February 1, 2007

Rockers on Broadway- From New York to Jersey Style

February 1st, 2007

Slide Show Photo Credits: Photos 1-7: Kathy Bartsche;
Photos 8-9: Linda Lenzi/BroadwayWorld.com; Photos 10-11: Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.

Jersey Boys Blog is thrilled to present Special Correspondents Audrey Rockman and Howard Tucker’s review of this phenomenal event!

“Rockers on Broadway–Jersey Style” had tons of talent and one, tiny, enviable problem Monday night–too much talent for one stage. Producers Donnie Kehr, Cori Gardner and Associate Producer Sandy Hicks had the guts to pull talent from all around the country and showcase these top musical performers at B.B. King’s in Times Square. The artists, who the 700 plus audience paid up to $100 to see, all donated their time in support of BC/EFA and Wingspan Arts. The talent was as stellar as it was six months ago, but showcased in a thoroughly professional production. The pace was crisp with actress/comedienne Caroline Rhea insuring seamless and humorous transitions from one artist to another.

O Wimoweh, O Wimoweh, Hush My Darling, Don’t Fear My Darling, The Lion Sleeps Tonight

The show kicked off with The Tokens, in from California, singing their 1961 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which became a hit again in 1994 after being featured in “The Lion King.”

A little known fact is that the Tokens produced Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” “Candida,” and “Knock Three Times”; the Happening’s “See You in September”; and the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” ; and their absolute favorite, Carole King’s and Gerry Goffin’s “One Fine Day” (a hit for the Chiffons, Julie Budd, Rita Coolidge, and Ms. King herself). A dynamite sing-along followed with the audience supplying One Fine Da..ya..ya…..“YOU’RE GONNA WANT ME FOR YOUR GIRL.”

For Sweet Caroline “That’s Life”

Caroline Rhea then took center stage introducing Jersey Boys, Donnie Kehr and John Lloyd Young. In keeping with the ‘Jersey Style’ theme of the night, the two sang the hit of Jersey’s own, Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.” Donnie told us later that “That’s Life” is his favorite song of all time. The 2006 Tony winner and Jersey City boy, John Lloyd, was ‘spot on’ as always, no matter what the vocal demand. After the show, he commented that although he enjoys singing as himself in a club setting, it can, in some ways, be harder than performing on stage as someone else.

Next up…Michael Lanning performed “10th Avenue Freeze-Out.”

All Favorites Here

Rhea declared her “favorite” Jersey Boy (but later hinted that whoever is on stage at the time is her “fave”) to be new dad J. Robert Spencer who was joined by Steve Gouveia in a lively, “Wanted: Dead or Alive.”

The large stage made room for trumpets, saxophones, guitars (including JB’s Steve Gouveia and Ken Dow) and drums flanked by two keyboards with tambourines popping up at key moments. This was reminiscent of Christian Hoff’s comment in the rehearsal video about the unique sounds from instruments ‘left over at studios from a Friday recording session’ and used when The Four Seasons couldn’t afford their own instruments.

The talented Kate Taylor on guitar slowed the pace a bit with the thought-provoking “I Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma and her own “He’s Waiting.”

John Leone joined in with a stunning performance on the harmonica. That, after all, is one of the opportunities of “Rockers on Broadway”… having the chance to showcase the many talents that don’t always fit into a script.

A Jersey Girl and a Former Jersey Boy

Enormously talented Sara Schmidt certainly didn’t need a microphone to completely fill the room with (Jersey’s own) Springsteen’s “Fire.”

The crowd was on their feet for Tituss Burgess, late of JB, (and songwriter/ lyricist of his CD, “Here’s To You”) who performed Tina Turner’s classic, “River Deep, Mountain High.” After Jersey Boys, Tituss played the Cowardly Lion recently for Des McAnuff in “The Wiz.” Burgess comes across as a warm individual who puts every molecule of his being into each song. There were cheers as it was learned he would be “Sebastian” in the new production of “The Little Mermaid” later this year.

Still A Believer

Back again this year with “Rockers on Broadway,” Micky Dolenz is still a believer after 40 years, as the crowd joined in with “I’m a Believer.” Dejavu… Micky, like Christian, Daniel, Bobby and John, auditioned as an actor and singer to be in a show about a band–a fictitious one to begin with in his case, but not for long.

You Were With Us in Spirit and on Video, Christian

Christian Hoff was in California, presenting JB director Des McAnuff with the first ever Des McAnuff Artistic Visionary Award. Des is set to move on to Stratford, Canada.

Thanks to the skilled production of the night, Christian was able to be there in spirit and sent his best wishes to “Rockers” and to Donnie via video, introducing Donnie’s rousing rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To, Since You Don’t Own Me

“Hairspray’s” Tracy Turnblad, Kathy Brier, brought the house down with special guest Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” Such emotion; are you the reincarnation of Ethel Merman or what!

A few minutes later, Broadway’s Deborah Gibson led a lively sing-along of Lesley’s “It’s My Party,” so convincingly, we were all looking for Judy and Johnny.

Deborah then paid tribute to the living legend Lesley Gore herself, and thanked her for paving the way for all future ‘chick’ singers.

We’re All Feelin’ Groovy

Billy Porter sang “What’s Goin’ On?”, the touching and always relevant Marvin Gaye classic.

