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Jersey Boys is a 2005 jukebox musical with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. It is presented in a documentary-style format that dramatizes the formation, success and eventual break-up of the 1960s rock 'n roll group The Four Seasons. The musical is structured as four "seasons", each narrated by a different member of the band who gives his own perspective on its history and music. Songs include "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Sherry", "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)", "My Eyes Adored You", "Stay", "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Working My Way Back to You" and "Rag Doll", among others. The title refers to the fact that the members of The Four Seasons are from New Jersey.
The musical ran on Broadway from 2005 to 2017, and since its debut has seen two North American national tours and productions in London's West End, Las Vegas, Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne and other Australian cities, Singapore, South Africa, The Netherlands and elsewhere. Jersey Boys won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical, and the 2009 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
In the early 2000s, Bob Gaudio, an original Four Seasons member, sought to make a musical from the discography of the band. He hired book writers Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman, and director Des McAnuff (at the suggestion of Michael David of Dodger Theatricals). Brickman suggested creating a show about the band's history, instead of repurposing their songs for an independent story the way ABBA did with Mamma Mia!. Brickman was drawn to the project because: "It's a classic American story. It's rags to riches, and back to rags."
Little was known to the public about the group's history prior to the premiere of the musical, because the magazines of the era didn't write much about them. In their research, Brickman and Elice were surprised to find that the members had prison records, which might have prevented their music from being played if it had been publicized when they were active. According to Gaudio, "Back then, things were a little clean-cut, don't forget, so the idea of our story getting out was horrifying to us." Other bands of the time projected street-tough images, but The Four Seasons cleaned themselves up in order to be palatable for mainstream listeners.
Brickman and Elice also used material from interviews with surviving Four Seasons members Gaudio, Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito. Interestingly, while the Four Seasons as a group made headlines, as individuals they did not receive much press due to groups like the Beatles receiving the attention. Brickman noted that each member had his own perspective on what happened during their tenure as a group. Of the three, they approached DeVito last, who told them, "Don't listen to those guys. I'll tell you what really happened." Elice said that getting DeVito's version was a "eureka moment" and the contradiction in their stories ended up being incorporated in the musical for a Rashomon effect. The writers were also contacted by family members of the late mob boss Gyp DeCarlo to ensure that he would be portrayed respectfully.
Although Gaudio was part of the initial development team, he wasn't involved in the creative process during tryouts, and only met the cast once the show had premiered. Gaudio, Valli and DeVito had decided to step back from the show's creative process because they lacked objectivity, and they left it to Brickman, Elice and McAnuff to take the story to the stage. However, Gaudio and Valli still had final say on whether to end the show if they didn't like it.
Jersey Boys premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse at University of California, San Diego, in an out-of-town tryout on October 5, 2004, and ran through January 16, 2005 Christian Hoff, David Norona, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer played The Four Seasons. At the end of the tryout, Norona, who originated the role of Frankie Valli, was replaced by John Lloyd Young, who originally had auditioned for the role of Tommy DeVito.
The musical began previews on Broadway on October 4, 2005, and officially opened on November 6, 2005, at the August Wilson Theatre. The cast starred John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli, Christian Hoff as Tommy DeVito, Daniel Reichard as Bob Gaudio and J. Robert Spencer as Nick Massi. The musical is directed by Des McAnuff, the then-artistic director at La Jolla Playhouse, with choreography by Sergio Trujillo, and music technical design by composer and conductor Deborah Hurwitz. The Broadway production had 38 previews. It reached its 4093rd performance on September 22, 2015, making it the 12th longest-running show on Broadway. Notable cast replacements include Andy Karl and Richard H. Blake as Tommy DeVito, Sebastian Arcelus as Bob Gaudio and Ryan Molloy, who originated the role in the West End production, as Frankie Valli. The Broadway production closed on January 15, 2017 after 4,642 performances, with Mark Ballas as the final Frankie Valli.
The first national U.S. tour of the musical began on December 10, 2006, at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco and went on to play in 38 cities. Jersey Boys played at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia, where it broke the box office record eight times before moving on to a return engagement in Boston.
