Broadway in 2005, tells group’s tragic story in four different seasons”—winter, spring, summer and fall—with each member of the Four Seasons sharing their first-hand knowledge.
Hit songs in the musical include “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Sherree” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Oh What A Night,” “Rag Doll,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,”
“Rock and Roll’s roots are in Black culture and Black music, so to in something like ‘Jersey Boys’ and playing in it nightly is a joy and an honor for me,” said Wiley who joined the “Jersey Boys” company in Denver in mid-summer. Wiley replaces a fellow actor who left the show for a role in “Sister Act.” “It was nice to come in to something that specific and to replace a friend. This is new and fresh for me and I get to see it with a new eye.”
“Jersey Boys” will be making its home at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center from Sept. 4 -23.
The musical opened at the August Wilson Theatre in 2005 and won numerous Tony, Grammy and Olivier Awards in 2006. “Jersey Boys” graced Pittsburgh’s cultural district to rave reviews in 2009. The show has been seen by more than 15 million people since its opening. In addition to Pittsburgh, there are currently six productions of “Jersey Boys” playing worldwide including New York, London, New Zealand and Las Vegas.
Wiley is glad to be returning to the Golden Triangle to perform in the iconic musical. He said the last time he was in Pittsburgh was to support his friend, fellow actor Billy Porter, who was performing in “Dreamgirls” as James “Thunder” Early about seven years ago.
“That’s what we do artistically. I love Pittsburgh it has a lovely theater district and it was awesome to support a hometown hero,” said Wiley who moved it New York about six years ago to actively pursue acting on a full-time basis. Since that time, he has held several parts in other musicals including “Ain’t Misbehavin.’” “Avenue X,” “Five Guys Named Moe,” and “Miss Saigon.”
Most recently Wiley spent 14 months in the national tour of Disney’s “The Lion King” as the understudy for Simba. He currently works at New York University helping students in pursuit of their master’s degree in theater with their thesis projects to write new musicals.
“My first love is new work because shows like ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘The Lion King’ are already perfected. There’s nothing like building things from the ground up. I thrive in environments that are changing and bringing fourth new ideas. That’s one of the reasons I like living in New York. It is a place where things are constantly changing and there really is magic for a creative person,” Wiley said.
In his limited spare time, Wiley enjoys reading, writing and finding new challenges for himself. Currently he is learning to speak German.
When asked what advice he has for aspiring actors and actresses, Wiley was quick to answer: “Acting is not an easy life. On TV it looks glamorous, but the reality of it is that a small percentage of people end up on TV or on Broadway. The rest are off somewhere developing something,” he said.
“But I know that I am doing what I was made to do. The lifestyle is secondary to that and once I realized that, I began to make it a point of saying yes to everything and that has opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”
“Jersey Boys” is part of the PNC Bank Broadway Across America-Pittsburgh Series presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Symphony and Broadway Across America.
(Tickets for the production start at $29 and can be purchased by calling 412-456-4800 or visiting www.trustarts.org or www.JerseyBoysTour.com.)