A decade after graduating from Ithaca College, Brandon Andrus ’02 and Colby Foytik ’99 came back to campus last spring to talk with students about their great luck: landing lead roles in the national touring company for the popular Jersey Boys musical.
“Being in Jersey Boys is like getting a golden ticket,” says Foytik, who plays Tommy DeVito, the lead guitar player and baritone vocalist.
While some new musicals stay on Broadway only three to six months, this Tony Award-winning show is still a hit after seven years, spawning two national tours. It tells the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and how these blue-collar guys became one of America’s biggest pop music sensations. Their chart-topping hits in the 1960s included “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
Jersey Boys opened on Broadway in 2005 with another IC connection: Sara Schmidt ’99, who originated and continues to play the role of Frankie’s daughter, Francine Valli. The show won four Tony Awards in 2006, including one for best musical, and a 2007 Grammy for best musical show album.
Foytik and Andrus said it’s a big responsibility to portray real people, but they know they’ve hit the right tone. Original Four Seasons member/songwriter Bob Gaudio saw their previews and was supportive.
The cast performs eight shows a week for about three weeks in each city. This fall’s schedule includes Providence, Rhode Island; Syracuse, New York; New Haven, Connecticut; and Durham, North Carolina.
“It’s as close to job security as an actor as you can get,” says Andrus, who plays bass guitarist and bass vocalist Nick Massi.
Andrus knows just how fleeting a career as an actor can be. His career nearly ended when he developed a nodule in one of his vocal cords that required surgery.
Though they overlapped at IC, the actors didn’t know each other well in college. But their common history helped them connect quickly on stage.
In April, when the tour was in Rochester, New York, the two visited campus for the first time in years and were astounded by the renovations and additions. They told two theatre classes that the work ethic and professionalism they developed at IC have served them well.
Working in musical theatre has been challenging—requiring salesman, bartender, and waiter jobs alongside auditions—but they wouldn’t trade the adventures. Foytik played Perchik in the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof and performed in two musicals in Russia. Andrus’s credits include starring as Curly in a national tour of Oklahoma! and playing Sonny in Xanadu at the Maine State Music Theatre.
Both say they’re grateful to be where they are, even though it’s hard to be away from loved ones. Foytik’s fiancée is in Las Vegas, where he spent 10 months as a minor character in Jersey Boys and got to meet DeVito, the lead guitarist he currently plays in the show. Andrus’s wife is in New York City.
“It’s an amazing story about rags to riches,” said Andrus in an interview. “These guys came from nothing, and they only had two options: either get mobbed up or do something and become a hit. It’s a fascinating story.”
Check the schedule to see when the tour might be coming to a city near you.