Country music legend, Larry Gatlin, up from Texas for the show, “Look(ed) Around” in tribute to Cy Coleman, Adolph Green, and the recently deceased Betty Comden.

The audience learned that Paul Simon was also from New Jersey. In his honor, everyone sang “Feelin’ Groovy,” led by Steve Gouveia and Michael Lanning.

Trumpeter Mark Pender from the “Conan O’Brien Show’s” Max Weinberg 7 Band and Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions band kicked it into high gear with a rendition of his own song, “Baby.”

We heard from Ty Taylor and the wonderful Daniel Reichard’s voice boomed to the Talking Heads’ “And She Was.” Daniel got to ham it up, as he came out on stage and began the song in a supine position. (Daniel is performing Monday night, February 5th in Leading Men II at Birdland in New York. John Lloyd Young will unfortunately not be performing that evening as originally scheduled.)

We also heard from Jersey Boys’ normally ‘behind the scenes’ genius, Deborah Hurwitz on keyboards. The final song brought out other Jersey Boys favorites Michael Longoria and Dominic Nolfi, as well as all the stars of the evening.

Rhea led a standing audience in our own final encore of “Oh What a Night”!

The Purpose of the Evening, the Stars, and More!

Donnie Kehr announced that a record amount of over $20,000 had been raised for BC/EFA and for Wingspan Arts to loud cheers.

Caroline Rhea found Broadway and theatre legend Liza Minnelli in the audience and convinced her to stand to warm applause; she was looking wonderful and happy to be taking in such a show.

Jersey Boys book co-author, Rick Elice, was in attendance, as was Sid Bernstein who brought the Beatles (known to want to meet just one US band…The Four Seasons) to the States. Joey Reynolds, of WOR 710, friend of the Four Seasons, was also in the audience and talked about the evening on his radio show later that night.

Final thanks to Donnie Kehr, in addition to Producer Cori Gardner and Associate Producer Sandy Hicks. According to the website for “Rockers on Broadway,” the genesis of this event was “inspired by an idea from Pete Townshend, Donnie wanted to give musical theatre performers the opportunity to experience the feeling of singing with a rock band in a concert style venue, so they could understand and transfer the rawness of that edge to the stage.” Donnie founded and championed this event beginning in 1993, when he and Christian, directed by Des, were in “The Who’s Tommy.” Also thanks to sponsors Sara Lee (who provided goodies distributed by students whose talents will be blossom under the Wingspan Arts program); to Macy’s; to the Frye Company; and to Vineyard Vines.

Watch for the date of the next ‘Rockers on Broadway’ (www.RockersonBroadway.com) and get your tickets before they sell out as they did for this show!

Jersey Boys Blog would like to thank special correspondents Audrey Rockman and Howard Tucker for their terrific coverage of “Rockers on Broadway–Jersey Style.”


  1. My wife and I took in the show this past Monday, and apart from a little disorganization on the part of the B. B. King Blues Club staff in getting patrons waiting on an outside line (in the freezing cold, I might add) inside the venue and to their seats, and were treated to a very entertaining evening. It was an extremely enthusiastic audience, whose excitement was even more pronounced whenever a member of the Broadway production of Jersey Boys was performing. It appeared to be a most successful night of fundraising for two noteworthy causes!

    Comment by Len Gersten — February 1, 2007 @ 11:32 am

  2. We were also at the show Monday night and I have to
    say Donnie, Cori, and Sandy did an outstanding job
    putting this benefit together. I thought the venue
    was terrific for the event and the crowd which was a mature one who really appreciated all the artists that were performing. There was so much talent that came out on stage one right after another, it just blew me away. Especially seeing the cast members of Jersey Boys performing something different than they would normally when they are working at Jersey Boys.
    A Great Time was had by all and the crowd just went
    wild at the end!!
    Good Job! you guys.

    Comment by Damaris Dugan — February 1, 2007 @ 6:17 pm

  3. More than 40 years ago Frankie Valli & Aretha Franklin sang a duet of “That’s Life” on the Michael Douglas show. John Lloyd Young and Donnie Kehr sang the same song on Rockers on Broadway. Both of the songs can be seen on You Tube.

    Comment by THEA — February 1, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

  4. My husband and I also attended this event. We were amazed at the high energy and the amazing amount of talent that had been lined up for this night. Performers just kept coming on, one right after the other, in a swift pace. The band was terrific, and if you are a diehard Jersey Boys fan, like I am, this was an ultimate event, because so many of the cast was there and performed. In keeping with the Jersey Boys grand finale every performance, the “Oh What A Night!” ending was the best!!!

    Comment by Beverley Micciche — February 1, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  5. What a diversity of music! From The Tokens hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to “And She Was” by the Talking Heads. Even my 10 year old son would have enjoyed the show (He saw Lione King and his favorite Talking Heads song is “And She Was”. It shows you that good music is universal. Thank you for the descriptive report once more. (I gotta set some time aside for a special visit to Broadway).

    Comment by Bron Burda — February 6, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

  6. Thanks for the great write up, Howard and Audrey. Sorry to have missed what was obviously another terrific JB moment. It is nice to know how much the JB gang gives back.

    Comment by Ed — February 8, 2007 @ 10:24 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Please leave a comment