Alberta’s Michael Lomenda Takes ‘Jersey Boys’ Role From Stage To Screen

Above: Actor Michael Lomenda attends the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival premiere of 'Jersey Boys'

Two week’s ago director Clint Eastwood’s introduced Warner Bros.’ Jersey Boys as the final film of the 20th annual Los Angeles Film Festival. Amongst the cast in attendance; Canadian actor Michael Lomenda, who is making his feature film debut portraying Jersey Boys bass guitarist and bass vocalist Nick Massi in Eastwood’s new film.

Lomenda grew up in the small Alberta town of Stettler where he developed a love of musical theater. He graduated from Sheridan College’s world-renowned musical theatre program before scoring feature roles in productions of Hairspray, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Miss Saigon. Two summers ago, he took on the role of Massi in the first national tour of the award-winning musical. That performance helped him land his role in the big-screen version of the 1960s music sensations, the Four Seasons.

We sat down with Lomenda recently to get an insiders look at his leap from stage to film.

AmongMen: What a big break for you! What was the audition process like? Did you read for Clint Eastwood live?
Michael Lomenda: This is absolutely the craziest most incredible thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m a Canuck musical theatre guy with no film or TV experience really of note, so, honestly, when Mr. Eastwood appeared in our audience at a matinee while I was touring with the First National Tour of Jersey Boys, being cast in the movie, in my mind, was so far out of my reach, I was just happy to meet a legend and hear he’d really enjoyed the show. I got a call a few weeks later to fly down to New York to audition for the casting director, Geoff, and the next call I got was that I’d booked the film.

AM: How does your role differ from performing onstage than on film?
ML: I really tried to rely on my past experience with the stage play as much as possible while on set. There was a speedy turnaround from when I found out I’d booked the film and when we started shooting so extensive classes in film acting were out of the question. Also, I think I would have approached things differently if I were the ONLY musical theatre performer who’d been cast; I figured that Mr. E cast three out of the four seasons from the Jersey Boys stage productions, as well as several other cast members from various Jersey Boys productions, so I suspected he cast me specifically for my take on Nick Massi and my musical theatre skill set. There are, of course, technical differences between film and stage, but Des McAnuff, the director of the stage production of Jersey Boys, encouraged a cinematic feel in the scenes and through his general direction of the musical, so it really lends itself to the screen. The biggest adjustment was how much your world expands on a film set. A kitchen on stage is represented by a table and chair, whereas it’s an entire working kitchen in a full house on a film set.

AM: What was it like working with Clint as a director?
ML: He’s the consummate actor’s director. I got the sense that he really tries to give his actors the kind of experience on set that he would like to work in as an actor. He’s very present, in the mix and on his feet, but never micro-manages. He’s a doer and less of a talker. He’d rather see what the actor brings first and then, if necessary, talk about things if you encounter any troubles. He’s incredibly trusting, generous, hilarious, and collaborative. And although he’s known for doing only one or two takes, he checks in with you and if you felt like you needed to take another kick at the can, he’ll absolutely let you. I really just tried to be a sponge and learn as much as possible.

AM: In a small town like Stettler Alberta, are there many opportunities to get involved in musical theatre?
ML: Stettler is a strange an unexpected oasis of arts. It’s a rural town of around 5000 people driven mostly by farming and oil and gas industries. Yet the community had a Gilbert and Sullivan society, a fantastic performing arts center and a vibrant music festival. I started out in classical piano after a good family friend, Blaine Paulson, gifted me his family heirloom piano. I studied hard and that branched into orchestra once I got in to junior high and then eventually in to Drama and Art once I entered into high school and met Mr. Dobson and Ms. Pearson who were a pair of young teachers new to Stettler who taught English, Drama, and Art. I’ve always felt the community of Stettler in my corner. There’s something to be said for growing up in a small town where the people really invest in raising the kids of the town as a whole community. I’m intensely proud of my roots in Stettler and feel so proud to call myself a Stettlerite.

Once a Stettlerite, always a Stettlerite.

You can catch Michael Lomenda in Clint Eastwood’s big screen adaptation of Broadway’s Jersey Boys, now playing in theatres everywhere.

By: Marcello Cabezas

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