WASHINGTON — He played Frankie Valli in the smash musical “Jersey Boys.”
Now, actor-singer Joseph Bwarie hits Bethesda, Maryland’s AMP by Strathmore at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
“I have a new album that’s coming out called ‘The Good Stuff,’ and I’m really excited about that because it’s more my normal voice,” Bwarie tells WTOP, scrapping the falsetto.
“People say it’s like big band music reminiscent of that style of Michael Bublé and Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick Jr.”
If Bwarie looks familiar, it’s because you saw him at National Theatre in D.C. during two U.S. national tours of “Jersey Boys” in 2009 and 2011. He also opened the show in Las Vegas and has appeared on Broadway, where the Tony-winning musical is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
“My time with the show has sort of sprawled across the U.S.,” Bwarie says.
In total, Bwarie has appeared in more than 1,700 performances, garnering critical acclaim along the way. The Boston Globe wrote, “He soars, without seeming effort, into the upper reaches of the human voice,” while The Washington Post wrote that he “sings like an Earth Angel.'”
The role was a perfect fit, as Bwarie loved the music of The Four Seasons growing up.
“Growing up in Southern California, the oldies station … was what my dad had on in the car. So we knew who the Four Seasons were, we’d sing along with them, so it wasn’t unfamiliar territory. But the story of the guys was what was interesting and new when I first joined the show in 2007.”
Bwarie eventually spoke with the real-life Valli, but the two didn’t discuss the role.
“He’s only told me about the meatball recipe he has. He hasn’t told me how to sing,” Bwarie jokes. “I think there’s a mutual respect for all performers that you don’t really critique someone who’s playing you. … At first, there’s that apprehensive moment, but then you realize he’s just a guy from New Jersey, and I’m just a guy from Sherman Oaks, California.”
They may both be “just guys” from their respective hometowns, but Bwarie will be performing arrangements by the same producer, Charles Calello, who arranged for the original Four Seasons.
The nine-piece band will combine music from multiple decades of the American songbook.
“We’ve got a real swingin’ band and it’s a really fun night of just really solid music. It’s not a lot of flash, it’s just really really great orchestrations, and I get out there in the audience a little bit.”
Bwarie says it’s refreshing to be himself on stage.
“When I’m in ‘Jersey Boys,’ I’m definitely doing a character. … When I’m doing my show, it’s looser and we can go off on tangents … and we can inject a surprise number in the middle of the set.”
This will actually be Bwarie’s first concert since the release of the “Good Stuff” album, meaning D.C. audiences are getting in on the ground floor.
“There’s a lot of surprises,” he says. “Some songs that are not on any album that I’ve recorded.”
He’s also got a Christmas album on the horizon, marking two album releases within a few months.
“Boom, boom, boom,” Bwarie says, to which WTOP’s Bruce Alan quips, “Way to go, Joe.”
“That should be my third album,” Bwarie jokes, “‘Way to Go, Joe.'”
Doors open 90 minutes before the show. Tickets cost $35-$45. Click here for ticket information.