Jersey Boys returns to Denver’s Buell Theatre July 17-August 11, 2012. Find out about the show before you go!
- 52 people are in the traveling company of Jersey Boys
- Of the 19 actors, many play multiple roles:
- Hank Majewski plays 8 other parts
- Norman Waxman plays 10 others parts
- Joe Pesci and Mary Delgado each play 11 other parts
- Detective Two (“Knuckles”) and Lorraine each play 15 other parts
- Barry Belson plays 16 other parts
- Francine plays 17 other parts
Casting the show
- 7 weeks to cast the show throughout 11 cities. The process includes pre-screens with casting team, callbacks for the creative team (casting team, the music director, the production supervisor and the dance department) and final callbacks with Des McAnuff. During the finals, the room often includes Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio and the producers.
- Actors are asked not to sing songs from the show, but many elect to sing other songs by The Four Seasons.
- The Four Seasons sold 175 million records worldwide — all before they were 30.
- 33 songs are in the show, including five #1 hits and 11 songs that made Billboard’s top ten.
- The songs in the show represent work by 34 songwriters, including Otis Blackwell, Dorothy Fields, Louis Prima and Judy Parker. Most of the hits were written by original member of The Four Seasons Bob Gaudio and their producer/lyricist, Bob Crewe.
- 609 Lighting Cues
- 401 Conventional Lighting Units
- 77 Moving Lights
- 196 total costumes/looks in the show, including some vintage suits, ties and dresses.
- Tommy has 12 costume changes, Nick has 11, Frankie has 15 and Bob has 10.
- Frankie runs through 1 pair of pants each week, with repairs every other day. (He slides on his knees in the number “Beggin’”)
- 9 seconds - Fastest quick change in the show, for Mary Delgado to get out of the car and into her robe for “My Eyes Adored You”
- 12 quick changes for Frankie Valli. His shortest quick change is 15 seconds.
- 5 hours – time spent per week hand-beading repairs to the “Snowflake” dresses. Originally beaded by machine.
- 87 shoes used in one performance
- 2.4 miles - Distance a dresser will walk/run during a day, including day work, pre-show call, working the show and post-show work.
- 65 microphones used in the show, both wireless and hard-wired.
- The full sound system includes 120 speakers
- 75,000 watts of amplification are used to power the sound system
- 15 people spent 12 weeks to hand build the sound console
by Diane Snyder
Forget about show-stopping finales. In Jersey Boys, the smash-hit musical about the rise and fall of the Four Seasons the pinnacle of excitement comes about 45 minutes into the first act. That’s when back-to-back presentations of three of the group’s biggest hits—“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”—are greeted with enough thunderous applause to start a downpour.
“At that moment the audience has forgotten they’re watching four actors and they root for these four guys as though they really are the Four Seasons in their youth,” says Rick Elice, one of the show’s Tony-nominated book writers (and most recently nominated for a Tony Award for his lyrics for Peter and the Starcatcher). “The response is so sincere and enthusiastic and over the top that it’s impossible to believe anything else.”
It’s also somewhat surprising. After all, the Four Seasons may have been one of the most successful groups of the 1960s, but history hasn’t institutionalized them the way it has the Beatles or other bands popular with that era’s counterculture. Elice thinks that’s one reason why even now, seven years after the show’s big splash on Broadway and equally successful productions in London, Las Vegas and elsewhere, fans are still hungry for their music and the incredible story of four Italian-American kids from the wrong side of the New Jersey tracks who could just as easily have ended up in prison as on the pop charts.
“In many ways the band was a reflection of the people who were buying their records,” notes Elice. “They didn’t have long hair or accents. There was no glamour quotient to them at all, which is why they were never written about. For fans of the band, the show is an edification of who they are, because the cultural establishment ignored them too. These weren’t the people who went down to Washington and marched against the war; these were the guys who shipped out and went to Vietnam. And the respect that the band is getting all these years later somehow feels like respect for them too.”