In May 2007, while the first national tour continued (with Steve Gouveia from the original Broadway cast as Nick Massi), a second company debuted at the Curran and ended as an open-ended run at Chicago's Bank of America Theatre, beginning on October 5, 2007. The Chicago cast appeared on stage in the 2007 Emmy Awards in a tribute to HBO's The Sopranos. A special holiday return engagement played at the Curran Theatre from November 20 through December 30, 2007, starring Rick Faugno as Frankie Valli, Andrew Rannells as Bob Gaudio, Bryan McElroy as Tommy DeVito and Jeff Leibow as Nick Massi. The majority of this cast became the original Las Vegas cast, which debuted at The Palazzo Hotel on Sunday, May 3, 2008, in the newly built Jersey Boys Theatre. The show temporarily closed on January 1, 2012, and reopened on March 6, 2012, at Paris Las Vegas. On June 7, 2016, it was announced that Jersey Boys would be ending its Las Vegas show on September 18, 2016.
The musical made its West End debut at London's Prince Edward Theatre in February 2008. The creative team were the same as for the Broadway production. Principal cast were Ryan Molloy as Frankie Valli, Stephen Ashfield as Bob Gaudio, Glenn Carter as Tommy DeVito, Philip Bulcock as Nick Massi, Stuart Milligan as DeCarlo and Tom Lorcan as Donnie/Knuckles. The production won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Molloy performed the lead role for six years, making him the longest-running star in a West End musical. The production moved to the Piccadilly Theatre on March 15, 2014, the same day that John Lloyd Young assumed the role of Frankie Valli. On 28 September 2016, it was announced that the West End production will close after nine years on 26 March 2017.
The Australian production opened at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne on July 4, 2009. Principal cast members were Bobby Fox as Frankie Valli, Stephen Mahy as Bob Gaudio, Scott Johnson as Tommy DeVito and Glaston Toft as Nick Massi. The Melbourne production closed on July 25, 2010 and the Sydney production opened in September 2010. The Sydney production closed on 18 December 2011. Jersey Boys then opened in Auckland in April 2012 with the new touring cast. Jeff Madden from Canada starred as Frankie Valli, Declan Egan as Bob, Ant Harkin as Tommy, Glaston Toft continuing on as Nick. The Jersey girls were: Francine and others Kat Hoyos, Lorraine and others Michelle Smitheram and Mary Delgado and others Lisa Adam. running through June 17, 2012. Following from New Zealand, the same cast then returned to Australia starting a national tour - Brisbane, return season of Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. The show ran until June 30, 2013.
Due to the success of the national tour's long stop at Toronto Centre for the Arts in Toronto, Ontario, in autumn 2008, a Toronto production opened on December 12, 2008 with a new, mostly Canadian cast that included Jeremy Kushnier and Jenny Lee Stern from the first national tour. This production closed on August 22, 2010, on the show's second anniversary.
An international tour with an all-South African cast ran in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands resort from November 23, 2012, to January 27, 2013. The production then performed in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the Teatro at Montecasino on April 3, 2013, and at Artscape Cape Town on June 19, 2013. This company also performed at the Zorlu Center PSM, the Performing Arts Center in Istanbul, Turkey from November 13–24, 2013 and in South Korea from January 17 to March 23, 2014. The same production performed an edited family-friendly version without profanity at Istana Budaya, Malaysia from April 15 to 27, 2014. This cast includes Grant Almiral as Frankie Valli, Daniel Buys as Tommy DeVito, Kenneth Meyer as Bob Gaudio and Emmanuel Castis as Nick Massi.
A Dutch production, produced by Stage Entertainment, opened at the Beatrix Theatre in Utrecht on September 22, 2013. This production features the songs performed in English and the dialogue performed in Dutch, making it the first time the show has been performed in a language other than English. The cast includes Tim Driesen as Frankie Valli, René van Kooten as Tommy DeVito, Dieter Spileers as Bob Gaudio and Robbert van den Bergh as Nick Massi.
A national UK tour was launched in autumn 2014, opening at Palace Theatre, Manchester, where it ran from September 4 to October 4. This production has the same creative team as the Broadway and West End productions. The cast includes Tim Driesen reprising his role from the Dutch production as Frankie Valli, with Stephen Webb as Tommy DeVito, Sam Ferriday as Bob Gaudio and Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi. A second national tour will begin in December 2017 at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham.
In late 2014, a tour of the United States performed in a number of U.S. cities, including Denver in December.
