Another Pebblebrook graduate will take the stage in a Broadway show when “Jersey Boys” comes to the Fox Theatre, starting May 22 at 8 p.m. Carlos Valdes, a 2007 graduate, said coming to America from his native Colombia allowed him to fulfill his dream of being a professional performer.
Valdes, 23, came to the U.S. when he was 5. His family moved to Miami first and settled in Marietta when he was around 12 years old. He said actors such as Jim Carrey got him interested in performing.
“I immediately absorbed American culture,” he recalls. “I was so fascinated by the entertainment value and putting on a show for people — making people happy and being responsible for that.”
After auditioning for “West Side Story” as a sophomore in high school, Valdes landed the part of Chino. Although he wasn’t originally interested in musicals, Valdes said, “I hadn’t realized what an important part of my life music was in addition to acting.”
Valdes majored in drama and minored in vocal performance at the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts. He then went to the University of Michigan and majored in musical theater.
After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2011, he spent some time in Chicago working on a musical project but later came to New York City, where he lives now.
“The set path for people with elite Broadway dreams is they do their training and they just hit the city,” Valdes said. “They audition until they work their way up the ladder or explode on the scene.” He was able to connect with agents through a performance showcase, began to audition and landed “Jersey Boys.”
The 2006 Tony Award winner for Best Musical tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, a singing group from New Jersey that created an innovative sound that led them to become one of the most successful groups in pop music history.
The group has sold 175 million records worldwide and has been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their signature songs include “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
The actors portraying the group members are Brandon Andrus (Nick Massi), Colby Foytik (Tommy DeVito), Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio) and Brad Weinstock (Frankie Valli). Valdes was cast as a swing. Similar to an understudy, he is responsible for knowing five different parts — including Valli — at any given point and time. With two hours before showtime last December in Philadelphia, he got the chance to do just that.
“It was definitely, absolutely the most difficult, unbelievable theater experience I have ever had in my entire life,” he said. “It’s a 2½-hour show, and Frankie Valli practically never leaves the stage. It’s pretty much non-stop energy. I remember the first time was like this purging, Baptismal experience.”
Portraying the music legend is a responsibility he is proud to take on. “I feel so fortunate and humbled by that experience simply because you get the chance to render an American cultural icon on stage,” Valdes said. “People not only get to have a glimpse into an incredibly important figure in the development American culture and music — I get to tell a touching and personal story. People are there reliving that music and reliving that time.”
Coming back to Georgia and performing at the Fox Theatre is another accomplishment.
“I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “Like the Frankie Valli experience, I feel incredibly humbled. (The Fox Theatre) is so gorgeous, majestic and huge.”
It’s also been more than a year since Valdes has been back home. Although he has learned to live life on the road, he is looking forward to hanging out at the Marietta Square and “hitting up Sweet Treats!”
Valdes advises students at Pebblebrook to trust their instincts when it comes to pursuing their professional goals. “You have to possess and certain sense of intuition about what kind of being you are — what you do and what you love. You have to listen to that instinct. … You should follow it, and you shouldn’t be afraid of it,” he said. “Hard work can get you anywhere. I work hard at what I do because I love it so much and I want it so much. I think determination should be something that’s valued. Chase your dreams.”
So what’s in store for audiences at “Jersey Boys”?
“Expect an amazing story told with an unbelievable backdrop of great music that completely defined an American sonic culture. It’s a classic rags-to-riches story about an iconic group,” Valdes said. “People should come to not only learn about an important group but also to just have a good time. If you come to ‘Jersey Boys,’ you’re going to have a good time — that’s for sure.”