In fact, before working on Jersey Boys, the Four Seasons song that most resonated with Elice (pronounced “Ellis”) was “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” because characters in the movie The Deer Hunter sing it just before they go to Vietnam. But he and his Oscar-winning co-author, screenwriter Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall), probably were more familiar with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons than pop music when they began work on the show—a first musical for them both. Des McAnuff, on the other hand, the Tony-winning director behind the latest Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, The Who’s Tommy and Jersey Boys, was a huge fan of the group (the first album he ever bought was a Four Seasons album), and he helped to shape the show from its early stages.
While other musicals have tried to capitalize on a group’s catalogue of songs by integrating them into the plot, the writers agreed with McAnuff that their staging should be presentational, as if the Four Seasons were performing them to an audience, not sung from one character to another.
“In the first act they’re presented pretty much chronologically, as they took place within the life of the band,” explains Elice, who prefers to describe Jersey Boys as a “play with music” instead of employing the much maligned “jukebox musical” moniker. “In the second act the music is more cunningly chosen to reflect either directly or by contrast what the band is going through at the point where things start to fall apart.” As members leave the group one by one, it’s to a medley of “Stay,” “Let’s Hang On!,” “Don’t You Worry ’Bout Me” and “Bye, Bye, Baby.”
Jersey Boys was born when Elice, for many years the creative director of Broadway advertising agency Serino Coyne, was contacted by a former client who had the option on the Four Seasons catalogue. He’d written a couple of plays and always wanted to work with Brickman, who was a poker buddy. But as they interviewed the three surviving Seasons, they faced a predicament over how to tell the group’s “true” story when they couldn’t even figure out what it was.
Elice and Brickman met with Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli, the two Seasons who, way back when, formed a business partnership with a handshake that still stands. “They started to describe what it was like to be blue-collar kids, first-generation Americans, Roman Catholic, high school dropouts who were flirting with careers in crime in an environment where people had two pictures on the living room wall: the Pope and Frank Sinatra,” Elice recounts. “It was the archetypal American rags-to-riches story: You start with nothing, achieve success and then try to navigate your life through the waters of success.”
But when they contacted Tommy DeVito, the initial driving force behind the group until gambling debts put him on the outs with the mob, “He said, ‘Don’t listen to them, I’ll tell you what really happened,’” Elice recalls. That’s when they decided to structure the show the Rashomon way, by letting each character tell his own account. As Tommy says at the beginning of the show, “You ask four guys, you get four different versions.”
Each “Season” narrates a portion of the story, including bass player Nick Massi, who died in 2000 and left the group at the height of its popularity without much explanation. Brickman and Elice drew their portrait of him from the memories of the other survivors.
“There was a great mystery to Nick,” Elice says. “Today you would call him obsessive compulsive with sort of a sideline in sexual addiction. One day we realized the correlative for Nick would be to think of him as the Ringo of the band. In any group there’s going to be someone who’s off to the side.”
That gave them the chance to focus on the Tommy-Frankie-Bob dynamic that first propels the Four Seasons to the top of the charts and eventually breaks them apart. “This was really a love triangle—without any sexual component,” Elice observes. “There was Tommy, who discovered
Frankie when he was a teenager and held the trio group of Tommy, Nick and Frankie together when they were a cover band. Then Bob, this new, young talent came on the scene, and Frankie turned away from Tommy and turned toward Bob because Frankie and Bob were simpatico.”
Valli and Gaudio saw in each other what the group needed to succeed: Gaudio, already a songwriting protégé when he joined the group, wrote or co-wrote many of the group’s signature songs, which accentuated Valli’s vast vocal range and commanding falsetto. DeVito, meanwhile, piled up a huge debt. But by then the Seasons were more than just a group: They’d become a family, and that put their loyalty to the test.
“Tommy gave Frankie and Bob an opportunity to do what families always do,” Elice says. “No matter what kind of betrayals occur you always stand up for another person in the family because the ties that bind are so strong.” DeVito also may have been dealing with his own family issues. As the Four Seasons climbed the charts, his brother, who once had been part of the band, was behind bars.
And for Elice, that’s the essence of the show—family.
“That was a very powerful hook,” he says. “We all know what it’s like to want acceptance, to want respect and to try to find a sense of home with people that are not just the family we’re born into, but the family that we choose.”
Republished from Applause magazine. Written by DianeSnyder, a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Time Out New York, The Wall Street Journal and American Theatre.