February 22, 2012

Jersey Boys Bids Arrivederci to The Palazzo…

February 22nd, 2012

JB Vegas Sign

We can’t get enough of the JERSEY BOYS Las Vegas Company’s final show at The Palazzo Resort & Casino on January 1, 2012. A recap, photo coverage, and finally–we’ve saved the best for last: reflections not only from the final performance, but from the very beginning of JERSEY BOYS on The Strip, when it was all still ahead of us, from JBB Special Correspondent Extraordinaire, Stubbleyou!

By Stubbleyou, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

A Day in the life of a Southern California Jersey Boys Fan … or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Number Four.


When I started listening to rock and roll in 1962, the Four Seasons instantly became my favorite group. Not the Four Tops, the Four Preps, or the Four Freshman. Of course when the Fab Four hit two years later, things got all shook up. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One day is not enough for a trip to Vegas, even when you live as close as L.A. Two or three nights minimum, please. But sometimes you gotta make an exception. Catching the final performance of Jersey Boys at the Palazzo last January 1 was such an extenuating circumstance. Twenty-four hours was all I could carve out of the busy holiday season.

I’ve been going to Las Vegas regularly since I was twenty. That’s the better part of four decades. There’s been a lot of change during that time: Hotels that are old now were new then; most that were there then are gone. I miss the old guard – the Dunes, the D.I., the Aladdin, the Sands, the Stardust, The Riv, the Trop, the Sahara. But my favorite was the Motel 6, where four of us would pile into one room, kick in five bucks each for the $19.95 room rate, and get a nickel back for the slots. No sales tax in Nevada.

Those were the days of Ocean’s Eleven – the rat pack original, not the 2001 Deven May, I mean, George Clooney, remake. When the only knife Charo and Cher had gone under was filed under ” Mack the.” When Don Rickles was coming up and Liberace hadn’t come out. When Donald Trump had a full head of hair and, when you said “platinum blonde” to Sheldon Adelson, he thought of Jayne Mansfield, not Calista Gingrich. When Joan Rivers and Wayne Newton still thought “Nip and Tuck” was the name of the duo who’s two hits were the Bob Crewe compositions “La Dee Dah” and “Lucky Ladybug.” Soon to be covered by Frankie and company, of course. (Multiple choice: The duo’s real name was (a) Skip and Flip, (b) Marvin and Johnny, (c) Don and Juan, (d) Lottie and Dottie, (e) Billy and Lilly; (f) Paul and Paula, (g) Santo and Johnny, (h) Tom and Jerry.)

But the hands-down worst change in Vegas over the years has been the increase of traffic on the Strip. I HATE driving on the Strip. Fuggetaboudit. Which is part of why this recent visit, a one-day turnaround on New Year’s Day, turned out so well. A small part – the major part was that I was going there to welcome in the new year by bidding farewell to the production of JERSEY BOYS at the Palazzo. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The trip started with four good omens. First, the drive into town took just under four hours. In the old days, it took at least six. I flew. Yeah, it was New Year’s Day and there was lots of traffic, but most of it was in the other direction. While I was going in, everybody else was getting out. Second, I lucked into avoiding Strip traffic – by the time my GPS took me off the I-15 north at Flamingo, it was telling me to make a left onto the Strip. The left turn lanes were backed up more than two blocks and it would have taken another half hour just to complete the turn, so I politely told the British GPS lady to shove it and barreled straight on through.

A few turns later the Red Sea parted and I found myself on a hidden gem of a street that took me straight into the Venetian’s parking structure from the back, avoiding Strip traffic completely. Never had the word “recalculating” sounded so good. Next, (and that’s third, if you’re counting) I was pleased to see only a short line at the Venetian’s large and lavish registration desk. A staffer waved his “V” sign at me beckoning me to his station before I even had to break stride. So pleased was I that I complimented him on how well they were handling the line. “We try to keep our guests happy,” he said, as if for the first time. Being one who rarely knows when to shut up, I added, “…and if you really want to make me happy you’ll have a room ready for me now.” Obnoxious, right? I didn’t mean it that way. You see, it was only one o’clock, and check-in time was three. Now let me digress: Last time I was in town, I hit the check-in desk at the Palazzo at about two, again hoping for a room right away though I was an hour early. They told me there wasn’t anything ready yet but that they’d call me as soon as there was. (“The maid is cleaning the room right now.”) Luckily I ran into some friends and enjoyed a late leisurely lunch at the Luxe, because it wasn’t until almost four that I got the call. When I politely expressed some dismay over the fact that they were an hour late, I was told something I had never heard before: “Well sir, when we say check-in time is three, we don’t mean that we’ll have a room for you at that time. We just mean that at three you can register.” What the Flamingo?! End of digression; back to 2012.

