Since making his theatre debut in the current Jersey Boys UK Tour as Alternate Frankie Valli, Luke Suri has now joined the West End cast as lead Frankie Valli at the Trafalgar Theatre, and along with his fellow West End cast members, they performed live on This Morning before Luke started his run in London. Previously, Luke was a production vocalist on cruise lines, and he toured internationally with the pantomime Aladdin, which saw him tour for six months in China. Luke also has a TikTok account and YouTube channel, with his videos for Heartstopper the Musical proving a hit with viewers, and he has plans to upload more content. Answering our questions, Luke speaks about joining the West End cast of Jersey Boys as Frankie Valli, making his theatre debut on tour with the show and performing with the West End cast on This Morning.
Having taken over the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys at the Trafalgar Theatre, what were you looking forward to most for joining the West End cast?
I couldn’t wait to start performing with the new cast and the handful of previous cast who stayed on. Jersey Boys is such a great show in terms of plot and absolute bangers but what makes it so special is the writing and how each actor plays that script across. When in rehearsals I could see that this was going to be a stellar cast and I can’t wait to see how our characters develop.
You recently performed on This Morning with the West End cast, how did you find the experience being on the show?
Honestly, it was an absolute dream! The boy who never had any training to be a performer managed to tick two bucket list dreams off the list in a matter of 48 hours! National TV appearance and West End announcement in the space of two days! The show was so fun to do and so relaxed, which was good because despite what you saw, I was an absolute bag of nerves! This was LIVE TV, you only need to mess it up once and it’s immortalised on YouTube forever! Meeting Phil (Schofield) and Holly (Willoughby) was such a blur, I mean, these people are usually on my TV not at arm’s distance away! I was absolutely starstruck! Being able to perform with the boys for the first time was also amazing. I remember watching Jersey Boys in London last year before I even auditioned for the role and thought wow, these gents are phenomenal. Fast forward nine months and I get to the perform with them! Quite a momentous moment!
You made your theatre debut in the current UK Tour of Jersey Boys as Alternate Frankie Valli, what is Frankie Valli like to portray and is there anything you enjoy most about performing in the role?
Playing a real person is always tricky because without speaking to the person it’s hard to understand what they were going through at that time in their life and how they felt, but thankfully, with the help from all the directors and creatives, I managed to understand and portray as much as I could from all the fantastic stories we were told. Playing Frankie Valli is naturally a challenge as there is so much to take in and take a hold of, from his younger years to all the heartbreak he went through later on in his life. He is an absolute joy to play and I feel very lucky to be him every night in the West End. The thing I enjoy the most about the role has to be being able to get stuck into the phenomenal script……. oh and of course getting to belt out some absolute bangers!!!
What is the music and choreography like to perform and how is it seeing the audience response to the musical?
The music in the show is so well-thought-through, they make the audience wait just under 40 minutes for Sherry, which enables the audience to really pay attention to the story and take in all the important sections of the script. The creators also did a great job of using the back catalogue of Gaudio/Crewe’s work in most of the underscoring, so there will be so many other familiar songs you will hear through the show. Getting to perform the songs is amazing, it’s great to be able to use both ends of my voice throughout the show. With regards to the choreography of the show, I honestly thought Jersey Boys would be a manageable dance for these untrained feet, but trust me, the amount of style in this show is unexpected, every single move is so thought through and important, and come on… How iconic are the Walk Like a Man walks?
Do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked Jersey Boys on tour and how did it feel hearing you’d be making your West End debut in the role?
I had only had my agent for a few weeks when she rang me and we had an in-depth chat about what I wanted from my career. I had spent the past five years on cruise ships and when lockdown hit I knew I was ready to take the next steps of my career (little did I know what was about to unfold). I told her that I didn’t want anything that I could find myself, so that ruled out ships, holiday parks and seasons abroad (basically everything that I had already worked hard for independently and managed to book). One of the things that I did say that I wanted was a named show on a ship, whether it be any of the Broadway (book) shows on NCL or Royal Caribbean, and that’s when I mentioned that I would love Jersey Boys, as it is one of the Broadway shows on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Three hours later, I had a self tape request from Jill Green Casting for Frankie in the UK Tour of Jersey Boys! After four rounds of in person auditions in London, and only six weeks after signing with my agent, she rang me to tell me the news that I had been chosen to take on the role as an alternate. I literally was over the moon, I’d worked so hard for years to get to a place like this in my career and now it was all coming together. Fast forward nine months, we got the call saying that they wanted to take me into the West End production, I still can’t believe it’s happened, I pinch myself every day and am so, so, so grateful for the opportunity.
Was there anything that drew you to the production and how much did you know about the show before auditioning?
I knew some of the songs before I auditioned – that’s about it, I think I watched the Clint Eastwood film version when I was younger but can’t remember too much about it, so the day before my first audition, I booked a little trip to the Trafalgar Theatre and was blown away by the show and Ben Joyce, who played Frankie. I knew from that night – this was a show I wanted to be in!
Can you tell us about being a production vocalist and about some of the performances you’ve been part of on cruise lines?
