Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the men that brought the world songs such as “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man,” will be gracing the Wharton’s stage this September, or at least the men portraying them, in the Tony Award-winning play “Jersey Boys,” which is celebrating its fifth year on its National Tour.
“I saw the play on Broadway and every member of the ensemble, from the cast to the pit to the creative team, played a very specific role in it. Seeing that show took what we do [as performers] to a different level and really inspired me,” said Lauren Decierdo, who plays Lorraine in the national tour of “Jersey Boys” and also played her in the original Chicago production.
While “Jersey Boys” has been a giant inspiration for Decierdo she found her love for the theater long before she saw “Jersey Boys.” A church choir singer the majority of her life, and always creating characters at home, she got bit with the theater bug while in high school, during which time she did community theater in the Chicago area, which lead to the play that would changer her life, “The Wizard of Oz.”
“It was a two-month run, which is pretty long [for community theater], but everyday I loved it more and more,” said Decierdo. “This show made me realize this is what I wanted to do and that is wasn’t just a hobby.”
Luckily for Decierdo she had a whole lot of support once she decided that this was what she wanted to do, including very supportive parents, who were more than willing to search for colleges and drive her to every rehearsal, without being the overbearing stage parents that seem to always be seen on TV shows, like Lifetime’s “Dance Moms.”
“I always loved to dance and sing,” said Decierdo. “My parents were the ones that were like ‘Hey, there’s a career for that.’”
While searching for colleges Decierdo found Baldwin-Wallace College, in which she participated in their Conservatory of Music program, where performers are not only taught to hone the gift that they have but they also learn the business side of things, an important aspect of being a performer trying to break into the business. Students are taught that they have to love it all, including grueling rehearsals and “all the nitty gritty of what we do.”
With all of her knowledge from Baldwin-Wallace on the night of graduation Decierdo and a group of girlfriends packed up the car and went to New York, taking their hopes and dreams with them.
“I just felt ready and it was so exciting. New York has always been a good experience for me.” In other words Decierdo doesn’t have one of those horror stories that seem to be so common with young performers trying to get their big break.
Once Decierdo was in New York she went on constant auditions and was in plays such as “A Chorus Line,” where she played Casey, and the touring company of “Pippin.”
But along with the yes’s there were also some no’s, including the first time she auditioned for “Jersey Boys.”
“I was told to come back when I originally auditioned because I was too young,” said Decierdo. She was also told that she needed to go through some heartbreak in order to play a character like Lorraine, which Decierdo hadn’t at the time.
“I feel like the beautiful thing about Lorraine is that she is a very strong, confident woman but so in love with Frankie and knows that in those key moments she will never be first in line. He’ll always choose music first.”
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how one looks at it, Decierdo would go on to have a relationship somewhat like Lorraine and Frankie’s, where she had deep heartbreak and a understanding for where Lorraine was coming from, which helped when she auditioned again.
When Decierdo auditioned again in New York, about a year later, she was told that one could tell that she had been through something and had a deeper understanding of being hurt so badly.
This time her audition was for the Chicago production, where there was a series of five callbacks, in which Decierdo said it gets a little more stressful each time and that you have to just keep praying that you are what they want. If the audition process wasn’t stressful enough the last call back included Frankie Vallie and Bobby Gaudio, two people that the show is about, who give the last call about performers.
“I must have been the first audition right after lunch, because I almost walked right into them when I was getting into the elevator,” said Decierdo. “Frankie kind of smiled and said ‘Hi there, how are you?’ and I just said ‘HIII!!’ They were both so nice.”
And they must have liked Decierdo since she was cast in that original Chicago production, as mentioned above, and was asked to come back for this portion of the National Tour. Within that week of getting cast she also feel in love with the man that is now her husband, Shawn.
“It was a really good week,” she said, with a smile that could be heard through the phone.
So how does one keep a solid relationship going while part of the pair is traveling all over the country?
“We see each other every two week, which is really nice. We get to have all of these mini vacations all over the country,” said Decierdo.
Since Shawn is a TV and film actor he doesn’t have to be the office come Monday, so he can come out for a few days. Him being an actor also helps, because he can really understand the live that his wife lives, since he’s in the same realm of performing.
While all of this is extremely important there is one thing that Decierdo seems to live by and that’s to really trust who you are.
“You can’t change yourself or think that doing so would be bettering yourself or you chances. You have to really know who you are, invest in that and don’t change that for the world.”