“IRONICALLY, when I first sang solo in school, the entire school laughed at me,” says Jo Servi – who grew up on Southcourt and is now a successful West End actor.
Since his humble beginnings singing in a choir in Aylesbury, Servi has performed on-stage with Ewan McGregor and the late Patrick Swayze, sang on the Disney film Dinosaur and been the face of the uSwitch.com adverts in 2006/7.
He is currently playing a variety of characters in Jersey Boys – and is encouraging fellow youngsters from the town to follow in his footsteps and live their dreams.
“I was a member of Aylesbury Musical Theatre group and one of the guys I knew was in Laine Theatre Arts College in Epsom,” he explains.
“At the time I was working in cabaret and also in a group called The Bizz which was a jazz, blues, rock, soul and covers band. I also had a little regular gig at Mangrove Jack’s in Kingsbury (now known as The Hobgoblin).”
Servi decided to follow in his friends footsteps and successfully auditioned for a place at Laine College in 1996. His big-break came when he landed a part in The Lion King. Since then he has played roles in My One & Only, Ragtime. Jailhouse Rock, and Guys and Dolls (where he worked with McGregor and Swayze). He has also taken part in The Royal Variety Performance and Children In Need. In 2006 he fronted the uSwitch.com TV adverts, as a gospel singer in a blue suit.
The former Milton Keynes school pupil still pops back to Aylesbury once a month to see his family – and can sometimes be heard singing with the choir at St Joseph’s church.
Servi encourages other youngsters from his home town to follow in his footsteps, but warns: “It is a lot of hard work and dedication, this business is cruel. One minute you can be at the top and then the next you are doing nothing.
“It can be very hard, I think a lot of people see the glitz and the glam. There are two important words, one is show and the other is business. In theatre you may have a contract which is 12 months long, but you are always on two-weeks’ notice.
“It happened to me once, the show was just cancelled. If you don’t want to work hard and are not prepared for disappointment do something else.
“You are constantly having to chase work and prove yourself, reputation will only get you so far.”
Servi is currently playing a variety of support characters in Jersey Boys, which is showing at London’s Prince Edward Theatre. The show tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. He plays a man who locks himself in a radio studio for 17 hours and two policemen.
“It is immensely fun, the show is a roller-coaster from start to finish. The audience don’t get a chance to breath there is always something happening,” he says.
Despite this, Servi has decided to end his contract in March. “I had to say back in September if I was going to stay and I decided that I was going to leave. I will miss it and the people, it has been immense fun, but it’s on to pastures new.”
This week he was offered another West End part, but is not allowed to reveal it just yet. Despite his success, he jokes: “When I pop back people still ask if I am still in the Lion King – which I left in 2002.”