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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
Arts & Music

Tampa native plays Frankie Valli in ‘Jersey Boys’ at Straz

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Published:   |   Updated: April 3, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Growing up in Tampa, Hayden Milanes joked around with his falsetto.

For the past three years, he’s used those vocal cords to belt out hit songs as Frankie Valli, lead singer of The Four Seasons, in “Jersey Boys.”

“I used to imitate soprano singers to make to make my friends laugh,” recalls Milanes, who portrays Valli in the hit Broadway show coming to the Straz Center on Tuesday. “Sometimes, the things you wouldn’t think matter lead you to a career and changes your life.”

Milanes will be belting out hit songs such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” during the six-day run.

Along with Milanes’s Valli, the production also stars Adam Zelasko (as Nick Massi), Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito) and Quinn VanAntwerp (Bob Gaudio) as The Four Seasons.

Milanes, 28, attended Blake High School for the Performing Arts with dreams of becoming an actor or a baseball player.

“I was planning on baseball, but my voice was better than my swing,” says Milanes, who grew up in Town ’N Country. “And (Blake High School) allowed me to focus (on performing) at such a young age.”

Milanes can’t wait to take the stage in his hometown.

“It’s surreal to come back,” he adds. “Tampa is my home. It’s like coming full circle.”

Milanes admits he misses his mom’s black beans and rice and hopes to visit La Teresita Restaurant and the West Tampa Sandwich Shop with his “Jersey Boys” co-stars while he’s in town.

Milanes, who also has appeared in productions of “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Grease,” “A Chorus Line,” and “Finding Nemo: The Musical,” says nothing could have prepared him for playing the musical legend in “Jersey Boys.”

In the production, Milanes portrays the singing legend from a teenager to his 60s, singing and dancing during most of the two-and-a-half hour show. The group performs just under 30 songs, he added.

“My first time (as Valli) I remember thinking, “there’s no way in hell I can do this,” said Milanes, whose starred in the role for three years. “There’s no way I could do this on a daily basis. It seemed like an impossible dream, but through an immense amount of falling on my butt, it began to get a little easier. But it’s constantly a challenge.”

Milanes says the role requires him to take care of himself on and off stage.

“Your voice is a muscle,” he says. “You have to rest it and stretch it and get the proper nutrition. I try to eat very clean and healthy (when I’m touring) and get my rest. Ultimately, the things you wouldn’t think affect your voice really do make a difference.”

Milanes says he loves how “Jersey Boys” resonates with the audience.

“The story and the music are timeless,” he adds. “The older generation feels a sense of pride and nostalgia when they see the show and hear the music, but young people also can relate to the story line: four young guys that dream of being rock stars, and their dreams really do come true.”

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