May 17, 2009

Jersey Boys Comes to Boston This Summer!

May 17th, 2009

The Boston Globe’s Louise Kennedy notes that Boston’s downtown theaters will have a busier summer than usual–with JERSEY BOYS (July 23-Sept. 26), The Color Purple, and Rent coming to town.

What all three shows have in common, aside from successful Broadway runs and crowd-pleasing tunes, is a strong sense of story – and a story drawn from superficially unlikely sources for Broadway musicals: the untold history of a few blue-collar kids from New Jersey. Turns out that it was the story that Rick Elice, who wrote the “Jersey Boys” book with Marshall Brickman, says first attracted him to the project.

After a successful career in advertising and then as a consultant to Walt Disney Studios, Elice (pronounced “Ellis”) had the chance to meet the Four Seasons’ lead singer, Frankie Valli, and composer, Bob Gaudio. He’d become friends with Marshall Brickman, Woody Allen’s longtime collaborator, and invited him along.

As Valli and Gaudio started spinning out anecdotes of the group’s rise to fame, Elice says, “I thought, ‘How come we’ve never read any of these fascinating, really bizarre, and sometimes really harrowing stories before?’”

The more he listened, the more he understood why. “These were blue-collar guys who didn’t come across the ocean; they came from the wrong side of the river,” he says. “And their stories – it was all sort of career-ending stuff: crime, mixing with the Mob, being arrested. Things that would have prevented the songs from being on the radio – and which now are the stuff of good musical theater.”

Elice and Brickman soon obtained Valli and Gaudio’s blessing to write a musical about the Seasons – and, with nothing more than that agreement and the permission to use the group’s music, secured director Des McAnuff and financial backing. From there, Elice says, writing “Jersey Boys” was an unusually quick process, “much faster than writing a musical usually is.” Once they figured out the show’s basic structure – giving each of the group’s four members a chance, and a “season,” to be the audience’s primary connection to a segment of the story – the anecdotes flowed naturally into place.

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