March 2, 2008

The 4 Seasons–Pop’s Forgotten Men Until Jersey Boys!

March 2nd, 2008

The Sunday edition of the London Times states that it’s time to shine a light on the invisible men. Considering how many hits they accumulated in their prime – they are up there with John, Paul, George, Ringo and Elvis – the Four Seasons are as anonymous as any gang of backroom musicians. Frankie Valli needs no introduction, of course, though most people would be hard pushed to tell you anything about him, except that he sings in a falsetto and played Rusty Millio in The Sopranos. But can you name any other members of the long-running group? Probably not.

Which is one reason why the Broadway success of Jersey Boys came as such a surprise. There is nothing new about the concept of the jukebox musical – New York and the West End are awash with them, and any canny producer knows that the quickest route to a fortune is to bring together a loud band, a few dance routines and a stash of vintage pop singles. But who would have bet on a show about the Four Seasons taking the box office by storm? Surely the band were too anonymous to acquire a significant theatrical following?

Bob Gaudio believes that part of the strength of the show’s music lies in its artful blend of genres. “There are so many twists and turns in this music. That gives the story an edge. It’s not that it’s Sondheim, but it has what theatre needs now – and has needed for a while – and that’s energy.I hate to sound like we’re music mavens, but I think this show is setting the bar for musicals. And I don’t just mean catalogue shows. I think writers are going to look at creating music that has some twists and turns, that doesn’t stay in just one genre. I think the audience out there is thirsting for an eclectic evening of energy.”


  1. I disagree with the premise that Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are “Pop’s Forgotten Men” as the title suggests. Ignored perhaps, by what some think of as more “sophisticated” fans, but not forgotten. And I disagree that it is “revisionist” to suggest that FV4S material was equal to the Beatles and the Beach Boys. The Four Seasons had clear lyrics and foreground production (“Pity” says it all, “I talk plain and I act rough”.) style that spoke to not only the working class but to the upwardly mobile of society busy just trying to stay out of trouble and get ahead. Meanwhile the Beach Boys pretended to surf, and the Beatles went overboard with “experimenting” and politics. The later Beatles and Beach Boys lyrics were often difficult to interpret, but when the Four Seasons tried for deeper lyrical meaning, they were simply ignored by the “sophisticaled” fans.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 2, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

  2. I read both of the Times article. It seems from the couple of comments in both articles from people who watched the show this past weekend, everyone loved it. Two of the London Times readers’comments, says it all:
    “Saturday March 1st – matinee – packed house and standing ovation. Sensational show, thanks guys.
    Dave, London”
    “See it today! I am just *gobsmacked* it was the greatest show I have ever seen ! I grew up with these guys music…..The show is fantastic! Wonderful! I’m too shocked to talk! Fab,fab,fab
    Eileen, London”
    I’ve seen shows in the West End, and London audiences don’t give standing ovations or praise so easily!

    Comment by Ann — March 3, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

  3. wow,is all i can say. saw show saturday evening it was fantanstic. the cast richly deserved the standing ovation. i hope it runs and runs.congratulations to all cast and crew and a great big .

    Comment by gemma — March 4, 2008 @ 4:44 am

  4. Came down from Glasgow to see the show on Friday 29th Feb. – it was fantastic! The cast were superb!
    I want to see it again!
    I can throughly recommend it – you will have a great time!

    Comment by Maureen — March 4, 2008 @ 9:23 am

  5. I agree 100% with Mr. Hammond. Need I also remind the writer that “Lennon” using Beatles’ music, “All Shook Up” using Elvis’ music, and “Good Vibrations” using Beach Boys’ music, were total flops. Granted all three did not have the strength of the book written by Mr. Brickman and Mr. Elice but the strength of the 4 Seasons’ music, arranged by Mr. Melrose, just blows the audience away. The johnny-come-lately “artsy” and “craftsy” crowd can try and rationalize all they want in a lame attempt to explain the world-wide success of Jersey Boys, but I look at it this way, Mr. Hammond and I, and the rest of the original 4 Seasons crowd who grew up with their music just sit back now and say “what took you guys so long to catch up with us – we were on to something for the past 45 years that you guys missed out on until now.”

    Comment by David Cace — March 4, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  6. Lennon didn’t have to be a flop, though. I saw it in SF twice and the audience was excited and receptive, and the show didn’t need that much tinkering. The problem was once it got to Broadway…

    Comment by Leanna — March 4, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

  7. Leanna, I saw “Lennon” only once several years ago, so my memory isn’t fresh, but “Lennon” only drew from John’s catalog, not the Beatles’. John’s solo hits were far fewer than those of the 4 Seasons. And from what I recall, it was sort of just a group of people sitting around and taking turns singing John’s hits, and not too much else.

    As far as “Good Vibrations” and “All Shook Up”, the books were indeed weak, and they were also contrived stories. (Hey, “Mamma Mia” worked, didn’t it?) Had Brickman and Elice had a shot at them, even with made-up plots, things might have turned out differently. Indeed, I saw “All Shook Up” on the road with Susan Anton, whom I had met several times previously via a mutual college friend, and I was embarrassed for her, and said little after the show.

    And don’t forget, right out of the gate in La Jolla, “Jersey Boys” had Tony winner Christian Hoff, whose tremendous acting and charisma drew in the crowd from the very beginning of the show.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — March 4, 2008 @ 8:59 pm

  8. It was kind of biographical, but if they’d gone the Jersey Boys route (not that that existed yet) and less trying to be artsy, it probably would’ve had more mass appeal.

    The cast was fantastic, at any rate…

    Comment by Leanna — March 5, 2008 @ 1:21 am

  9. You really have to hand it to all the people involved that have made Jersey Boys such a success. But I still think Mr. Gaudio deserves a lot of credit for realizing or at least suspecting that it would be a much greater success with a strong story line and getting Mr. Brickman and Mr. Elice and others on board to do that. Sometimes delegation really works well. I think Mr. Gaudio’s model may represent the future for all such shows.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 5, 2008 @ 10:23 am

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