By Andrew Gans
12 Apr 2014
Here, via email, we hear from Broadway singing actor Joseph Leo Bwarie, who currently plays Frankie Valli six performances a week in the Tony-winning Best Musical Jersey Boys at the August Wilson Theatre.
What show recently impressed you?
Broadway, in general, impresses me. But what really inspires me are the performances. Rachel Bay Jones in Pippin. Billy Porter in Kinky Boots. Jessie Mueller and my fellow Frankie, Jarrod Spector, in Beautiful. And my pal, Andy Karl, in Rocky. Andy and I have played opposite each other twice: Fonzie and Chachi in Happy Days and Tommy and Frankie in Jersey Boys. He is an actor you want to be on stage with – a real pro. But the most “impressive” event I have just seen is Book of Mormon’s Rory O'Malley in his one-man show Pub Crawl at Joe’s Pub. He and Stephen Oremus (and band) delivered a night to be remembered.
What production are you most excited to see?
I am in a unique position. I do not perform on Wednesday or Saturday matinees. So, I am able (and take advantage of that opportunity) to see friends around the Broadway 'hood. Last week I saw an early preview of Bullets Over Broadway, and I am excited to go back after their opening to see what the final show turns out to be. As you can see, it’s the process that is always the most interesting and exciting to me. Still, next on the list to check out is Heathers. I mean, come on… it’s Heathers.
A revival, huh? I would like to revive my high school senior role of George M. Cohan in George M. Shouldn’t we bring back a little Americana? Or could there be a shorter, Mediterranean Cornelius in Hello, Dolly!? That would be fun. Sign me up for that, please.
What are your current/upcoming projects?
Let me start by saying, you are talking to a guy from a family of workaholics. Truth be told, the Frankie role keeps me busy. Still, I have a few projects in the works. It has been a long time in the making, but this year I will release my second solo album and collaboration with original Four Seasons arranger Charlie Calello. Sound-wise, it’s a continuation of my first release "Nothin’ But Love" – an old-school, big band record with a modern edge that has become a favorite on XM Siriusly Sinatra. Who knows… maybe a NY concert date will be in my future. Switching gears and staying true to my workaholic tendencies, I have reunited with my writing partners in California and with the help of speakerphone, Skype and Facetime, we are in the process of penning a new project. It’s a long, slow process, but very creative and so different from Jersey Boys. Finally, when the cards are in my favor, I always make time to work with a mentor of mine, and a very funny man, Mr. Garry Marshall. We work well together - he and I both like to break for pudding.
On March 1, 2014, I participated in Cycle For Survival – a nationwide indoor cycling event to raise funding for rare cancer research at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Through the generous contributions of many, I raised over $21,000 for the fight against cancer. Since 2007 an incredible $51.5 million has been raised to beat rare cancers. 2014 participants across the country brought in nearly $20 million.