February 10, 2008

Four Seasons Story Hits the Stage in Tampa!

February 10th, 2008

With Jersey Boys opening at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, and playing through March 15, Jay Handleman of the Heraldtribune.com has a terrific story about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, their rise to fame, and the story behind JB! The feature includes interviews with Bob Gaudio, Rick Elice, and Christopher Kale Jones.

Though they had a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were never media darlings like The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

You might think of them as the Rodney Dangerfield of pop music at the time. They got no respect.

Sure, millions sang along to such No. 1 hits as “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Rag Doll,” but there was a lot of darkness lurking behind the music, lives filled with trouble, pain and some crime, all of which serve as the backdrop for the Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys.”

Far from a standard-issue jukebox musical, it tells the story of the Four Seasons from four perspectives. The music makes audiences cheer, but the story, mostly untold until the show was created, raises the emotions.

“It’s true; we were never glamour boys. We were never treated as such. We were only as good as our last record,” said Bob Gaudio, one of the quartet of singers and the group’s main composer. “If we didn’t have a hit there was no attention. Now, as it turns out, thank God, because people walk out of the show and say, ‘I had no idea.’ There are good portions of the show that are so unexpected.”

The touring cast stars Erik Bates as DeVito, Steve Gouveia as Massi, Andrew Rannells as Gaudio and Christopher Kale Jones as Valli, a role that earned a Tony Award for original Broadway star John Lloyd Young.

Jones said in a telephone interview from Houston that the pressure is always on him because Valli is “the voice of the Four Seasons that we know best, and I have the responsibility to recreate that sound so people can suspend their disbelief.”

But the touring cast was told to make the characters their own.

The goal was not to create a tribute band, Jones said. “At the same time, we could create our own characters and use our strengths and bring those characters out.”

Of course, Jones’ most important strength has to be his ability to hit the distinctive high notes on such songs as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man.”

Jones acknowledges that it is “the hardest role I’ve ever played in my life. I’ve been doing musical theater for most of my life, but this is all about 27 songs that Frankie sings in the show, and it’s a stress on the voice.”

To keep his voice fresh, Jones performs only six of the eight shows presented each week. But he loves every minute of it.

“It’s the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had in my career and the largest role, perhaps, in the musical theater today.”

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