June 18, 2006

JB’s National & International Appeal

June 18th, 2006

Who doesn’t love an underdog? It might seem ironic in hindsight, what with all the repeated shout-outs and standing ovations, but last fall, that was the situation for this year’s best-musical Tony winner.

Variety’s Gordon Cox and David Rooney note that Jersey Boys, a jukebox tuner about (what else?) scrappy little guys who go on to make it big, arrived on the Broadway scene just as producers seemed ready to pull the plug on the troubled genre.

Not only did the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons defy a tottering trend, building momentum over the course of this season, but the show also fended off the likes of Oprah Winfrey. The win confirmed what audiences had been cheering for months — the show is an undeniable hit.

The producers and creatives behind Jersey Boys have used the awards momentum to build anticipation on the road, both nationally and internationally. Jersey already has lined up the start of a national tour, with a December bow in San Francisco. Bookers are firming up subsequent stops. Beyond that, “we’ll play London, but we’re not sure where yet,” says producer Michael David of Dodger Theatricals. “And we’ve been talking on and off with the Dutch” — i.e., former business partner Stage Entertainment — about other international prospects.

Director Des McAnuff has hinted at his interest in taking the hit show to Australia and in working on a film adaptation. Since it opened on Broadway in November, Jersey Boys has grossed $30.5 million and has racked up a $25 million advance. When asked to try to explain the tuner’s broad appeal, McAnuff says,

“I think people come expecting to love the music, but then they get wrapped up in the story. “

Since hitting Broadway, the show, which wrapped an impressive $622,000 the day after the Tonys, has built into a box office bonanza, recently rising into the ranks of productions that habitually top $1 million per week.

A visit to the show on June 13 — the first performance after its Tony win for best musical, as well as trophies for lead actor John Lloyd Young and featured actor Christian Hoff — made clear that audiences have embraced the spirit of the rags-to-riches tale about a bunch of ordinary guys from a blue-collar neighborhood.

Applause reached curtain-call levels throughout the show after hits like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” while the finale’s standing ovation from the packed house was as instantaneous and unanimous as any Broadway show could hope for. Even folks with walking canes jumped up.

The musical’s themes of family, friendship and loyalty and the deep connection of its unpretentious characters to their roots stand to bolster its appeal across the U.S. — red states and blue.

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