Liverpool has proved a happy place and a lucky city for Simon Bailey – so it’s no surprise the actor and singer is looking forward to getting back to the Mersey when he arrives as part of the cast of Jersey Boys.
Not only is one of his best mates from Liverpool, but a decade ago Simon also trod the boards here in the Royal Variety Performance in front of the Queen as part of vocal group Teatro.
He went on to play anti-hero Thompson from accounts in Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi, staged at the Playhouse as part of Capital of Culture year celebrations.
And there’s more.
“Oddly enough, some of the biggest job offers, my agent has always called me when I’m in Liverpool,” says the 36-year-old.
“When I was first offered Phantom of the Opera (he played Raoul), I was by the docks having a coffee. When I was offered Jersey Boys I was in my friend’s parents’ house in Birkenhead.
“So many amazing things have happened to me when I’ve been in Liverpool. And I love the city, it’s so friendly, I love the people, so I can’t wait to get back.”
It’s also a return to Jersey Boys for the performer, who played the role of Tommy DeVito in the West End for a year.
DeVito, now 89, founded the group which later morphed in to the Four Seasons, although he left in 1970 and had a chequered few years gambling and ending up doing a stretch inside.
He later became a record producer and got roles in a number of films. And he and the other Four Seasons were inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
"To know that person is still walking the Earth while you’re telling his story from 50 years ago, it’s a very surreal situation,” says Bailey, “but also, now with YouTube, I’ve seen relatively recent clips of Tommy from five or 10 years ago, and he’s been talking about things…it’s good to see clips of him now because you see the character traits he’s taken on, so therefore, where he is now, you can see where he was leading to.
“Obviously the years we cover in this show are huge, so you can kind of incorporate where his characteristics there would come in. So it helps to shape how you play him, and he’s a lot of fun to play, let’s put it that way!”
Bailey admits he had coveted the role for many years before he was offered it – since the press night of the original Jersey Boys opening in London in 2008.
Being a similarly suited and booted four-strong vocal group, Teatro were invited to attend.
Bailey wasn’t sure he really knew much about The Four Seasons or their music, but laughs: “Within about five minutes, I thought, wow, this is something else! And Tommy starts the show, and that could be the reason why, but I love the character of Tommy DeVito. But when I was watching it with my friends I just tapped them on the shoulder and went – I’m having that part! That was it.
“I had to wait a little while, but once the door was slightly ajar I made sure I kicked it down and made my way in, and I’m so very, very pleased it’s worked out the way it has.
“It genuinely is one of those dream parts, it’s so much fun to play.”
Simon Bailey (second right) in Jersey Boys. Above: As Thompson in Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi. Photo: Robert Day.
Being in a close-knit, close-harmony singing group was also good training for creating that same chemistry with the other actors in Jersey Boys.
Bailey appeared in the West End with Declan Egan (Bob Gaudio), while Michael Watson (Frankie Valli) and Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi) have also both appeared in national productions of the show.
“Without question, it has that wonderful rhythm to it, that fast-paced, New Jersey, New York-feel, and that’s what makes the show so very exciting,” he enthuses of the production.
And of course it has all those instantly recognisable Four Seasons songs too, from Big Girls Don’t Cry and Sherry to Walk Like a Man, Working My Way Back to You and 1963 (Oh What a Night).
Bailey grins: “Genuinely, even after a year, and now revisiting them, there isn’t one song I’m remotely bored of. Even if it’s not my song, when they start, I’m singing along.”
Jersey Boys is at the Liverpool Empire from January 10-20. Tickets from the website HERE