Back in 2004, long before he became artistic director of the Stratford Festival, Des McAnuff directed the first production of a musical called Jersey Boys at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.
A decade after that première, his four years of leading the Stratford Festival (2008-2012) are history, and he’s back in the musical theatre business south of the border.
McAnuff, who owns two Tony Awards (for Big River and The Who’s Tommy), is now working on a production of a musical based on Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago, slated to open on Broadway this spring.
Yet he’s still being called upon to talk about Jersey Boys, now in its 10th year on Broadway, with two productions running in the U.K., one in Las Vegas, plus the North American touring production soon to appear here.
“I don’t get tired of it at all,” McAnuff insisted, speaking from his new home in Connecticut, just down the road from his friend and frequent theatre collaborator Christopher Plummer. “I do not take this for granted.”
Jersey Boys, which arrives in Montreal for the first time on Tuesday, is a gift that keeps on giving, for which McAnuff is grateful. Following the example of Harold Prince, who keeps a close eye on every production of The Phantom of the Opera, he watches over his biggest hit. “There isn’t an actor in Jersey Boys that we haven’t auditioned,” he said. “It’s important to stay on it.” He checked out the touring production that’s coming here during its San Diego run, in October.
This is Montreal’s winter of boy-band musicals. After Jersey Boys comes Forever Plaid, opening at the Segal Centre on Feb. 1.
What they have in common — besides being jukebox musicals featuring all-male quartets — is pop-music nostalgia for boomers. Also, they’ve both been made into movies.
Forever Plaid is smaller in scale (four actors), and more of an off-Broadway revue. Jersey Boys, with its cast of 19, is a full-blown Broadway musical.
Chronologically, Forever Plaid should be seen first, as it mines hits of the ’50s (such as Moments to Remember).
Jersey Boys focuses on the music and story of one particular group: the Four Seasons, who peaked in the 1960s (with songs like Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry).
What happened in Jersey didn’t stay in Jersey. It finally made it to Fresno.
Which makes fans of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons very happy.
The central San Joaquin Valley waited a very long time indeed for the national tour of “Jersey Boys” — which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary — to make it to the Saroyan Theatre. And judging from the enthusiastic reception at Tuesday’s opening night performance, I’d say there’s a lot of pent-up demand for the smooth harmonies and Garden-State-sized angst that this jukebox musical provides. Valli and his bandmates over the years churned out an amazing number of No. 1 hits, and the evening at the Saroyan floated along in a sort of nostalgic cloud of goodwill, with songs like “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man” eliciting appreciative murmurs from the audience.
This national tour features an Equity cast — the same union to which Broadway performers belong — and the depth of talent is clear from the beginning. Compared to some of the other smaller, non-Equity tours that come through Fresno, this production is clearly a rung above.
Like most biographical-based projects, “Jersey Boys” can have something of a crammed feel, and that’s particularly the case with the first part of the show, in which we rocket through the genesis story of The Four Seasons. (Yes, there’s a bit of hagiographic excess in the musical’s near-religious exaltation of the group, but, hey, it’s Valli’s story, and he got to tell it his way.) We race through the petty-hoodlum days of founding member Tommy DeVito (a strong and sturdy Nicolas Dromard) and his recruitment of falsetto sensation Frankie (an appealing Hayden Milanes).
If you don’t know the back history of The Four Seasons, or aren’t the kind to be charmed by a garden-variety rags-to-riches story, the show takes awhile to kick into a higher gear.
But once the group is finally assembled, with songwriting wiz Bob Gaudio (a standout Drew Seeley) and bass player Nick Massi (Keith Hines) rounding out the quartet, the impact is impressive. When the four sing together for the first time, in “Cry for Me,” the vocal power punches through the Saroyan like an approaching big rig.
Tour dates and more infoJerseyBoysTour.com
The National Tour of the Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning hit musical Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, will welcome Drew Seeley (Bob Gaudio) and Keith Hines (Nick Massi) beginning October 21 in San Diego, CA. They will join a company that includes Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito) and Hayden Milanes (Frankie Valli) as The Four Seasons, with Barry Anderson and Thomas Fiscella. The company of Jersey Boys is currently performing at the Hollywood Pantages in Los Angeles through October 19 with Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio) and Adam Zelasko (Nick Massi). The San Diego return engagement will run from October 21 – 26 at the Civic Theatre; following San Diego, the company will move to Fresno, CA for a premiere engagement at the Saroyan Theater October 28 – November 2. A current tour schedule is below.
The ensemble of Jersey Boys includes Tommaso Antico, Jaycie Dotin, Marlana Dunn, De’Lon Grant, Wes Hart, Bryan Hindle, Austin Owen, John Rochette, Leslie Rochette, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Kara Tremel, Jonny Wexler and Keith White.
JERSEY BOYS is the winner of the 2006 Best Musical Tony Award, the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical and the 2010 Helpmann Award for Best Musical (Australia). Jersey Boys worldwide has been seen by over 20 million people (as of August, 2014).
Catch a sneak peek of Jersey Boys! Log on to www.JerseyBoysTour.com/watch.
Directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys is written by Academy Award-winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.
JERSEY BOYS is the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. This is the story of how a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were thirty.
JERSEY BOYS opened at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway to critical acclaim on November 6, 2005. The Jersey Boys US National Tour opened to rave reviews in San Francisco on December 1, 2006, and is still breaking house records in cities across North America. Jersey Boys is currently playing in New York; Las Vegas; London; and in cities across North America and the U.K . on National Tours.
The Jersey Boys design and production team comprises Klara Zieglerova (Scenic Design), Jess Goldstein (Costume Design), Howell Binkley (winner of the 2006 Tony Award for his Lighting Design of Jersey Boys), Steve Canyon Kennedy (Sound Design), Michael Clark (Projections Design), Charles LaPointe (Wig and Hair Design), Steve Orich (Orchestrations) and Ron Melrose (Music Direction, Vocal Arrangements & Incidental Music).
JERSEY BOYS is produced by Dodger Theatricals, Joseph J. Grano, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, Pelican Group, with Latitude Link and Rick Steiner.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Jersey Boys, produced by Bob Gaudio, was recently certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The cast recording is now available on Rhino Records. Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (Broadway Books) is the official handbook to the smash Broadway hit. Seasons Greetings: A Jersey Boys Christmas, a new holiday CD featuring international cast members of Jersey Boys, produced by Bob Gaudio, is now available on Rhino Records.