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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 10
An interview with Jersey Boys' actor Keith Hines
Arts & Entertainment
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An interview with Jersey Boys' actor Keith Hines

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

JERSEY BOYS
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
March 8-13


If I said, 'Keith Hines is Nick Massi,' there is a good chance you'd only recognize one of the names. Nick Massi, one of the original members of the musical group, The Four Seasons, has become a part of American musical history and is part of the musical Jersey Boys, which is based on the formation, the meteoric rise, and the phenomenal success of the popular musical quartet. As the hit musical Jersey Boys returns to Seattle, for the first time at the Paramount Theatre, the Seattle Gay News caught up with Keith Hines to discuss his roles (both present and previous) and the popularity of Jersey Boys.

Eric Andrews-Katz: What was the first show that gave you the theatre bug?

Keith Hines: Each time I'm asked this I would give a different answer. I'll have to say probably Phantom of the Opera. My grandma took me to see Phantom when I was maybe 13 years old (it must have been 1989/99). It was a touring company and the production value was through the roof. I had seen several community pieces [of theatre] and was blown away at how tight ship [Phantom] and how big the production was, and how well it ran. I wanted to be a part of it.

Andrews-Katz: You've played both musicals and dramas. Do you have a preference for one or the other, and why?

Hines: That's a great question. You know, both of them have their pros. To work on a drama, you get to delve into aspects of life and human nature, the struggle of things; and that's important because people need to see it; it's also fun work to do. People need to see it for their own therapy and that's important. The same is true for musicals. There are some serious issues in Jersey Boys (abusive relationships, gambling). On top of the good script there is the popular music that people recognize and enjoy. I would personally pick drama or plays over musical theatre 70% of the time, but then there are musicals like Jersey Boy that stand up to the thrill that a play provides.

Andrews-Katz: You have a workout program (www.KeithHinesFitness.com). How did this particular program develop and how does it differ from other workouts?

Hines: I don't know if I'd call it a workout program. It's a company and my program is based entirely on the person. That all started because I was in New York City, auditioning and taking classes, and I knew that I didn't want to wait tables or bar tend or [take] one of the clich├ęd jobs that actors do in New York. I wanted to run my own ship, so I got licensed as a personal trainer, printed up business cards and built a website and clientele. I did it for about two years, and they were the most fulfilling years of my life. I learned a lot about myself as an artist in the process.

Andrews-Katz: Your list of 'Special Skills' includes juggling, basic trapeze, and mechanical bull riding. How, when, and why did you learn each of these special skills?

Hines: When I was in acting school at The Studio in New York, we studied with Sita Mani, and she teaches acting technique (actually a movement technique) called Feldenkrais. Trapeze is great for actors because it is an experience where you walk up to an edge and force yourself to jump. You quickly realize that you swing back and forth, not falling, and you can do it. Sita insisted that it eases the process of walking up to the wing of a stage, and going out onto it and performing. The fear of falling, she equated, with the fear of being judged. The juggling started for a production of Seussical, the Musical in college. I wasn't a dancer, and I wanted to be in a musical. The director asked if I juggled and I said yes. The next day, my name was on the cast sheet as 'lead juggler.' For the next two weeks, I wasn't seen anywhere without two tennis balls in hand. The mechanical bull was for Urban Cowboy, the Musical. It was nothing but fun. I was kind of disappointed that they didn't turn up the speed as much as I would have liked.

Andrews-Katz: What is the most difficult thing about taking on a new role in a musical?

Hines: I think it is getting to the center of the person you are playing. Finding where you and the character meet, that takes time. So usually for the first several weeks of rehearsal as well as performances, they are spent experimenting. That's the most challenging work. It is also some of the most gratifying work involved.

Andrews-Katz: Your current role is Nick Massi in Jersey Boys. How did this come about for you?

Hines: When I first moved to New York, I saw Jersey Boys and instantly pinned it as a 'Dude Musical' - [which is defined as being about Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll and appealing to the male populace more than the average musical]. There are aspects of love in it, but . . . take for example Oklahoma! It is written around the love story. There are many aspects more glittery than real life allows, and women tend to identify with stories about true love more than men. But I think Dudes identify with something rawer; more action packed, scarier, and this musical was that kind. I saw it and thought I'd love to do this show. Four years later I came full circle and found myself in Jersey Boys. Acting school was important for me and I did a lot of learning in those [in between] years.

Andrews-Katz: What challenges are presented portraying an actual person as opposed to a fictional character?

Hines: The creative team is really good with these characters because they don't require us to hit an exact imitation. They ask us to capture the essence of who we agree these people are. Nick Massi is the only one of the Seasons (out of the four) who is no longer living. I don't have to worry about him walking into the theatre and watching my performance. Actually, last week, the real Frankie Vallie was in the house, and I couldn't imagine what that would be like to play him in front of him. I got to talk to Frankie afterwards, and hear stories about Nick Massi. I will always remember that conversation and allow it to influence my performance of that guy.

Andrews-Katz: What kind of guidance does the cast receive (if any) from the surviving members of The Four Seasons?

Hines: Not a lot. For Frankie there is an element of influence. Our Frankie has had the opportunity with working with Bob Gaudio. Other than that, the other Seasons don't usually have access. It was a happy accident that Frankie Vallie caught the show. We work with a great team of people closely, including the associate director and choreographer, and they drop in periodically. They have really good input, and we did two days of dramaturgy, where we study what inspired the book and where the material came from. They showed us the music that influenced The Four Seasons, and told stories about these kids growing up in New Jersey to help us understand who they were as normal people. We had a lot of help in character development that way.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of any limitations - what would it be and why?

Hines: Can I give two answers? I think 'Burger' in Hair. He's a hippie and follows his own impulses. He's true to himself. Again, another Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll kind of show. I think there is something fun about doing something on stage when [at times] it is not accepted in real life. Kind of like flashing the audience the 'Ha ha, I'm getting away with it' thing. It's rebellious and fun and I love the music. That's another theme with me; I love the music. The other role would be 'Jesus' in Jesus Christ Superstar. Again, the music is unlike any music in any other musical; it takes me away. I consider myself a good Christian, so I also appreciate the story. It's very much a 'tenor' role, so I consider it to be unobtainable. Until they rewrite the score, I'll have to leave it to the tenors.

Keith Hines has performed many roles including Thomas Jefferson (1776), Frank Butler (Annie Get Your Gun), and Lancelot (Camelot). Currently, he is playing the role of Nicholas 'Nick Massi' Macioci, one of the original members of The Four Seasons. The true life story of Frankie Vallie and the formation of the popular group The Four Seasons is told in the hit musical Jersey Boys.

For tickets to Jersey Boys and more information, visit http://www.stgpresents.org/tickets/alphabetical/eventdetail/1888/27/jersey-boys or call 877-784-4849. The Paramount Theatre is located at 911 Pine St. in downtown Seattle.

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