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Jersey Boys makes its North East premiere at Sunderland Empire

We chat to Sam Ferriday, who plays Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys at Sunderland Empire

Sam Ferriday, Stephen Webb, Matt Corner and Lewis Griffiths in Jersey Boys
Sam Ferriday, Stephen Webb, Matt Corner and Lewis Griffiths in Jersey Boys

Four Seasons songwriter Bob Gaudio once penned the hit Big Girls Don’t Cry.

But it was more a case of Shy Bairns Get Nowt for the actor who is playing him in the first UK tour of Jersey Boys, which arrives at Sunderland Empire this week.

Sam Ferriday was visiting a friend in Nashville, Tennessee, when he took advantage of a chance encounter which ended up with him meeting not just Gaudio but Frankie Valli too.

“I was going to Nashville to see my friend who is in the music business. Bob Gaudio lives in Nashville and my agent and casting team had been sending emails to his team to see if we would be able to meet up, but never heard back,” explains Sam.

“While I was there I noticed that Frankie was playing there too, so I got tickets straight away. I went along to the concert, loved it. Frankie suddenly announced Gaudio was at the back of the auditorium. The spotlight went on him and there was a standing ovation for the man himself.

“He was walking away as the security came over and I chased him into a lift and said `Bob I’m playing you in the UK tour of Jersey Boys’.

“He asked me what my name was, I told him, and he said he knew all about me but hadn’t had the time to sort out a meeting. He asked me if I was alone, I said yes, and he said come back stage and meet Frankie and the gang. He was just a lovely, down to earth man.

Sam Ferriday, who plays Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys
Sam Ferriday, who plays Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys

“I had Frankie sing to me old Motown and Four Seasons hits just feet away from me. It was incredible. I went back to my friend and he asked how the evening went and I said it was one of the most surreal evenings I have ever had. Two great, incredible guys from one of the best bands ever.”

Jersey Boys has been seen by more than 19 million people worldwide and is firmly established as one of the West End’s longest running and most popular shows, where it continues to play at its new home of the Piccadilly Theatre.

It is the remarkable true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their rise to stardom from the wrong side of the tracks. These four lads from New Jersey became one of the most successful bands in pop history, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and sold 175 million records worldwide, all before they turned 30.

The show is packed with their hits, including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December, 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Fallen Angel, Rag Doll and Who Loves You.

Sam, 27, has been a genuine Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons fan since childhood, so his role in the show, at Sunderland Empire from November 25 to December 6, is a dream come true.

“This band means a lot to me,” he says. “Ten years ago I saw the Broadway production and said to my dad that one day I want to be in that show, and here I am 10 years later in it.

“Ten years before that, my Nan, when we were on a family outing trip, played a tape to me in the car. It was Sherry and I was seriously blown away, and from that day on I was a fan.

“The amount of hits that have been written by Gaudio himself, with the help of the late Bob Crewe, is incredible. They are timeless.”

Joining Sam on stage for the North East premiere of Jersey Boys will be local lad Matt Corner. He shares the role of Frankie Valli with Tim Driesen.

“I’m really relishing the opportunity to come back to the North East, where I call home, and bring this show, which has been all over the world, but which hasn’t been to the North East,” says Matt, 24, who grew up in Darlington, is a lifelong Newcastle United fan, attended performing arts at Newcastle College and whose mum’s side of the family hail from South Shields.

“To do the North East premiere is something I am very proud of. I can’t wait.”

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