No sooner had I replayed the above flashback in my mind than I was being handed keys to my suite on the twenty-somethingth floor. And that was item number four, and all was good, and I rested.


The rooms at the Venetian and Palazzo – they call them suites – are gorgeous. The perfect spot to relax, refresh, recharge, and reflect…

Opening night had been four years earlier. (Okay, three years and nine months, but I rounded up.) Then, I was seeing the show for the fourth time. Four – four- aught eight was the date. There was excitement in the air as final touches were put on the brand new Jersey Boys Theater, built specifically to house the show. The Palazzo itself had opened only four months prior. And though the Four Seasons didn’t levitate the Pentagon, Wikipedia points out that “upon its completion, The Palazzo displaced the Pentagon as the largest building in the United States in terms of floor space.”

Producer Michael David of Dodger Theatricals stood off to the side, discreetly eying the crowd as it filled in with uncurbed enthusiasm (no relation; I asked). Inside the theater, four of the founding fathers – Bob Gaudio, Des McAnuff, Rick Elice, and Sergio Trujillo – checked out the sightlines and accepted well-wishes. The show went off without a hitch. Actually, that’s an understatement. It was outstanding. Jersey Boys had arrived, and Jersey Boys delivered. The bar was set. High. Veni, vidi, vici.

Seeing the show at the Palazzo was unlike seeing it anywhere else. From hearing John Lloyd Young’s dulcet tones and the OBC soundtrack in the elevators the moment you stepped in from the parking garage, to the B roll playing in the casino, to the show’s logo appearing on the blackjack tables, the gaming chips, and the room keys, this was not just a venue, it was an environment. Jersey Boys Las Vegas had its own distinct personality, and it maintained it despite almost a complete turnover in the cast. Only the three J’s were there for the entire run: Jeff Leibow (Nick), John Salvatore (Crewe), and Jason Martinez (Waxman). Joe Leo Bwarie and Dominic Scaglione, Jr. both cut their Castelluccio cuspids here as alternates before moving on to become principal Frankies elsewhere. But plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, right? (It may be time to brush up on our collective French). The more things change, the more they stay the same. And they stayed at that same high bar, winning many “best of” awards, collectively and individually, along the way.


The show started at eleven. I don’t mean eleven o’clock. I mean, like on a scale of one to ten, a Spinal Tap eleven. And it stayed there almost all the way through the whole show. People clapping along with C’est Soiree La from the get-go, high enthusiasm from the full house, which was returned to the audience with the palpable energy level from the players. It was a season of oxymorons – they were precise yet loose, careful yet carefree. There was something in the air, and it wasn’t the smell of a dump past a landfill off a turnpike anyway. It was the joy of people who were on top of their game working together and enjoying each other and what they were creating together. For the last time, sort of. It all added up to what was very likely the best performance of the show I’ve seen.

It’s hard to describe – and I’m not usually one at a loss for words. But the best analogy I can come up with is this: This performance was their victory lap. You know how a competitive runner has to continually monitor every nuance of his or her performance? Every footplant, every arm swing, every breath in and out has to be controlled, precise, and according to plan. It’s not fun, but practice, hard work, and talent can produce a winning result. But when that winning runner takes his or her victory lap, there is no more pressure, no more worries – just accomplishment, pride, and joy. And so it was on this night — the race was over, and Jersey Boys had won it’s four- year marathon. Great reviews, multiple awards, audience raves, you name it. It cleared the bar. It passed the test. It was time to take that well-earned victory lap.