A Japanese production, directed by Shuntaro Fujita, opened at the Theatre Crea in Tokyo on July 1, 2016. The cast includes Akinori Nakagawa as Frankie Valli.
A tour in 19 cities of the United States is scheduled from March 2016 through March 2017.
Only months after closing on Broadway, it has been announced that the musical will move Off-Broadway. It won't be the first hit musical to do so, with Avenue Q being a prime example. It is set to open once again in November 2017.
"Ces soirées-là", a modern pop-rap song that was released in 2000, is performed. Tommy DeVito arrives, introduces himself and explains how the song is a cover of The Four Seasons' "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)". He offers to tell the story of the band, explaining how he started out with the group "The Variety Trio" with his brother Nick DeVito and friend Nick Massi, eventually discovering teenager Frankie Castelluccio and taking him under his wing, teaching him everything he knows ("The Early Years: A Scrapbook"). During these early years Nick Massi helped train Frankie to sing, Tommy went in and out of prison, Frankie changed his last name to Valli, Tommy and Frankie developed a good relationship with mob boss Gyp DeCarlo, and Frankie fell in love with and married Mary Delgado. Musically, the band was still struggling and kept changing their name and sound but without any dramatic success. One day friend and fellow Jersey boy Joe Pesci comes up to Tommy and says that he knows a singer-songwriter who'd make the perfect fourth for their band: Bob Gaudio.
Bob Gaudio takes over the narration, telling the audience that no matter what Tommy says, he wasn't plucked from obscurity by him, since he already had a hit single with "Short Shorts". Bob goes with Joe Pesci to see the band perform, and is immediately impressed by Frankie's voice. Bob performs a song he'd just written: "Cry for Me" on piano, which Frankie, Nick Massi and then Tommy joining in with vocals, bass and guitar respectively. They negotiate an agreement, though Tommy is at first skeptical that Bobby (then still a teenager) will be good for the band. The band eventually gets a contract with producer Bob Crewe but only to sing back-up ("Backup Sessions"). Crewe insists that the band has an "identity crisis" and needs to make a firm decision on a name and a sound. The band name themselves after The Four Seasons bowling alley, and Bobby writes them three songs that finally propel them to stardom: "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man". In the wake of their success, Bob also chalks up a personal first by losing his virginity ("December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)"). The band's success means that they tour a lot more, along the way discovering the girl band The Angels ("My Boyfriend's Back"). Unfortunately, the constant touring strains Frankie's marriage to Mary, and they eventually divorce ("My Eyes Adored You"). The band continues to enjoy chart successes ("Dawn (Go Away)") until after a concert the band is approached by a loan shark out to claim money owed by Tommy ("Walk Like a Man (reprise)").
Nick Massi, taking over as Narrator, explains that Bob was so focused on the band's musical success and future that he couldn't see that the band had been in trouble for some time. Tommy's been racking up debts, and a forgotten bill during a previous tour lands the band in jail over the weekend, which strains things between Tommy and Bob ("Big Man in Town"). Nick observes that Tommy became jealous of Frankie's success and closeness with Bobby, and attempted to seduce Frankie's new girlfriend Lorraine. The two never confronted each other about it, but the old friendship was not what it used to be. When the loan shark approaches the band for the $150,000 owed by Tommy, Frankie goes to Gyp DeCarlo for help despite Tommy's insistence that he doesn't need it ("Beggin'"). The band, Gyp, and the loan shark come to agreement: Tommy is to be "sequestered" in Las Vegas where the mob can keep an eye on him, and the band will willingly cover the debt, along with an additional half a million in unpaid taxes that Tommy kept hidden from the group. At this time, Nick declares that he's tired of everything and wants out ("Stay/Let's Hang On!").
Frankie takes over narration, explaining that though he owes Tommy a great deal, he's aware that their relationship wasn't ideal, and he never understood why Nick decided to leave. Frankie and Bob find replacements to keep the band a quartet ("Opus 17 (Don't You Worry 'Bout Me)") until Bobby announces that he's never been comfortable in the spotlight and that Frankie should be a single, i.e. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In his personal life, Frankie's relationship with his daughter Francine is strained and he breaks up with girlfriend Lorraine ("Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby, Goodbye)"). Frankie continues to have success thanks to Bobby's songs, and hits jackpot with "C'mon Marianne" and the almost-never-released "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" which Bobby fights to get airplay for. Along with the success of "Working My Way Back to You", Frankie and Bobby finally finish paying off Tommy's debts, and Frankie's life is good until his daughter Francine dies from a drug overdose ("Fallen Angel")
Bob Crewe describes The Four Seasons' 1990 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which reunited the original four members on stage one last time ("Rag Doll"). Each member takes a moment to address the audience in turn, explaining his pride at having been with the band and briefly notes what he did afterwards ("Who Loves You").
