In the tradition of bringing you something new and different, I’m bringing you a real treat. You may not recognize his name, but Joseph Leo Bwarie is quickly becoming the face and the voice that’s taking the world by storm. Known primarily for his stunningly beautiful falsetto vocals as Frankie Valli on Broadway in the musical Jersey Boys this guy is popping up everywhere.
Most recently in the show stopping number during the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with his Jersey Boys cast , to performing on Wall Street for the stock exchange tree lighting, and ringing the closing bell. His sophomore album, “The Good Stuff” delivers on its promise and brings a lot to the table. While not the typical genre for many of my readers, I feel it’s important to support art in all its forms. Even this hard core, well seasoned rocker chick has a not so secret love for the classics, and Bwarie never disappoints. It was an honor and a privilege to sit down and have a nice chat about his music, his philanthropy, and allow him to set the record straight on what brought him to Broadway. His talent is only surpassed by his magnanimous personality.
The first thing I had to do was get my “fan girl” ravings out of the way. Ever since I heard him sing in Jersey Boys, and got a taste of his first album, “Nothing But Love” (have a listen here: ), I was ready to know more about him, and why he chooses to sing the classics. The truth is his range in incredible, and I was honestly surprised that the albums, while the eras they are, don’t sound a thing like his portrayal of Frankie Valli, but that isn’t a bad thing. To the contrary, it was refreshing to hear something different and know he didn’t just try to cheat us by singing in the style he was known for. He sings the classics because they are his “favorite” and a “lost art”, and he always records in the traditional way with live musicians. The energy just bursts from the album. “The Good Stuff” is a collaboration with Tio Puente Jr. and world famous Brazilian percussionist Paulinho da Costa , and is, as he describes, the “South Beach, Miami swing of the late 50’s and 60’s”. He describes his creative process in one of the best ways I’ve ever heard. “Here’s my train, would you like to get on? My train has a horn section, and arrangements, and all that matters.” In other words, he puts his heart and soul into everything he puts out there, right down to the cover art.
I tried my best to pin him down to naming a favorite song from the album, mostly to give my reader who don’t typically listen to this genre, a single song to give it a try. Joseph gave me a playful scolding comparing my asking that to “asking a parent which child is their favorite”, telling me “They are all very different, yet they all work together, similar to short stories that come together with on thematic idea”. Gee Thanks Joseph…. finally, I did get him to at least narrow it down that “with ‘Blue Skies’ we did something really special as well as ‘My Foolish Heart’, really special”.
Then we had to talk about Jersey Boys for a minute. I had read a version of how he got the role, but decided to just ask him for his version instead of that long drawn out version that’s been posted and reposted, and guess what, there’s way more behind it. He was working in California on a musical based on the seventies television show Happy Days, playing Chachi, the young cousin of Arthur Fonzerelli aka “The Fonz”. Since it was an original show and not from a score, he was able to discuss with writer Paul Williams his ability to “sing the part an octave up”. After Paul Williams questioned if he knew how high that would be, he said “I do. I can sing it and that falsetto will give you the full 50’s sound you’re looking for. One night singer/ composer Carole King came to the show and suggested I audition for a show called Jersey Boys. I was immediately cast in the Las Vegas show, followed by the touring show and finally on Broadway.” He still holds the record for the most performances as Frankie Valli, well over 2,000 and counting.
This isn’t all. Even with everything he has going on professionally, he also make time to support several charities dear to his heart including Broadway Cares, the primary charity of the Broadway community. He is a captain for the rare cancer fighting charity Cycle for Survival , and also supported the Covenant House, New York youth shelter by Joining over 100 other Broadway professionals for the Broadway sleep out. All of which have a “special connection” with him. In 2016, he will be performing select dates with his “big little band”. Look for an update from me coming soon on this fabulous guy and his music.
Written by Belinda Glass Reedy.