While the show may be called Jersey Boys, the three “Jersey Girls” who play all the female roles in the show know how to steal the spotlight! Dianna Barger, Tristen Buettel, and Michelle Rombola work together to play between four and 20 characters while on tour. In this Q&A, we chat with them about everything from auditions and quick changes to what excites them most about bringing Jersey Boys to Nashville.
From left, Dianna Barger, Tristen Buettel and Michelle Rombola. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Q: How many different characters do you portray throughout the show?
Dianna: I portray four different characters in the show. A French hip-hop dancer in the opening scene, one of the backup singers of the girl group The Angels in “My Boyfriend’s Back,” Francine Valli, and a dancer in the closing number.
Tristen: I play about 20 different roles, from “party girls” to girlfriends, from French singers to The Angels!
Michelle: I portray 18 different characters throughout the show. Mind you they don’t all speak, but 18 characters nonetheless!
Q: With having so many quick character changes, what is your pre-show and mid-show preparation like to get into the mindset of each character?
D: My track actually doesn’t have any quick changes so I have the luxury of having time before my scenes to get into character!
T: Having a solid clearing of the mind and vocal and physical warm-ups. I do about 15 minutes of vocal exercises, and I try to go to the gym almost everyday. It helps me put the day behind me and clear my mind for what is to come.
M: Well, we’re shot out of the cannon right at the top of the show. I hardly stop moving at all in Act 1. So honestly, getting into character all comes from the rehearsal process. I know how they walk and talk and their relationships with everybody on stage. As soon as the costume goes on and I go out on stage, it’s easy to become the character because of all the detailed work we put in during the rehearsal process. I also happen to work with the most talented group of actors. They make it easy.
Michelle Rombola and Jonny Wexler. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Q: Do you have a favorite character?
D: I could never choose! There are things that I love about all of the people I portray.
T: My favorite character is Lorraine. She is so smart and carries herself with such class. She knows how to articulate herself and isn’t afraid to listen to her gut. She puts herself and her career first and doesn’t let men in the way.
M: My favorite character that I play is Mary Delgado. I absolutely love getting to portray her on stage. Strong Italian woman? I’m in.
Q: What was the “Jersey Girl” audition process like?
D: Intense! This is a fun and supportive team to audition for, but challenging at the same time! It was about three days of dancing, singing, and reading scenes from the show.
T: I went in for Jersey Boys about seven times throughout this audition process. I had gone to the open call in July and then I kept getting called back in. I was originally in for a different role, and they had me read all the girls’ sides until they pinned me on the Lorraine track. It was so fun, and I had no idea I was truly being considered. Jersey Boys has always been one of my favorite Broadway shows so the fact that I was even being considered for the show was enough for me, in addition to getting to learn all the choreography at the dance call! I was in Spain when I received the offer and the next day was my birthday — it was truly the highlight of 2017 for me. My mom and I were literally jumping up and down in the streets of Spain!
M: I actually went in to the chorus call in NYC. After that it was a few appointments doing scenes, singing, and learning the choreography. I actually met the other “Jersey Girls” at one of the final auditions! We spent the whole day together harmonizing and dancing among a group of girls. It’s so funny thinking about how we didn’t know each other then. Now, a mere four months later, we’re like family!
Tristen Buettel and Jonny Wexler. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Q: How is portraying a real person onstage different than a fictional character? Does it add more pressure to the performance?
D: It’s an honor to be able to portray a real person and take on the challenge of doing justice to their life and their story.
T: With playing a real character there are more facts and guidelines that can pave the way in how a certain actor portrays them. Personally, I feel that it’s easier because now with YouTube and books, you have a clear example of what this person was like. With fictional characters, the sky’s the limit!
M: I’d say it’s different because you have real back story to the character as opposed to something fictional you created on your own. After that though, it’s pretty much the same process as any other character. The Jersey Boys team is incredible because they encourage us to be actors and not imitators. Because of that I’ve never felt any additional pressure to be a certain way!
Q: Have you been to Nashville before? What are you most looking forward to doing while in Music City?
D: This is my first time in Nashville! I’m most looking forward to taking in as much live music as I can!!
T: I’ve never been to Nashville! I am SO EXCITED! I’ve rented an Air B&B in a house where each room is music icon themed (Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash etc.)! I’m so excited to be there for a week and to explore the town!
M: This is my first time in Nashville! I can’t wait to explore the city. It’s so hard to say what I’m most excited for, but I think it’d have to be experiencing the live music scene! I’m also dying to try some Nashville hot chicken. Music and chicken, is there anything better?
Tickets for Jersey Boys (Jan. 9-14, 2018, at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall) are on sale now at TPAC.org and by phone at 615-782-4040. Jersey Boys is presented by Monell’s Dining & Catering.