Michael Fasano has traveled the country playing Frankie Valli in a national tour of the hit musical Jersey Boys, which takes audiences behind the scenes (and behind the music) of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. He also toured the continent of Asia with Grease, playing Sonny, the funny, smart-aleck member of The T-Birds. Now he brings his smooth tenor voice and slick dance moves to FST with the hit musical tribute to the one-and-only Billy Joel: New York State of Mind – All the Hits of Billy Joel With The Uptown Boys.
We sat down with Michael to talk about his favorite song to perform in the show, what he learned on the road while performing in Jersey Boys, and his strong personal connection to Billy Joel and his music.
You played Frankie Valli in a tour of Jersey Boys, a musical that inspired New York State of Mind creators John De Simini and Alex Aguilar. How has your experience performing in Jersey Boys prepared you to become an “Uptown Boy?”
Jersey Boys is a huge milestone in my career. It took me a decade to get cast, and it turned out that the timing was perfect, because playing Frankie takes a lot of technique. There’s a moment in New York State of Mind where I sing “Uptown Girl” and then go straight into “Tell Her About It.” This probably wouldn’t be physically possible for me, had I not had to sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” directly into “Working My Way Back to You” when performing in Jersey Boys. You learn how to negotiate your energy in a marathon moment like that.
New York State of Mind is a high-energy musical celebration of Billy Joel’s iconic songbook. Do you have a personal connection to Billy Joel and his music?
Yes, I do have a very personal connection to Billy Joel. I recently lost my father, and growing up, at Christmas, we had a family tradition when we would go to my aunt’s house on Christmas Day. After we ate, all the Fasanos would gather around the piano, someone would Google the lyrics to “Piano Man,” my brother would play the piano, and we would sing through the entire song – my Dad at the helm. “Piano Man” was his favorite.
When I started learning “Piano Man” for this show, I couldn’t get through the song without getting emotional. It is a deeply meaningful experience for me to sing this song with the audience every night. Sometimes I think he brought The Uptown Boys into my life for this very reason. Every night, I’m singing with Dad.
In New York State of Mind, you sing some of Joel’s best known songs, like “My Life.” What is your favorite song to perform in the show and why?
I love singing “Uptown Girl,” because it’s always been a favorite song of mine, and it cracks me up to see the reaction I get when I choose someone in the audience to be my “Uptown Girl.” I get to sing to her for most of the song. Some women love it, and some just want it to be over! “Just The Way You Are” is a nice one too, it is kind of my moment in the show to just sit and tell the audience a story through song, as opposed to being so focused on stamina and technicality. It’s a nice, easy moment for me to express who I am.
You have extensive experience performing in musical theatre classics like West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar. Is there anything that you’ve taken from those experiences that you bring to your performance in New York State of Mind?
In both West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar, I was part of a mini tribe of actors—AKA a gang in West Side Story and part of The Apostles in Jesus Christ Superstar. It was all about communication, group banter and improv, awareness, and teamwork. Working in those ways prepared me for a three-person show like New York State of Mind, because a successful performance relies on the group’s vibe, choreography, and sound. This all requires listening and synchronicity. You only get good at that by gaining experience in an ensemble.
Due to audience demand, New York State of Mind – All the Hits of Billy Joel With The Uptown Boys has been extended and is now playing through October 16. For tickets and more information, click here.
Header Image: Sergi Robles, Hank Von Kolnitz, and Michael Fasano. Photo by FST.