SALT LAKE CITY — Actor Aaron De Jesus’ job for the last six years has been to play a Jersey boy, but before he was a Jersey boy, he was a Utah boy.
De Jesus, who currently plays the lead role of Frankie Valli in the New York City off-Broadway production of “Jersey Boys,” grew up in Provo, performing on the stages of Provo High School, Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University) and Brigham Young University before making his way as a professional actor.
“Every little bit of growing up in Utah impacted my career, from singing in Primary to being in choirs in junior high and high school and drama in high school … prepared me for where I am now, and I’m so grateful,” De Jesus, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in an interview with the Deseret News.
Although the actor is part of the New York City cast of the jukebox musical, De Jesus is scheduled to perform with the “Jersey Boys” touring cast as it makes its way to Salt Lake’s Eccles Theater on June 15-17.
“I’m overwhelmed with excitement and emotion to come back (to Utah),” De Jesus said. “We’ve been working on this for several months trying to make this happen and working out all the details. … There’s been a little bit of business to make sure that everything across the board is covered, and when I think about it, I just am very, very excited.”
De Jesus started with the show as part of the Las Vegas production and later became part of the touring cast. He joined the off-Broadway cast last September, but as he left the tour, he made a few things clear.
“When I decided to leave tour and come and do the New York company, even back then a year ago I said, ‘Look, I want to be in New York, but I’m really interested in doing Salt Lake,’” he said.
De Jesus had been trying to get the logistics coordinated to perform in Utah for months when his friend Jonny Wexler, who plays Frankie Valli in the touring cast, had a medical emergency and needed to go on leave.
“I’m not glad he’s injured, but it’s fortuitous that it happened that way,” said De Jesus, who will be filling in on the tour for two weeks, which also includes two stops in California and one in Boise, Idaho. “Having been in a position where I’ve been injured and had to leave the show for a while in the past, it’s always reassuring to know someone’s coming in and that the company is going to be in good hands, and so I’m sure he’s very happy that I can come in and do that.”
“Jersey Boys” tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, using the group’s many hits, including “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “Sherry,” “Working My Way Back to You” and more. It opened on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre in 2005 and closed in early 2017. The show has since opened off-Broadway in New York City at the New World Stages Theatre, where De Jesus normally performs.
“It’s been amazing. I can’t say that I would be able to stand doing the same show every night for 6½ years with other shows, but this show is so good,” he said. “It’s so well-crafted, the script is so great, the music is so great and our producers know how to put together a really great company.”
De Jesus was born in New York City, and he was 5 years old when his family moved to Utah. He began participating in choirs at a young age, but it wasn’t until middle school, when he played Prince Chulalongkorn in a Provo High School production of “The King and I,” that De Jesus started participating in musical theater.
“It definitely ignited that bug for sure,” he said. “It was the beginning, but I had experiences all along the way that kind of fueled that fire as I got older.”
He attended UVSC, where he received an associate’s of arts with a theater emphasis, then transferred to BYU and graduated from the Music Dance Theatre program.
“Everything worked out perfectly and I continued my education. I got more training, which was great; I met my wife, and it was really great,” he said with a laugh. De Jesus and his wife, actress Gail Bennett, have a 6-year-old daughter.1 comment on this story
De Jesus’ parents still live in Utah — his mother in Orem and his dad in Riverton — and he said he doesn’t get to visit as much as he would like, which is one of the main reasons he’s looking forward to his performances in Utah next week. He’s already heard from his immediate family, extended family, childhood friends, high school friends and theater friends that they plan to watch him on the Eccles stage.
“I’m dedicating all my performances (in Utah) to all the people that helped me get to where I am,” he said. “And there are a lot of people in Utah that fit into that category.”
If you go …
What: “Jersey Boys” national tour
When: June 15-17, times vary
Where: Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main
How much: $40-$130
Content advisory: “Jersey Boys” contains strong language and adult themes.