Who’s Who in 2022, Music & Arts: Thomas Armstrong-Robley

Published 11:15pm 19 December 2022

Who’s Who in 2022, Music & Arts: Thomas Armstrong-Robley
Words by Moreton Daily

A series of coincidences led to Clontarf’s Thomas Armstrong-Robley staging the musical Jersey Boys – the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons at the Star Casino in January 2022.

Having directed the production for Redcliffe Musical Theatre last year, as well as performing in the role of The Four Seasons lead guitarist Tommy DeVito, he took the acclaimed musical to a wider audience on the Gold Coast.

It’s a gig he never dreamt of when he returned to Australia after COVID-19 saw him living in London, but the chance appointment of the Redcliffe show’s musical director paved the way for the connection with The Star.

Faced with the choice of returning to Australia from Barbados after performing on cruise ships via six airports or getting to London in just one flight, Armstrong-Robley made the obvious decision and headed to his country of birth.

But with the announcement of a looming London lockdown and winter fast approaching, he knew it was time to make his way back to Australia.

“It just broke me mentally and I knew I had to get out,” he says.

“I made a couple of phone calls, including one to Redcliffe Musical Theatre looking to do some teaching and (president) Madeleine (Johns) said she was doing Jersey Boys and would I like to direct it.

“The week I took on Jersey Boys, Tommy DeVito passed away.”

The Redcliffe production team included professional performers and crew who were willing to work free in community theatre purely for the chance to return to the stage - but the Jersey Boys team that entertained audiences at the Star was paid for their work.

Legend House International founder Robert Clark joined Armstrong-Robley for the season at the Star as musical director.

His son, Jeremy Clark (Nick Massi) had auditioned for the Redcliffe Musical Theatre production and inquired about the intended musical director.

Hearing they were yet to appoint one, Clark suggested his father, who was in London at the time.

One hastily arranged Facetime call later, and Armstrong-Robley had found his musical director.

“He loved what we did and after we finished, he started making some calls,” Thomas said.

“Star were looking for Queensland-based performers and productions because they knew it was still risky (with snap COVID-19 border closures impacting travelling productions) - we pitched the idea of Jersey Boys and they loved it.”

Alongside Thomas, five performers from the Redcliffe show reprised their roles - Dale Shearman, who played Bob Crewe, Adrian Carr (Gyp De Carlo), Lyndon Steele (Joey Pesci), Taylah McLennan (Francine Valli) and Taylor Yost (Lorraine).

Coincidentally, Thomas’s quarantine hotel room at Crown on the Gold Coast had a view of Star Casino.

“I didn’t realise at the time that I was looking at the future of Jersey Boys out the window,” he laughed.

In October, Thomas finally hit the high seas again, making his debut on the Holland America and Carnival cruise lines.

About Thomas Armstrong-Robley

Thomas was born in England and raised in Australia.

He trained at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and has performed in more than 35 countries.

In 2013, he was the youngest person to play the lead role in Phantom of the Opera when he hit the stage for Redcliffe Musical Theatre – the previous youngest in a full-scale musical production of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber classic was 26.

Since leaving the Peninsula, Thomas has forged a successful musical career, much of it bringing to life the music made famous by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on a cruise liner touring the Greek Isles.

He also wrote and performed the production Live at Frankie’s, featuring the music of Frank Sinatra and Frankie Valli.

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