Before the movie, 'Jersey Boys' took Broadway by storm



The movie “Jersey Boys” that opens today is based on real lives and a live stage musical, but it marches to its own beat. Here are 10 points about director Des McAnuff's stage version and its journey to become a Clint Eastwood-directed film.

• Chart-toppers: On stage, “Jersey Boys” begins with the French rap version of “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” that went to No. 1 in France and Belgium in 2000. It makes the point that, even in the era of the Beatles and the British Invasion, the Four Seasons were a global phenomenon.

• Billboard and beyond: The band that has sold more than 175 million records and had seven Billboard No. 1’s proved to have a back story as compelling as its music. Tony nominees Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote the book for the musical that has been on Broadway for more than 3,500 performances and counting.

• Oh what an opening night: The first performance of “Jersey Boys” was Oct. 4, 2005, and it’s still there, at the August Wilson Theater. It won three Tonys, including best musical, and it has spawned two North American tours and productions in London's West End, Las Vegas, Chicago, Toronto, Singapore, South Africa, The Netherlands, several Australian cities and more.

• A Frankie for all seasons: As the musical’‍s first Frankie, John Lloyd Young became the only performer to win all four major awards for Broadway actors: Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Theater World. Mr. Young, lauded in The New York Times for his spot-on falsetto and “white-hot sincerity,” now leads the movie cast in the same role, with Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio and Michael Lomenda as Nick Massi reprising their roles from the first national tour.

• Twice a Jersey boy: Christian Hoff won a Tony as the dynamic Tommy DeVito, but the onscreen role went to Vincent Piazza, Lucky Luciano in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” — set mostly in Atlantic City, N.J.

• You may have seen ... : The current Frankie on Broadway, Joseph Leo Bwarie, has played the role a record number of times — more than 1,700 — including a national tour stop in Pittsburgh. His understudy, Nick Cosgrove, is a Carnegie Mellon University graduate, as is Drew Gehling, who plays Mr. Gaudio. Candi Boyd (swing) is a Point Park University grad, and Peter Gregus, the original Bob Crewes, who remains with the Broadway company, was in Pittsburgh two years ago to co-direct (with Tome Cousin) a Point Park production of “M33,” a play about the marathon-dance age.

• Movie transformation: When the tour came to Pittsburgh in 2009, Mr. Gaudio, the Four Seasons band member who wrote most of Frankie Valli's hits, said a movie was in the works. “It’s pretty amazing the people who are talking about it. We’re starting at the top, Hopefully, we‘’ll wind up there. It’s a matter of timing. To put a film out prematurely is potentially not helpful to the theater production. Arguments go back and forth.”

• Before there was Clint: Variety reported in 2012 that “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau had emerged as the front-runner to direct the movie adaptation of “Jersey Boys.” Actor-director Mr. Eastwood, a composer who sang onscreen in “Paint Your Wagon,” signed on to direct in September of last year.

• Walken like a man: As mob boss Gyp DeCarlo, Oscar-winning actor Christopher Walken has some of the film's best lines in an increased role for the screen. Mr. Walken doesn’t have a song or dance number, but he has musical theater chops and co-starred in the film version of “Hairspray.”

• The song that started it all: The musical and the movie make the point that it took Mr. Gaudio about 15 minutes to write “Sherry,” the song that launched the band to No. 1. In both the stage and screen versions, “Sherry” is the point when the audience is introduced to the Four Seasons’‍ familiar Hall-of-Fame sound.


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