A Chat with Cristina D’Agostino of Jersey Boys

The boys are back! Jersey Boys opened in Melbourne this past weekend, and it’s already the talk of the town.

The critically acclaimed musical is on the final leg of its Aussie tour, having already travelled through Sydney and Brisbane. This revival tour comes almost 10 years after the show’s original Australian premiere in 2009, and the production is serendipitously closing where it first began – Melbourne.

Despite an overwhelming male presence in the piece, there is more to the show than just the boys – the Jersey girls play a key part in furthering the show’s narrative. Cristina D’Agostino is one of these fabulous females, playing the role of Mary Delgado, the wife of Frankie Valli.

Cristina D’Agostino

A graduate of Federation Uni, Cristina has been seen in shows such as Matilda The Musical (The Acrobat, u/s Mrs. Wormwood, Mrs. Phelps), Strictly Ballroom (u/s Fran, Liz Holt, Tina Sparkle), and West Side Story (Consuela, u/s Anita). She has also been awarded a Green Room Award for Featured Ensemble Performance in Music Theatre for “Havana Girl/Hot Box Girl” in Guys and Dolls (The Production Company).

It was an absolute joy to speak with Cristina about her time with the boys, the costumes, and the unforgettable music.

Can you tell me a bit about your role in Jersey Boys?

I play Mary Delgado and various other characters. Mary is my main one, she’s Frankie Valli’s wife. I’ve wanted to play this role ever since I saw it 9 years ago, and I feel very privileged and blessed that I can. I’m Italian as well, and I think I can just really relate to and absolutely understand what the whole story is about when they go through the culture. I think she is a really powerful woman, especially in that era. She was so independent and unique, and I find that inspiring and really… I don’t know, it’s just a nice feeling to play a really strong woman. She’s vulnerable of course, but that’s even interesting to play.

Cristina D’Agostino, Mackenzie Dunn and Mia Dabkowski-Chandler | Photo by Jeff Busby

Jersey Boys is set in such an iconic time for fashion – can you tell me a bit about your costumes?

We have an array of costumes, especially during act one. The girls in particular… it’s like a grand prix, to be honest. We’re just circulating between onstage and offstage and the dressers in the wings are a full team. I have about a 5 second costume change out of my “Boyfriend’s Back” wig into my Mary Delgado wig and costume. And that happens on the side of the stage because I don’t have time to run to the crossover area where we usually get changed. I think we have got it down to 3 [seconds] because it’s a system. I often find that the backstage stuff is just as interesting. I’ve had a few people, mates or colleagues, who have commented on that and just wanna know how things like that works. I guess that’s the beauty of live theatre, it’s magical.

What’s your favourite number to perform?

I would have to say that I do really love our closing number ‘Who Loves You’, the 70s disco song. That’s beautiful because it’s the whole cast on stage together, united at the end to wrap up such a beautiful story.

What about favourite number you’re not in?

The “Big 3” [‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry,’ ‘Walk Like A Man‘] – I’m only on briefly for the beginning of it so I get to listen and watch sometimes and see what the boys get to do, and I think that part of the show is an awesome journey.

Cristina D’Agostino and Ryan Gonzalez | Photo by Jeff Busby

What challenges come with playing a role based on a real person rather than a fictional character?

I actually found that both terrifying and really exciting. I want to pay homage to Mary and do her justice, because she was a real human being. So there’s that balance between knowing and learning about what Mary was like, but also having my take on her. I think a mixture of feelings, but ultimately very cool, because when do you really get to play a real person? I think that she is awesome, she was awesome. Their relationship is very challenging and very exciting to play every night, and I love that challenge, because you know it’s live theatre and the best thing about live theatre is that it can be slightly different every night, and we’re going through the movements together.

You’ve been playing this role for several months now – how do you keep each night’s performance fresh?

I really like to go out there with no preconceived ideas of how I’m going to construct my scene and whatnot. I genuinely like to listen and react, and feel like that’s the best way to keep it lively and fresh. We’re all really great mates so we feel very comfortable working with each other, I’ve known both boys who play Frankie [Ryan Gonzalez and Daniel Raso], I know them very well and I’ve got to know the other covers as we’ve gone along with the tour. I feel really safe in their presence so I feel like I can play every night and there’s no judgement and they’ll bounce off me. It’s really important. You’re vulnerable as an actor, I think that sometimes the best acting and the best work is when you’re the most vulnerable.

Have there been any interesting responses to parts of the show?

There are some great things that happen in my experience – for example, when Mary and Frankie kiss for the first time. It’s funny to hear some of the reactions you get in the audience and I find that really exciting every night.

Thomas McGuane, Ryan Gonzalez, Cameron MacDonald, Glaston Toft and Company | Photo by Jeff Busby
Thomas McGuane, Ryan Gonzalez, Cameron MacDonald, Glaston Toft and Company | Photo by Jeff Busby

The Four Seasons were incredibly well known in their time, but their music is still commonplace today. Have you noticed a wide demographic in the audience?

It’s for any demographic, really. And I think that’s very cool too. You hear some children getting really into it. It’s so beautiful to see the kids get involved with the music, because I think whether you’re older or younger the music is amazing. I often really enjoy watching kids get totally wrapped up in the songs, and they’re sitting in their seat bopping. That’s what I love about my job, for two and a half hours you’re able to share the journey with a whole heap of strangers that you don’t know, and everybody forgets what’s going on in their lives for just a moment, and you get to escape in a world where we’re all on the same page. I think that’s the best thing about storytelling. And something that you don’t necessarily get if you’re not sharing in it live. I love that.

Jersey Boys is currently playing at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre for 8 weeks only. For tickets and more information, visit Jerseyboys.com.au

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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