It was a true ensemble performance, definitely a team effort. They were all great. But certain things jump out at each of us, and here are three that jumped out at me: Travis Cloer’s voice has always been in a class by itself, and hearing him sing is worth the price of admission alone, no exaggeration. But it’s his acting that really has come into it’s own over the last couple of years. His Frankie is very human and believable all along the way as he matures throughout the show. And Jeff Leibow’s Nick, well…you know how they say that the best humor is based on truth? There’s a reason that the “Ringo” line gets the laughs it does, and that’s because, for better or worse, it’s sort of true. The role of Nick is the least “meaty” of the four, partly because the real Nick unfortunately was not around for the writers to interview or the actors to model themselves after, and partly because in real life as a Season, though a harmony genius behind the scenes, his public persona did not draw as much attention from the outside. Despite this, Jeff manages to squeeze more out of that role than one would think possible. His Nick is a strong, aggressive presence onstage, even when he’s not talking. He projects a brooding inner tension, like a tightly wound spring, that cannot be ignored. And like Travis, he has added more and more depth to his character as the months have gone by. Finally, Natalie Hill’s Mary Delgado is something many of you may not have had the pleasure of seeing, since she was with the show only about four months, and is now departing for New York. You’ll just have to take my word for it, then, that she did a dynamite, captivating job.

So, like I said, the show started at an eleven and stayed there almost all the way through. That’s because at “Who Loves You,” they kicked it up to a twelve. The victory lap of the victory lap. It didn’t seem possible but you could feel it. And I’m pretty sure Peter Saide felt it – when the reality that this was the end of his last performance as Bob in Vegas (he’s joining the JB family in New York) hit him as the guys raised their arms triumphantly at the end of “Who Loves You,” you could see it in his eyes. Let’s just say that from row G they told me that if I had sprung for VIP seats I just might have seen a bit of moisture in them… it was poignant, but it was all good.

I’ve always likened the “Oh, What A Night (reprise)” finale to an onstage dance party where the players get to relax and burn off whatever tensions may remain from putting on a tight performance. This time it wasn’t just a party, it was a celebration. The last fast dance at a high school prom. The audience on its feet, clapping, sharing in the celebration. Deven May breaking into some pop-and-lock. Some girls in the audience with large posters, with messages for each of the Seasons: “Deven May Delivers!” “Tour Outer Space!” ( I don’t remember what the other two said. Can anyone help out here?) The guys running off that stage for the final time, holding roses given to them by some audience superfans. Guitarist/thug Jim McIntosh running around onstage doing his own victory lap as the audience didn’t want things to end…

But end they did. And that was that.


The end of an era? Yes and not exactly, since the show reopens next month – same city, different hotel (“It’s the Seine, Tommy!”); you decide. But either way, it ended with an energy level so high in those last ten minutes or so, that it was one of those times where you wish you could do it over, relive it in slow motion even, so as to be able to savor every moment, every smile, every beat, every joyous note.

I knew I’d have to leave town early the next morning to beat the holiday traffic. As much as I would have liked to linger in my suite, I obeyed my wake-up call. Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. No lavish Vegas brunch buffet today; I grabbed a coffee and a croissant on the way out and hit the road, Jack.

Good thing – I made it in four hours. And I was home by eleven.


  1. Stubbs, What great memories and descriptions of the last JB show at The Palazzo! Really, your write up was the next best thing to being there.I remember how thrilling the first show was, definetely a 12 out of 10.The stars have been in alignment for 4yrs in Vegas, and will continue going forward.

    Comment by Pamela — February 23, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

  2. Steve-
    Great piece. Love your parodies, you’re also an excellent essayist. Who knew? Thanks for taking us along on this ride.

    Comment by George O'Brien — February 24, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  3. Fabulous summary. I remember the excitement of the very first show at the Palazzo and what a great night that was. But that last show was incredible. The energy, the performances and even the audience was fantastic. Many great memories at the Palazzo.

    Looking forward to making new ones at Paris.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Comment by Linda/Tiggerbelle — February 25, 2012 @ 12:13 am

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