Featured Arts 

Q&A with Matthew Dailey (Tommy DeVito) from “Jersey Boys”

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Simone Garvey-Ewan is a BUZZ Featured Arts blogger and freelance social media consultant. She lives in Orange Park, FL, and loves any and everything artsy.

The “Jersey Boys” is finally here in Jax! If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? For those who have, do you remember the character, Tommy DeVito? Well, here’s a quick glimpse into the real life of the actor, Matthew Dailey, who plays him:

Can you remember your first performance?

I don’t remember my first performance. But I remember the moment when I was about nine years old when I decided I wanted to do theater. I was at a theater in Denver, where I grew up. My parents took me there all the time. I saw a production of “Guys and Dolls.” I was  sitting in the front row, and it was just so fun seeing all these guys out there having so much fun and dancing. They all seemed so happy. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted that feeling. So I immediately started taking classes and lessons and learning. It was exhilarating.

Tell us a little more about Tommy DeVito.

Tommy is this guy from the streets of New Jersey who had a whole lot of brains and drive but not necessarily the talent to get where he wanted to go. So, he finds these other guys that can kind of carry along his plan to get out of the neighborhood and become famous. In his mind, there are only three ways out. You can join the army, the mob or you can become famous. So he is this guy who doesn’t always do the right thing, but he certainly believes he is. He is able to justify any and everything he does. It’s a fun character to play because he is the closest thing there is to a bad guy in the show. Well, there are no bad guys in the show, but he certainly is a destructive force. But he is also incredibly lovable, and the audience has to like him. It’s a lot of fun to play him every night.

Do you two relate?

In certain ways. I’m very driven. I’d like to think I make better choices, but who knows [laughs]. I think what makes it fun is that you can relate to all four of these guys. There’s something about all four of them that makes them unique.

What’s your favorite thing about playing Tommy DeVito?

You know, there are so many. It’s fun to just hang out with those guys every night. They’re my best friends. I travel around the country with them. But I also get to look in the audience and see the smiles and the joy that we bring, and the memories that we can bring back to the people out there. It’s also fun to go out and just dance around and sing great music all night. It’s a lot of fun.

What’s the most challenging?

The most challenging thing as far as the show goes is that the show is so precise, and everything has to be so exact. But at the same time, there has to be some spontaneity to it. It has to feel like it’s the first time I’ve done it. I’ve done it almost 600 times and every time has to feel like the first time I’ve ever done it. It has to be so calculated and so precise because the whole show is timed to music. So everything has to be perfect.

Did you ever want to take another career path?

I go back and forth all the time. There are certainly other careers and avenues that I’d love to pursue one day, but I’m not in any hurry to do that. I figure I have the rest of my life to do whatever it is I want to do. Nothing is a life sentence. Just because you’re a banker one day doesn’t mean you have to be a banker for the rest of your life. I’d love to be a teacher and I’d love to be a radio host. There are all sorts of things that I would love to do. The opportunities are endless.

Why do you think The Jersey Boys is so loved and popular?

I think it’s a combination of things. I think partially it has to do with the incredible music, and the incredible soundtrack that these guys left behind 60 years ago. It’s music that is relatable to a new generation today. People in their 20s still can sing you “Walk Like a Man.” They all know the songs. So, I think it has something to do with that. And when you take that and put it with this incredible story that happens to be true–you know the classic, American underdog story and rags to riches tale–you get this incredible show that ran on broadway for 12 years.

Why did you want to be a part of this production?

I saw the show for the first time in 2006 and just fell in love with it. As a singer and a musician, it was a way to expand my knowledge and challenge me. It was just something I knew I wanted to be a part of the moment I saw it.

When you have a break during rehearsals, what do you do?

I just sit in my dressing room and play the guitar and hang out.

When you’re not onstage or rehearsing, what are you doing?

Also playing guitar [laughs]. I like to read, I like to check out the cities I’m in and explore a little bit. A lot of times we [the guys] go around together or if they don’t want to see the things I want to go see, I’ll just go hang out by myself for a little bit.

Is there anything you wear/do for good luck?

Like superstitions [laughs]? No, nothing too crazy. I like to start every show off by showering right before just to start fresh.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened onstage that you can laugh at now?

[laughs] There was one time I forgot some of my lines in the middle of a show and was just standing there in the spotlight trying to catch up and figure out what was going on around me. That was pretty embarrassing.

“Jersey Boys” is award-winning musical about Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold millions of records worldwide before they were 30! You still have time see Matthew and the rest of the cast in “Jersey Boys.” Catch it at the Times-Union Center now until February 19.