Talented Ben stands tall and shows he’s not short of any musical talent
“ISEEM to have cornered the market in short people,” laughs Ben Evans, a former Hendy lad who is playing Swing and understudying the part of Frankie Valli in the London production of Jersey Boys at the moment.
“I have played Davy Jones in the Monkee Business, the musical based on the Monkees, I was in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings on stage, and now, Frankie Valli.”
New Jersey’s finest might come in a small package, but it is one stuffed with vocal dynamite and attitude, and Frankie must be a fascinating character to take on.
Songs like Sherry, Walk Like A Man, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Rag Doll, might have been irresistible, radio friendly pop, but Valli always had attitude to spare.
And that razor edge to his voice, and the strutting delivery, telegraphed the fact that they were a bunch of street kids, involved in a bit of thieving, who, Frankie himself has said “could wind up in the trunk of a car” rather than becoming rock ‘n roll heroes.
In fact Valli continued to drive a beat up car and to live in a housing project until the mid-1960s, when his success seemed real to him.
A former Mark Jermin Stage School pupil, Ben says that back story gives the show real weight.
“Yes, that is very much a part of who Frankie is and that is what makes the show and the part interesting.
“I like to be one of the lads. I like to have a beer, I like to watch the rugby. In fact I have to be careful if I’m cheering on the team that I don’t blow out my voice these days.
“I am very proud of being from Swansea and from Wales, and Frankie and The Four Seasons are such an important part of their home state — of Jersey history.
“They are legends there and Frankie talks a lot about ‘never forget where you come from’, so I could relate to that side of him.
“I also understudied the part of Joe Pesci, who introduced Bob Gaudio to the group.”
Gaudio, who would pen most of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons smash hits, along with Bob Crewe, was already a mover and shaker on the Jersey scene, with a hit of his own under his belt.
And Ben says Frankie and Pesci, who later got in your face as a tightly coiled gangster in Casino and Goodfellas, looked out for each other.
“Joe is small and Frankie and the boys were small and it really comes out in the play that, being small, people were always trying to take liberties with them so they had to be extra tough.
“Being little myself, and having played rugby when I was younger, I know how important it can be to stand your ground!
Though Ben is barely grazing 30 years old, he was well acquainted with the tunes in Jersey Boys, thanks to his parents, Ian and Paula’s love of music, and thanks to long drives to get to their summer holiday destinations.
“We use to have a camper van so there would always be a long drive to Blackpool and mum and dad would play music all the way — Rod Stewart, Queen, Frankie Valli, Buddy Holly.
“I’m not from a theatrical family at all. “Dad is a plumber and mum works in Marks & Spencer, but music and cinema was always very important in our house, growing up, so it was a good education.
“Before I auditioned for the part I went to see the show in London and I realised I knew all of the songs, they were all filed away there in the back of the brain.”
In fact as a thank you to mum and dad for raising him right, musically speaking, Ben has managed to bag a pair of tickets for them to see the man himself, performing in Birmingham in a couple of weeks time, as part of a rare UK tour.
“While he is being Frankie Valli in Birmingham I might be Frankie Valli in London!
“He is playing the Royal Albert Hall during the tour so I am hoping he will drop in to say hello, that would be incredible.”
While Ben is busy carving a niche for himself in musical theatreland he has never made any secret of the fact that he wants to make inroads into serious drama in time.
And since his sister Lauren works for a casting company, he is hoping to make inroads soon.
“The way you live as an actor you take what comes up and you live one job at a time.
“Lauren just cast Game of Thrones and Les Mis.
“Why didn’t I get a Les Mis part? It was just timing.
“It is often just timing when you are an actor. “But maybe she will be my route into Hollywood” he laughs.
“I am with Jersey Boys for a year and then who knows?
“But I do want to take on some serious drama. I love actors like Michael Sheen who have a connection with home and who can play those demanding, dramatic roles.
“My dream part?
“Probably a gambling, Welsh, heroin addict.
“Or maybe a superhero. In fact James Bond is the one I really want. They might need to replace Daniel Craig soon, and I have been in the gym to prepare, just in case they ask.
”But maybe I’m too short?”