FORT MYERS – The award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys that has captured the attention of audiences for years premiered at Barbara B. Mann Theater in Fort Myers Tuesday night.
“The songs are timeless and classic and you’ll know more than you think because you grew up with the songs,” said one cast member.
We went behind the scenes with the cast who tell the story of the rise and fall of the four seasons.
“These guys went through a lot of trials and tribulations and the fact that they stuck together as long as they did to release this music that we’re still performing in talking about it is an amazing testament to their talent,” said cast member Drew Seeley.
Rehearsals can be grueling but off stage they’re just a normal group of guys.
With more than a dozen costume and hair changes, the group travels to a new state every week to take the stage.
“There’s 13 of us onstage every night but we travel with 50 people who make the show happen. I mean it takes an army to make a show look that easy,” said another cast member.
All in hopes of keeping alive a generation of music that stood the test of time.
The show continues through Sunday. After that, the group will pack its bags again and take the stage in Texas.
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.