Principal roles and casts
The score for Jersey Boys requires a small orchestra with nine musicians: three keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, two woodwind players, and trumpet. The first woodwind player doubles on alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute, and oboe. The second woodwind part doubles on tenor and baritone sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet. The trumpet also doubles on flugelhorn.
Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote, "THE CROWD GOES WILD. I'm talking about the real, mostly middle-aged crowd at the August Wilson Theater, who seem to have forgotten what year it is or how old they are or, most important, that John Lloyd Young is not Frankie Valli. And everything that has led up to that curtain call feels, for just a second, as real and vivid as the sting of your hands clapping together."
Charles Spencer from The Daily Telegraph wrote: "Overpaid, over-sexed and over here, it will, I suspect be some time before London says Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye) to the PHENOMENAL Jersey Boys." Benedict Nightingale from The Times said, "Oh What a Night. There were times when I felt that the performers were making even the Beatles sound somewhat lacking in musical texture." Quentin Letts from The Daily Mail said, "I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a big thumper of a show with fantastic songs."
Recording and adaptations
An original cast recording was made by Rhino Entertainment, Jersey Boys: Original Broadway Cast Recording (Rhino R2 73271), released in November 2005, which won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. In February 2008, the album was certified Gold, having shipped more than 500,000 copies in the US. In October 2009, the cast album was certified Platinum, selling over 1,000,000 copies in the United States.
A Movie adaptation of the musical, directed by Clint Eastwood was released in 2014.
The West End cast of Jersey Boys appeared as a guest act for the Royal Variety Performance 2008, which was staged at the London Palladium on December 11 in the presence of senior members of the Royal family. The Royal Variety Performance is a gala event held annually at a major British theatre, to raise money for the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund. In 2010, The West End cast of Jersey Boys performed a show, with the profits going to Children In Need. The show ended with Pudsey Bear joining in to sing a medley, and raised £60,150 for the charity. In 2009 the cast also appeared as a guest act for Children In Need.
Jersey Boys Chicago has been honored two years in a row at the Broadway Cares event for being the top fundraiser in the Tour category. In 2008, Jersey Boys Chicago raised $220,000 for BC/EFA.
For every ticket sold for every Broadway performance in the month of October 2010, $1 was donated to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. Jersey Boys aimed to raise funds to restore one full music education program in a New York City school. The show eventually raised $43,521, enough to restore the instrumental music education program at PS 85 in the Bronx. Plans were made to donate additional funds raised to a second VH1 Save The Music Foundation grant recipient school.
The Boys in Concert
Four actors of the original Broadway production, Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer, launched a concert tour titled The Boys in Concert in 2010. Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice sued the production, claiming that it "steals songs, stage elements and copyrighted logo" that imply that it is an authorized spin-off of Jersey Boys. The production was rebranded as The 4 Hitmen, and Hoff, Longoria, Reichard and Spencer counter-sued, claiming that the accusations were false, and alleging the use of "bully tactics" in an "effort to injure the livelihood and the reputations" of the actors. On September 23, 2010, Valli and company dropped the original suit, on the condition that the name of the performance is changed to distance itself from Jersey Boys. As of February 2013, this production is still active, and is named The Midtown Men.
Awards and honors
Original Broadway production
Original London production
In popular culture
The HBO series The Sopranos made several nods to Jersey Boys. For example:
Frankie Valli played Mob captain Rusty Millio, one of a group of just-released prison felons referred to the show's fictional journalists as "the Class of 2004".
In The Sopranos episode, "The Ride" (May 7, 2006), Marianucci Gaultieri accompanies several other Green Grove Retirement Home residents on a bus trip to see Jersey Boys.
And the Season 6 episode, "Walk Like a Man" (May 6, 2007), is titled after the Four Seasons' 1963 song.