I had the most amazing few years on ships and learnt so much of my trade on there, I started on Fred Olsen Cruise Lines for Mirage Shows and productions and was even lucky enough to be hired for a world cruise in 2018. Being a vocalist on cruises is a different kettle of fish, you have to be very versatile in order to be able to handle the many different types of show that they throw at you, from musical theatre to pop to rock, it really is a mixed bag. I loved performing in all the shows but being able to create my own cabaret was such a fun experience and something I’ll be able to take with me wherever I go. Who knows, maybe a small concert in London could be on the cards.
You’ve previously toured internationally with Aladdin, how was this and what do you enjoy about performing in pantomimes?
I love panto, I mean, come on, who doesn’t? I’m quite a silly person so being able to perform as the comedy characters in pantos is always a joy to do. I just love that everyone gets involved with a panto, it’s such a gift to see families of all ages together watching something any age group can appreciate.
I was with the pantomime Aladdin for about six months in China, and it was such a great experience to play in such massive (and I mean massive) theatres! Some of them honestly looked like spaceships! It was also a great experience to get to understand and appreciate a new culture. I’m not a novice to travel or submerging myself into different cultures as I grew up in Sri Lanka (from the age of ten) and learnt at an early age that we all have different ways of doing things, but China was something special, the cities, the lifestyles, the people – it was such a pleasure to experience it while we handed back a bit of our culture – a good ole panto!
Where does your love of acting and performing come from and how did you start?
People ask me this question a lot and, to be honest, I really don’t have an answer. You know when you are a kid and you get asked in school: what do you want to be? There’s always a police officer, a fireman, a hairdresser etc, well, I always wanted to be a pop star. I wanted to be in something like Steps or S Club 7, and don’t get me started on High School Musical or Hannah Montana.
I always knew this was what I wanted and, thankfully for me, the passion never dulled. Even when I moved to Sri Lanka where there weren’t as many opportunities for me as their schooling system was very academic-based or when I moved back to England and couldn’t get into any drama schools – the dream never dimmed. So, I took my self off to as many open auditions, no singing lessons, no dance lessons – just me and a hell of a lot of determination. From that, I worked my way up from hotels to holiday parks to cruises to tours to West End. It’s been a journey but I’ve loved every second, I learnt at every possible opportunity (it was all free training) and I’ve met some amazing people along the way.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
At the moment, naturally work is taking a lot of my time up but once I’m settled I’m really looking forward to getting out more, I’ve spent so much time on ships and on tours that everything has felt very temporary. So I’m really looking forward to spending time with friends and taking some time to keep working on some music, see as many shows as I can, when I can, and all in all just enjoy time settling into London life. During the lockdown, I really focused on getting myself into shape so I’m looking forward to doing that too.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
I love most shows, I don’t think there’s any I’ve been to that I haven’t come out of and not enjoyed. I’m really looking forward to seeing Beauty and the Beast at the London Palladium, Dear Evan Hansen before it unfortunately departs the West End in October (would have loved to have been in that!), Back to the Future is another I would love to see as soon as I can. If I’m not careful, I will literally be listing off any musical because there’s a lot I need to and want to see.
What encouraged you to start your TikTok account and how is it interacting with your viewers?
Lockdown! The same thing that made me want to start my YouTube channel, both of which I did not expect to hit off as much as they did, especially TikTok, I really need to get back into creating content for it because it really is something I really enjoyed while I was doing it. I love replying to comments on there as these are the people who have given me support! So keep an eye out as hopefully I will be making more content soon!
Your videos for Heartstopper the Musical are proving popular, can you say about this?
So, I was on the Jersey Boys tour in Glasgow when Heartstopper was released on Netflix. I remember the open casting audition coming out back in 2020 (?) and I remember applying for it not really knowing what it was, but when I watched it I was in absolute disbelief at how beautifully it had been done and how honest it was. There was nothing stereotypically “gay” about Heartstopper and that’s why I loved it so much. We had a week off the show after Glasgow and I was adamant I wanted to see if I could write something around the beautiful chapters Alice Oseman had written. It was my first time ever posting something I had solely created and the response was out of this world. I followed up with another song but then the hype for it unfortunately slowed because I was busy getting ready for Jersey Boys in the West End. But I will get back to it and hopefully continue to create something that I think would transfer onto stage so beautifully. So, if anyone from Netflix is reading this, hit me up….. Let’s make a musical……. Pretty please.
Have you been given any advice over your years as a performer so far that has stuck with you and what advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
The only thing I was ever told is stay humble. Don’t let anything change who you are. I still pinch myself every day to make sure that this is really happening to me, but I know I’ve worked my absolute socks off to be here and I remember being that boy at the age of 18 at an open audition not having a clue what a pas de bourrée was, not having a clue what an audition cut was or what a recall meant, and if I could talk to younger Luke, he would be so happy for me that “we did it”.
I would let any performer know that if you want it that bad and put the effort in, it will happen. Dreaming and doing are two things, but if put them together magical things can happen. It did happen.
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