‘Jersey Boy’ Michael Longoria says his Mexican heritage opened door to music

Michael Longoria is best known for his work in the Tony Award winning musical “Jersey Boys,” where he originated the role of Joe Pesci more than a decade ago and then took over the role of Frankie Valli.

But because he played such iconic Italian-American characters, many fans are actually unaware that the 34-year-old is actually Mexican-American and grew up listening to and singing mariachi music.

“My mother was a singer in that genre and that was really the start of my education in musical expression,” he said on Fox News Latino’s VIP. “I had a sombrero and everything. My mom bought me a little charro outfit that was black and white. (And I sang) Mexican folk songs that spoke of love and heartbreak.”

He added: “I didn’t understand a word at the time because I was an American-born child with the American society teaching me everything, but my parents and their Mexican culture still lived on in the house. Even though I spoke English, I learned how to sing in Spanish.”

Longoria credits his Mexican background for his passion for Broadway, even when it was “West Side Story,” which he watched on TV with Grandmother Juanita while eating tamales, what made him fall in love with the musical genre. From then on, it was all about Broadway, which did not make it easy for a Mexican-American kid living in California.

“I am happy sharing my story as personal and heartbreaking because I went through some tough times; my Latino parents who were used to hearing me sing mariachis, all of a sudden I’m singing show tunes and wanting to take tap class,” he said. “It was a misunderstanding for a while because they didn’t know where I was going – they didn’t understand what Broadway was.”

However, Longoria continued to fight for what he wanted and made them understand that Broadway was more than a dream for him – it was where he needed to be. And they began to accept it and love it just as much.

“Now, oh my God. My dad. He saw me in ‘Jersey Boys’ and [...] at the end of the applause we are posing and the lights are coming down, all I hear is my dad going ‘MICHAEL! MICHAEL!’ screaming from like fourth row center. That is my dad,” Longoria shared.

“To come from my dad, also being an immigrant from Mexico, not understanding me when I was growing up, to be screaming in a Broadway house not caring that there were 1,000 people there – that was my dad being so proud of me. That was a full-circle moment.”

In a way to honor both his love for music as well as his family’s support throughout the years, Longoria just released his first solo album “Broadway Brick by Brick” — his interpretations of some of his favorite show-stopping songs.

“It’s all the 11 o’clock numbers from my favorite Broadway musicals that kind of inspired me as a young boy to reach for the stars and head to New York City,” he said.

Longoria is currently touring with “The Midtown Men,” the original cast of “Jersey Boys,” singing music from the 60s.

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