May 27, 2009

Encore Atlanta’s Interview with Rick Elice!

May 27th, 2009

Visit to listen to and read Kristi Casey Sanders’ in-depth interview with Rick Elice! Here’s a preview:

Q: How did you get involved in the ‘great fight’?

A: When I was three years old, I taken by my parents to see a show on Broadway. I was born here in NY and my parents, I guess, they courted at various shows in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s and so when they had kids, they decided they were going to make the effort to take my brother and me to shows. Of course in those days it was sort of a badge of honor to sit in the very last row of the very highest balcony. I remember the ceiling always parting my hair with the ceiling. I never got to sit in good seats until worked in advertising, because they had to put me in the good seats so I could see what was happening. So from the age of three I think I was thrown into the deep end of the pool … and I’ve been going ever since. It was always a treat when I was young to be taken to the theater…

When I was a teenager, there were shows playing on Broadway where you could get a ticket for $2, obstructed view tickets they called them. But you could get them for $2, which was cheaper than a movie so if it was a rainy afternoon, if you weren’t playing ball, if you weren’t hanging out with your friends, you could just walk into midtown and get a ticket for two bucks, which was a big great way to grow up.

And then when I got back to New York and started to seriously think about a career, I found myself in advertising and I kind of backed into a job as a creative director at an advertising agency that handled almost every show on Broadway. So I worked on about 310 shows doing ad campaigns for them and writing commercials and directing TV commercials and doing posters and things like that, so I was never far away from the lure of the theater. That has always been my y goal to work in the theater. So I couldn’t be more happy with Jersey Boys’ success because it’s the first show I’ve ever written; it’s the first show Marshall Brinkman has ever written. And we managed to ring the bell with it. So I really feel blessed. I think of myself as the luckiest guy in the world.

Q: How did you become involved in “Jersey Boys?” Were you still in advertising?

A: I was working at Disney as a consultant, I had the greatest job in the world I was sort of a diplomat without a portfolio for the Walt Disney Studio. And I would parachute in and out of various projects and give advice. I got a call about doing a show with/about the Four Seasons about a year after Mamma Mia opened on Broadway. And the suggestion was, “How about doing Mamma Mia with the music of the Four Seasons?” And it was sort of a non-starter with me, but I did want to do something with Marshall and we never thought it would be a show, but we arranged a luncheon with Frankie Vallie and Bob Gaudio — the two operative Seasons. And we just thought, “Hey, a free lunch is a free lunch. Wouldn’t it be a kick.” Because I knew their songs and had several very specific associations with them from when I was a kid, mostly from summer camp. I don’t know if you have summer camp in Atlanta, but in New York, the lower middle class parents in ship their kids off to upstate New York in the summertime, so they can spend some time by themselves, and the kids can get away from the intense heat of the city. And you had counselors who were all older than you, and of course they’re the people that you all want to be like. So the music they listen to becomes very important to you. And they were listening to the Beatles and the Kinks and the Dead and the Who and the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys. These became my aspirational songs when I was a boy.

So I’d been trying to find a project to collaborate with Marshall on. And we went to the back of a very dark restaurant, and we sat there for a very long time and Bob and Frankie started telling us about the band and how they got together and rode the rocket when they hit and we asked them how come we never heard or read about these incredible stories they were telling us. I mean, music fans all know about their groups. You know, whatever your group was, you knew all about it. But all I knew about the Seasons was the music. And when they told us that they were never really written about because they were these blue collar, local guys without any glamour quotient, they didn’t have long hair, they didn’t have exotic accents, they didn’t come from across the pond, they came from the wrong side of the river, and so their story was never told because they were deemed unimportant by the cultural elite, which would be I guess you and me. We got very interested and suggested this untold story should be the show. They were intrigued enough to ask for a treatment and ultimately courageous enough to say go ahead and put it up there on the stage warts and all.

And the second miracle, after they agreed to let us write it, was there was a particular director we had in mind, Des McAnuff with whom I had worked years before when I was a kid and he was some insanely talented genius from Canada. I knew that he was sort a rocker in his soul and he directed Tommy on Broadway and I did the advertising for that, and he was the … We had a list of one name, which was Des, to direct the show and it turned out that the very first LP that Des had as a boy growing up in Toronto was Sherry and 11 Other Hits by the Four Seasons. So it was very serendipitous when we walked into the room. Now you’re very young Kristi, do you know what an LP is?


  1. What a awesome interview….I love Rick’s stories…THE sweetest person you would EVER want to know…will everybody knows that!

    Comment by kathy johnstone — May 28, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  2. Thanks Kathy!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. It was a fun one to do. And I’m glad that he allowed me to post the full audio. We can only fit 500-700 words in the show programs at a time, so it’s nice to be able to provide more content and context to fans.


    Comment by Kristi Casey Sanders — June 22, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Please leave a comment