December 17, 2005

Brickman & Elice: The Writers Behind Jersey Boys

December 17th, 2005

As most everyone knows, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote the Jersey Boys book. Who are the guys behind the book that is one of the hottest hits on Broadway?

Marshall Brickman

Marshall Brickman, 62, was born in Brazil to American parents. While still in his teens, Brickman was a member of the Tarriers, a group which also included future actor Alan Arkin. He paid his way through college as a folksinger and graduated with a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin. After college, Brickman hung around the New York folk scene, playing for free in Washington Square Park on weekends.

Brickman also took a number of showbiz jobs: he penned special material for Candid Camera, then he won an Emmy for his work on the Dick Cavett Show. Through Cavett, Brickman became acquainted with Woody Allen. In the 1970s, Brickman would collaborate on the scripts of some of Allen’s best films, including Sleeper and Manhattan. In 1977, Brickman and Allen shared an Oscar for the screenplay of Annie Hall.

Rick Elice

Rick Elice saw his first Broadway show at the age of three. From that day on, he dreamed of working in the theater. From the age of 19, he has. He has a BA from Cornell University and MFA from Yale Drama School. From 1982 through 2000, he served as creative director at Serino Coyne, where he produced ad campaigns for some 300 Broadway shows, from A Chorus Line to The Lion King. Since 2000, he has served as creative consultant for the Walt Disney Studios. In addition, to his Broadway production and promotion gigs, he wrote a popular thriller, Double Double, that’s been translated into 16 languages. As an actor, he has appeared Off-Broadway in Elaine May’s comedy, Adult Entertainment.

The Jersey Boys Project

How did Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice team up to write Jersey Boys? The two were looking to do something together. As luck would have it, friends had arranged a meeting with Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio, the last two active members of the group and the ones who controlled the Four Seasons’ rights. Brickman says, “They wanted to do their ‘Mama Mia.’ We had a lunch with them and they opened up about their early life, about getting mobbed up, and it was just a wonderful story. It was Shakespearean. It had love, hate, betrayal, jealousy.”

The show had been lumped, pre-arrival, with many other recent “jukebox” musicals – Mamma Mia!, Good Vibrations, All Shook Up, Lennon – but Brickman said there’s a fundamental difference. While the score of Jersey Boys also consists of old songs, they are not used to tell a story.

“This is not a typical book musical,” Brickman said. “The songs [from the Four Seasons' catalog] are presented, with a couple of exceptions, as performances – in concerts, the recording studio, rehearsals.

“They’re not really the type of numbers that you can use to tell the story, which is very strong. There’s success, jealousy, betrayal, death. The book carries much more weight in this show.”

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