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"Jersey Boy" Bwarie ’99 shares career advice with students

Star of the touring production of Jersey Boys and Emerson alumnus Joe Bwarie ’99 was on campus January 21 to talk with students. He described his path from Emerson to his lead role as Frankie Valli in the national tour of the hit musical and offered his advice on how to make it in the performing arts world.

Bwarie fondly recalled his time at Emerson. “From the moment I arrived here for my campus tour until the day I graduated, I loved Emerson,” he said, “and I still do.”

Comfortable and competent as a singer when he came to Emerson, Bwarie was not as experienced as an actor. While in college, he learned the techniques of acting, including proper movement and proper breathing from renowned vocal coach Kristin Linklater. “I use those things every night in Jersey Boys,”said Bwarie. He encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities they have to learn and create during their four years at Emerson.

Graduating from Emerson, he said, has also given him a “competitive edge” because of the skills he learned and because of the incredible Emerson alumni network: “Emersonians are everywhere.”

Bwarie also told students that being a working actor is demanding. He described the time-consuming process of finding an agent, and the discouragement actors can feel when they’re rejected at auditions. But, he assured the audience, all actors go through these things and hard work and perseverance pays off. As he pointed out, “Tom Hanks didn’t start out big.”

“From the moment I arrived here for my campus tour until the day I graduated, I loved Emerson, and I still do.”

Bwarie was just 9 years old when he first appeared opposite Michael Landon on the television series Highway to Heaven. He grew up in Sherman Oaks, California, and before his teens had already lent his voice to such feature films as Radio Flyer, The Power of One, Last of the Mohicans, Alien 3, Die Hard, The Addams Family, Batman Returns; sang the theme to the television series seaQuest DSV; and was a lead voice in Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, and The Wonder Years. During this time, he also worked on records with Michael Feinstein, The Manhattan Transfer, and celebrated music producer David Foster. 

As an actor, his credits range from stage roles in Los Angeles to New Zealand and from television’s Mama’s Family to the 2010 star-studded feature film Valentine’s Day (opposite Topher Grace). He has appeared in favorites such as The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement (opposite Anne Hathaway), Raising Helen, Chronic Town, and Race to Witch Mountain (opposite Dwayne Johnson).

Bwarie is a member of LA’s critically acclaimed Troubadour Theater Company. He also originated the role of Fonzie’s cousin “Chachi Arcola” in the world premiere of Happy Days: A New Musical opposite Joey McIntyre. He works closely with writer/producer/director Garry Marshall and Marshall’s Falcon Theatre, creating original new works and musicals for young audiences.

Since 2007, Bwarie has garnered nationwide audience and critical acclaim portraying Frankie Valli in the multi-award-winning musical Jersey Boys. After opening in productions in Las Vegas and Toronto, he has toured most major North American cities as the front man of the legendary music group The Four Seasons, singing 27 hit songs every night.

His debut CD, Joseph Leo Bwarie, is slated for release this year.

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