Bob Gaudio was 19-years-old when he got his first real break in the music business. One of the founding members of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the teenage singer-songwriter penned the song “Sherry” 15 minutes before a group rehearsal in 1962.
Several months later it became their first - of many - #1 hits, with the group going on to become one of the most successful bands in pop history.
So it seems only fitting that Novocastrian actor Declan Egan’s first real break also came at the age of 19 after he was selected to portray Gaudio in an Australian version of the international smash hit musical Jersey Boys.
The former Hunter School of Performing Arts student had been auditioning for productions for several months before he secured one of the lead roles in the show, which charts the remarkable true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their rise to stardom from the wrong side of the tracks.
He made his professional theatre debut with Jersey Boys in November 2011 and spent more than a year touring with the production around Australia and New Zealand.
Fast forward five years and it is the role of Gaudio that has once again marked a career milestone for Egan, with the now 25-year-old fulfilling a long-held dream to tread the boards in one of the world’s most renowned theatre districts – London’s West End.
Joining the cast of the long-running UK version of the production in March this year was a real “pinch me” moment for Egan – the show first opened in London at the Prince Edward Theatre in 2008 and has been at its current location at the Piccadilly Theatre for more than two years.
It celebrated its 8th anniversary in London in April this year and with no end to audiences’ demand to see it in sight, the show recently extended its booking period at the Theatre until April 2017, releasing 250,000 new tickets.
Worldwide, the show has been seen by more than 23 million people – a fact that Egan told intouch Magazine still blows his mind.
“When I sit down to think about it, it actually feels pretty surreal,” he said.
“Every night the crowds are dancing and taken on a journey because of this slick amazing show and I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of it.
“I’m absolutely loving it! It’s very exciting to be a part of such a big, thriving theatre community (and I’m) very proud to be flying the Australian flag on the West End stage.”
The glitz and glamour of the West End is certainly a long way from Egan’s childhood in Newcastle, where he first started to explore his love of acting and music after moving to Cardiff Heights at the age of nine.
“I was always interested in performing and the arts,” he said.
“My parents enrolled me at Young People’s Theatre for classes and I adored it. Eventually, I started getting involved in their productions and my love continued to grow and grow from there.”
Egan’s school years also fuelled this passion before later studying Voice at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music and going on to hone his craft at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), completing a Diploma of Music Theatre.
“I have always been interested in stories, acting and music! When I discovered musical theatre it seemed perfect for me as it marries everything I love into a wonderfully joyous experience,” he said.
“Going to Hunter School of Performing Arts was amazing because I was surrounded by other creative friends who are now also working in the industry and creating new work.
“We all encouraged each other and were inspired by our wonderful teachers to create and play with new ideas.
“I think I have a lot to offer because at that early age I was acting and experimenting with new things.
“I feel the confidence that school instilled in us has made me fearless when it comes to acting.”
Fearless or not, that doesn’t stop him from admitting to feeling a few butterflies in the stomach before he goes on stage!
“I still do get nervous,” he said.
“We’re talking about live theatre you know, every night is different, and you never know what could happen.
“That’s exciting but also makes the nerves reappear most nights.”
Balancing out the nerves, of course, is Egan’s intimate knowledge of the role, born out of his experiences both in the UK and Australia.
“I’ve definitely grown into Bob. The show sees him through a lifetime so I think the grounded, older side comes more naturally now,” he said.
“I got this role when I was 19, I’m now 25 so naturally with age, experience and growing confidence I understand the role and myself as a performer more.
“The most enjoyable part of this job is telling this story to the audience, giving them a great night! Their faces at the end of the show and at stage door are so joyous and to realise you were part of that experience for them is pretty fulfilling.”
It’s little wonder audiences leave on such a high, with the show packed with a string of hit songs from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December, 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Fallen Angel, Rag Doll and Who Loves You.
Performing so many songs each night can also take its toll on the actors, with Egan very conscious about keep his voice in optimum condition. But he said sticking to a strict regime is a small sacrifice he is more than willing to make for what continues to be a thrilling ride.
“It can be exhausting,” he said.
“We all have our own rituals. I try to make sure I’m sleeping well - eight hours at least every night. I also keep talking during the day to a minimum and I drink mass amounts of water before the show.
I would say the most challenging aspect of my job as an actor is the sacrifices I have made to make it to this level and every now and then feeling homesick.
“But I do love what I do! I really am so grateful for this opportunity! I hope being in the West End opens up options for me to travel as an actor and tell stories and perform all over the world.”