Park Ridge singer is a ‘Jersey Boy’
Nick Cosgrove, shown outside Chicago's Bank of America Theatre, portrays Frankie Valli at two performances each week in “Jersey Boys.” | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Media
Through June 3
Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago
(800) 775-2000; broadwayinchicago.com
Updated: May 22, 2012 9:17PM
He may not have honed his singing skills under a corner streetlamp on the tough streets of New Jersey, but for actor Nick Cosgrove, who stars in “Jersey Boys” at the Bank of America Theatre through June 3, the living room lights of his suburban Chicago home were just as bright — and inspiring.
Born and raised in Park Ridge, Cosgrove graduated from Maine South High School and went on to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, double-majoring in music and theater. After working in summer stock in St. Louis “every summer break from college,” Cosgrove says he eventually auditioned for the Tony Award-winning musical, landing the role of Frankie Valli, which he performs on Tuesday nights and at Wednesday matinees in the current national tour (his first Broadway musical).
The 24-year-old actor, with a four-octave vocal range, talked about playing to the hometown crowd.
Q: How did you decide that a life in theater was the road you wanted to take?
A: I sang before I could talk, and I didn’t talk until I was 3. But then I started watching “Sesame Street” and my mom got me these Disney DVDs and suddenly I was singing all over the house. Then I started singing in church at Our Lady of Ransom in Niles and cantoring when I was in second grade. I was so short I couldn’t even reach the podium. But I liked singing in front of people. The first time I officially performed in a play was at Maine South when they were having auditions at my grammar school for third-graders [to play the kids] for “The Will Rogers Follies.” I played the youngest one, Freddie Rogers. That led to a talent show at my grammar school where I dressed up in a pinstriped suit and sang Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
Q: So Sinatra’s music was a big part of your childhood?
A: I grew up hearing Sinatra. My mom loved him. My Grandpa Cosgrove would listen to Sinatra and then hear me sing and he would call me The Voice. We’d listen to “Mob Hits,” Tony Bennett. I was listening to oldies and Etta James.
Q: You portray Frankie Valli twice a week. How similar is your voice to his, which is just so distinctive — and high?
A: (Laughs.) Growing up I was a boy soprano. Then my voice changed, but it’s always been a very high tenor voice. I was trained classically as a singer and it’s been such a huge help with my vocals. In college I started singing more pop and getting my voice the kind of training that really helps in this show, but I wasn’t necessarily working on a falsetto. That was just ingrained in my voice since I was a kid, so it just comes naturally.
Q: Was it hard for you to be the guy with the soprano voice in high school?
A: (Laughs.) Actually, it was cool because I had so many different interests. I was president of student council, taught dance class, was a Phys Ed counselor. So in some ways I kinda made it cool to do theater and sing and be in musicals and be a physical education champ. I got picked on by some jocks, but then I actually beat them out for a Phys Ed award.
Q: Were you a fan of the Four Seasons before you joined this show?
A: I knew a lot of Frankie’s music growing up, like “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” and all the covers of that, especially Lauryn Hill’s version. But I love what they call “the big three”: “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” It’s just a dream role to sing 27 songs in two and a half hours. “Jersey Boys” is why I went into musical theater. I saw the play in Chicago when I was in high school and from that day I said that’s what I want to do with my life. So in a way, Frankie Valli is like my Mama Rose (from the musical “Gypsy”).
Q: You and other “Jersey Boys” castmates got to sing
the National Anthem at
Wrigley Field in April. What was that like, and why is that song so hard for singers to perform?
A: That was just beyond awesome. I grew up a Cubs fan, so it was just a dream come true. I do love the Sox, too. I just don’t know why people have so much trouble with the song. I got to sing it as part of a group so it was cool. Singing it solo? Maybe they’re just nervous because it’s the words that throws them. There’s really nothing to the melody that’s difficult.
Q: What are some of your favorite haunts in Chicago?
A: I’m gonna definitely go to the Shedd Aquarium because that jellyfish exhibit is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I love Navy Pier so I’ll be going there. And hopefully catch some theater, if I have time.