Luke Suri on playing the role of a lifetime as Frankie Valli in ‘Jersey Boys’

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

There are a lot of similarities between the multi-award-winning artist Frankie Valli and Jersey Boys's latest leading man, Luke Suri. Both started their careers in the local scene: Valli was one quarter of a New Jersey house band, while Suri auditioned for a Yorkshire-based theatre company. After decades of hard work, Valli and his Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And now, after a decade, Suri achieves his dream of starring in a West End show.

“For me as an untrained performer, it really is everything that I’ve ever worked on,” said Suri. He climbed the ladder, working his way from cruise ships and hotels, to appearing in the Jersey Boys UK tour, and now Jersey Boys in the West End.

We chatted to Luke Suri about playing a musical icon, what it takes to emulate Frankie Valli on stage, and his nontraditional journey to the West End.

Jersey Boys is at the Trafalgar Theatre.

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You were previously the alternate Frankie Valli on the Jersey Boys tour, and now you’re making your West End debut as Frankie Valli. What’s it like to be in a West End show?

I never went to drama school or college for performing arts, so for me as an untrained performer, it really is everything that I’ve ever worked on for the past 10 years. To be here in London in a fantastic show is a dream come true.

How did you get into the industry?

I left school at 18 and I ended up working for a company based in Yorkshire. At the time, they were the sole entertainment provider for Thomson cruise ships. I auditioned for them with a blank CV and a passport photo — I didn't even know what a headshot was!

I went into that audition and they took a chance on me. Straight after that I ended up doing some touring pantomimes, holiday parks, and hotels. It’s been a step ladder from hotels to West End leads within 10 years.

When I was working on ships or in hotels, I got to do a lot of different genres: rock, pop, musical theatre. So to go from learning and memorising eight different shows, just remembering one for Jersey Boys is very different. You want to start playing around but at the end of the day, you need to make sure you keep it at a place where the creative team are happy and the audience are responding the correct way.

When you're at school and everybody was like, “What do you want to be when you're older?” I always wanted to be a pop star. I don't think it ever changed — even now I still want to be a pop star.

And now you’re playing the pop star Frankie Valli! Did you know much about Frankie Valli before the show?

I’d heard of the musical whilst I was growing up in my teens, and I’d heard the songs “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Walk Like a Man.” The one that a lot of Brits may be most familiar with is “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” as it was covered by Andy Williams. When I worked with Bob Gaudio, he said he really enjoyed the Andy Williams version — he enjoyed his work on a different voice.

What was the vocal session with Bob Gaudio like?

Oh it was amazing. At the time, I’d seen Blair Gibson [who played Bob Gaudio on the UK tour] for the past three weeks as a young Bob Gaudio. To then meet the actual Bob (on Zoom, we were still coming out of COVID,) in a recording studio with Bob on the screen giving us notes on what he was telling Frankie at that time when they originally did the songs. It’s such a great memento to keep knowing that Bob Gaudio was at the other end, recording, listening and guiding.

Who are your musical inspirations?

Ben Platt. Growing up, people always said to me “Do I have an idol?” and up until Ben Platt, I didn’t. I was obsessed with Disney stars because that was the craze at the time for the age. When I listened to Ben Platt’s music now and his career, I think that's what I want to be able to do. Plus his voice is sublime. I'd love to meet him just to say thank you.

Frankie Valli is very well known for his falsetto singing. How do you train and then also maintain that part of your voice to keep healthy?

I've always had quite a high-set voice, and the way I speak is naturally higher. I’ve always been more in tune with that side of my voice as opposed to the lower register.

I do warm up, though, and the rest of the guys who play the Four Seasons [Benjamin Yates as Tommy Devito, Adam Bailey as Bob Gaudio, and Karl James Wilson as Nick Massi] are constantly saying “Oh, Luke, you should warm up more.” I warm up for at least an hour before the show because it's such a big thing such a demanding role.

It’s just a case of taking care of my voice. At the end of the day, your voice is a muscle — you wouldn’t go to the gym every day and work that same muscle constantly without warming up, stretching, or keeping hydrated. In a way, you are an athlete, and you've got to keep making sure you're doing the right things for you. But on the other hand, we try not to stress ourselves out too much.

What’s it like working with your fellow Four Seasons?

It’s such a demanding role. I do sometimes think, “Is my voice good enough today, am I strong enough to do this?” Thankfully, Ben, Adam, and Karl look after me. They’ve been on the show for a year. I was the only new Season that came in. They look after me so much. They really care for me and they’re so experienced. All of them have worked constantly, so it’s nice to be taken under all three of their wings. They can teach me the tricks of the trade, where to go, and what to do.

What's your favorite Jersey Boys song to sing in the show?

It changes all the time. I think my favourite one to sing is “My Eyes Adored You.” There’s two songs in the show where I don’t have to sing like Frankie Valli: “My Eyes Adored You” and “Fallen Angel,” because they’re the two songs which aren’t placed in the story in real time. “Walk Like a Man” and “Sherry” are sung when we’re on the Ed Sullivan Show, whereas the two not in the story are internal songs. It's good to sing like Luke for a few minutes.

Do you see yourself in Frankie Valli?

Yeah I do! Frankie didn’t train. Frankie was a street kid with a talent. I didn’t train and got to where I needed to be. Looks wise, I think I look quite similar to Frankie as well. I have the nice olive skin that Frankie had. I’d also like to think I’m a humble and nice person. And Frankie decided that he always put the boys in front of the band.

Photo credit: Jersey Boys (Photo courtesy of production)

Originally published on

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