Thursday, 25 August 2022

INTERVIEW: Michael Pickering, currently starring as Frankie Valli in the UK tour of Jersey Boys

Michael Pickering is currently touring the UK in the smash hit musical Jersey Boys playing the role of Frankie Valli.

Michaels's other credits include Mellors in Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Shaftesbury Theatre, West End), Simeon in Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (London Palladium, West End), Rusty in Starlight Express (Germany), Gremio in Kiss Me Kate (Royal Albert Hall), Rick Moon in Good Morning Hong Kong (Hong Kong), Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar (World Arena Tour), Robin in Batman Live (World Arena Tour), Doody in Grease (Piccadilly Theatre, West End), D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers (Rose Theatre, Kingston) Jack in All The Fun of The Fair (Garrick Theatre, West End), Ensemble cover Pepper in Mamma Mia (International Tour), Ryan in High School Musical (Hammersmith Apollo, West End) and Ensemble cover Boq in Wicked (Apollo Victoria, West End). 

You were previously part of the Jersey Boys company on a previous tour, how does it feel to be back in the show reprising the role of Frankie Valli?

The role of Frankie Valli is a constant challenge, especially whilst travelling. It’s incompletable, so I am very happy to be back playing the role.

You’ve had a while to settle into this tour now, looking back to 2015 when you were part of the show before, how has your interpretation adapted and changed?

The show as a whole hasn’t changed, but there are some very different flavours due to a different and extremely talented cast.

Jersey Boys has truly stood the test of time and remains an audience favourite, why do you think people love this show so much and are still bringing in packed-out houses?

The reason it’s stood the test of time is for one of my favourite reasons – people who don’t like musicals get taken to see this show and leave loving musicals!
It’s an incredible story and a wonderful night out.

Playing a character who is also a real person must come with a lot of challenges, what was your process when approaching this role?

My process with this role is just like any other show. I did my research, but the difference is you are researching a real person so there is a lot of information out there and a lot more knowledge you can obtain to give the best portrayal of the role you can.

As someone who has understudied previously in their career and is now leading a company, what kind of advice would you give to people who are aspiring to be in your position?

My advice would be to work hard. You can be as talented as you want and people can have many opinions about you, you never know when your chance is going to come. Work hard, always be ready and it will pay off.

You’ve been on tour for a while now, which venue would you say has had the wildest audiences?

So the wildest audiences range from Liverpool to Glasgow and we’ve still got many more to visit. But the wildest are not necessarily the best. Me mam always says “you can’t hear a smile!”

And which one, so far, has been your favourite?

We’ve travelled to many beautiful theatres and beautiful places. One close to my heart is Sunderland, obviously – because that’s where I’m from, and we go to Newcastle as well – so I’m very excited about that. But I do have to say that Llandudno and Southampton offered a great lifestyle that made them favourites.

The back catalogue of Frankie Valli and the four Seasons is truly outstanding and is still some of the most well-known music around, what are some of your favourites and which would you say is the best one to perform?

My favourite to perform is Cry For Me, as it’s the first time the lads sing together. In the show, obviously, Can’t Take My Off You is one of my favourites; but in the Frankie back-catalogue, My Mother’s Eyes is my favourite, but unfortunately, the whole song isn’t in the show

Looking back through your career you’ve really done some of the most iconic musicals around including Starlight Express, Joseph, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, and Wicked, to name only a few! If you had to return to one show you’ve done before, which one would it be and why?

This is nearly an impossible question to answer, even just the ones that you have mentioned, Starlight Express – I’d go back to that in a shot – to play Rusty and skate that show in Germany. Jesus Christ Superstar, I’d love to go back and play either Judas or Jesus - I’ve played Peter, but I would love to play another role in that. In most shows I’ve done, I’d like the opportunity to go back, depending on the role and where it’s going.

Jersey Boys is touring through to April 2023, I know this is a while away but what would you like to be doing post-Jersey Boys?

As this industry is so unpredictable, it’s sometimes a mistake to think too far ahead. All you can do is work hard for what you have now, work hard for the future and hope that something comes. I would love to still be performing, I think after this, whatever that may be whether that’s TV, film or another musical; or like the previous question, back in a show I’ve done before. I do love a challenge and I love to be challenged in my performing career.

Are there any parts out there you’d love to have a go at?

The parts I would like to play are endless. I’d love to play, Javert, Valjean. As I’ve previously said, I’d love to play; Jesus, Judas, or the Phantom of the Opera, the list is absolutely endless! I feel very lucky that I feel like I could audition for those shows and have a good chance of getting the role. But auditioning is never a guarantee, there’s a long list –so, if anyone has got a job out there... just ask!

And finally, in one sentence, why should people come and see Jersey Boys?

It’s an incredible night out; It’s an incredible show, from the cast, the crew, wigs, wardrobe, stage management, everybody involved – it’s an incredibly talented group of people, touring an incredible show.  

Jersey Boys continues to play around the country with dates up to April 2023. The show also remains in the West End at the Trafalgar Theatre. 

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