Playing the role of mafia crime boss Gyp DeCarlo in "Jersey Boys," the behind-the-scene musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, actor Thomas Fiscella has been touring with the show since the fall of 2011.
"When we first started touring, it was pretty much non-stop for the first two years," said Fiscella, a Seaholm High School graduate who discovered his passion for performing in the Birmingham Public Schools district. "We would be in a city for as long as two weeks or a month, city after city, when we first started."
Visiting more than 135 cities, Fiscella has performed the role more than 1,400 times over the past five years, keeping each audience captivated for every moment on stage.
"It has to be new and fresh and different every night within the parameters of what it is and what it's directed to be. If we did the same show every night, it wouldn't be truthful," he said. "I have to make it different by listening very closely to what my colleagues are saying on stage and reacting differently. No audience wants to see a repeat performance of the night before... Simultaneously, you are aware it has to be in the same parameter, and you can't diverge off the script. The story is sacrosanct. It's such a well written script."
As a professional, part of Fiscella's job is to make his performance appear so natural that it almost looks easy. Of course, it's not.
"It would be really easy to screw it up. Nothing is foolproof. It requires concentration, and it requires that leap to trust yourself and understand that it could easily go the wrong way if you weren't paying attention."
Now living in Los Angeles when he's not touring with Jersey Boys, Fiscella discovered at a young age that acting is just one of many ways to tell a story.
"I first got interested in storytelling as a student at Seaholm, and at Berkshire (Middle School), even before that. Stories were always fascinating to me, even from my elementary school years," he said. "I found you could tell a story in multiple ways. Either you could write it or tell it out loud, or act it out in a performance, and that was fascinating to me."
As a student, Fiscella first started doing plays and musicals at Seaholm. He later began doing professional theater and Shakespeare festivals throughout the country, and attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
"It felt right. It felt comfortable to me and challenging at the same time," he said.
After college, Fiscella returned to Detroit for a bit where worked with the Detroit Repertory Theatre, the JCC in West Bloomfield and others, including industry commercials and films, laying the groundwork for a move to Chicago for more opportunities. In 2000, he moved to Los Angeles.
During his career, Fiscella has worked on the stage, film and television, including The Kite Runner, Fiddler on the Roof, Tranced, Miss Evers' Boys, The Bigger Man, Stalag 17, Black Friday, The Manchurian Candidate, The Sound of Music, 24 and others.
"You can tell a story about a Jeep Cherokee as much as you can tell a story about a Shakespearean character," he said. "It's, 'how do you make it relatable and connect with people through this performance.' I still do that today with Jersey Boys, after 1,400 performances."
Photo: Justin D’Apolito