August 15, 2012

A Review of John Michael Coppola’s ‘A JERSEY VOICE: Sinatra to Springsteen…and Everyone in Between’

August 15th, 2012

JMC Jersey Voice

By Howard Tucker, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

We all were privileged to hear our Jersey Boy, John Michael Coppola (“JMC”) “speak” on Monday night, July 16, along with his seven-piece band at the Westchester Arts Center in Bloomfield, New Jersey. As advertised, his “Jersey Voice” brought us from “Sinatra to Springsteen & Everyone in Between.” Jersey Boys Broadway “Frankie”, Dominic Scaglione, Jr., was in attendance to cheer on his former Jersey Boys-Chicago colleague along with his dad and uncle. And Jersey Boys Chicago and Broadway star, Jared Bradshaw and his wife also graced the arena! (Coincidentally, the Saturday following JMC’s performance, I saw Jared as Bob Crewe on Broadway!)

As you’ll all see below, JMC took us through his life to become the talented and humble entertainer and great husband and dad that he is today.


I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” (Frank Sinatra)
What a great way to bridge the generation gap with a great rendition of the old 1954 Frank Sinatra standard “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” which was brought to a new generation in Queen Latifah’s 2007 CD “Travelin’ Light. Latifah’s version actually won a Grammy in 2008 for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist to arranger John Clayton.

“Rock Around the Clock” (Bill Haley and the Comets)
RATC is everybody’s Rock & Roll Anthem, which marked the unofficial start of the “Rock Era”. John turned us all into rebellious fifties youths with his rocking rendition, showing us why RATC is widely considered to be the song that, more than any other, brought rock & roll into mainstream culture around the world. This song is deservedly ranked No. 158 on the Rolling Stones’ magazine’s list of the greatest songs of all time.

“December, 1963: Oh What a Night” (The Four Seasons)
All of us “Jersey Boys” fans know OWAN as a nostalgic remembrance of Bob Gaudio’s “first time” with a woman as set up by his record label. In reality, the song started as a story about prohibition titled “December, 1933” until the real life Bob Gaudio’s future wife Judy Parker rewrote the lyrics in the middle of the night. Also unusual about the song was Gerry Polci on lead vocals, with usual lead Frankie Valli singing the bridge sections and backing vocals. Two stints on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart kept the song on the chart for 54 weeks, a longevity record until very recently. John’s rendition had the baby boomers in the crowd literally dancing in the aisles.

“If Ever I Would Leave You” (Robert Goulet)
JMC announced to the audience that his mom loved the deep baritone of Robert Goulet, and especially his signature song “If Ever I Would Leave You” from the Tony-winning “Camelot”. Well, Goulet actually went disco in the 1970’s (“who knew?”) with “Ever” in his album “A Time for Us, effectively a “best of” album. By the 1970’s Goulet had faded from the charts for the most part, and very few of us baby boomers had heard this version. In fact, my friend, who must have missed John’s intro, asked, “What would Goulet have thought of this version?” “Well, he did it first, so he must have liked it!!”

“A Winter Romance” (Dean Martin)
Written by Sammy Cahn and Burton Lane, “A Winter Romance” was the title song on Dean Martin’s 1959 album (reissued on CD in 1989). John and wife Rachel met doing a show in the winter time in Europe. Rachel posted a sign=up sheet for a 2 day trip to Paris and John was the only one to sign up for it. In choosing the song for his concert, John made a few artistic changes to make the lyrics 100% accurate to the events that sparked the John-Rachel relationship (as the original lyrics reflected about 90% accuracy of those events). John’s “A Winter Romance” is clearly more of a love song than a holiday song.

“Calendar Girl” (Neil Sedaka)
“Frankie’s OK, but he’s no Neil Sedaka”, explains a station manager to Bob Gaudio in “Jersey Boys”.
This one line has given Sedaka and his songs a whole new life, both those he sung and those he wrote (“Love Will Keep Us Together.” “Stupid Cupid”, “Where the Boys Are”) and the many that he put on the charts, “Calendar Girl” among them. His life story on stage, “Laughter in the Rain” was a theatre hit on the West End in London.”
“Calendar Girl” is one of the fun Sedaka songs from the early 1960’s and JMC’s take didn’t lose any of the humor. The audience loved it.

Introduction of the Band
At this point, John paused to acknowledge his fine, and entirely local, band:
Steve Carr (trombone), Dave Olsen (trumpet) Rob Jacoby (alto sax), Brian Coralian (drums), Brian Conigliaro (guitar/background vocals), Seth Myers (bass), Kurt Kelley (piano/background vocals), Paulette Oliva (background vocals). The audience responded with very well-deserved applause.

“Cry for Me” (Frankie Valli)
When we speak of a “new life”, “Cry for Me” might be the classic Broadway example. “Cry for Me” was released in 1966 as the B-side of Frankie Valli’s “You’re Ready Now”, which didn’t even reach Billboard’s Hot 100. (It was on the “Bubbling Under the Hot 100” chart for 4 weeks, peaking at #112.) On Broadway, while the “Jersey Boys” crowd is longing for a recognizable 4 Seasons tune (with the first being “Sherry”), “Cry for Me”, as sung by the Bob Gaudio character, is catchy and sparks a huge audience reaction and is the genesis for arguably the most witty dialogue in the musical.

While JMC was in “Jersey Boys” in the Chicago venue, he never sang “Cry for Me” on stage, but really knocked it out of the park, so to speak, in his one-man show. Now a familiar song to the “Jersey Boys” schooled audience, it precipitated an enormous reaction, both at the song’s beginning and end.

“Just the Way You Are”
All of us are familiar with Billy Joel’s 1979 Grammy Award-winning song, but until July 16, none of us knew the significance of it to John Michael and his soon-to-be wife Rachel. As noted above, John’s now wife Rachel initiated a trip to Paris and John was the only one who “signed up.” After John and Rachel came back from Europe and were dating, one night while out driving to get some food, he decided to serenade her with “Just the Way You Are.” John, I wonder, what led up to the proposal? John notes that he’s leaving us with that cliffhanger for his next concert!


“Caravan” (Duke Ellington: Band Only)
“Caravan” is a jazz standard composed by Juan Tizol and first performed by Duke Ellington in 1936, and Ellington’s orchestra made more than 350 recordings of this exotic-sounding piece. Woody Allen used the song in two of his films, “Alice” and “Sweet and Lowdown.” Before John’s outstanding seven-piece band’s version tonight, I believe the one most baby boomers will recall is the cover by the Ventures in 1966. The audience clearly enjoyed it, but was eager for more JMC.

“Song and Dance Man” (Vaudeville Standard)
Move over, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and James Cagney!! John Michael Coppola changed pace a little with the boater hat and cane, to show off his dancing skills in the old vaudeville standard, “Song and Dance Man.” This bit of dancing does indeed separate John’s show from many of the standard “oldies” and “tribute” acts who do little dancing.

“Dawn”/”Big Man in Town”/”Workin’ My Way Back to You” (4 Seasons Medley)
The audience was waiting for the 4 Seasons medley, and we were well-rewarded, and not with the standard “Big 3” (“Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man”), but with monster hits nonetheless. We had thought we might have to do with only “Oh, What a Night”, but the baby boomers were indeed satisfied after this medley.

“You Make Me Feel So Young” (Frank Sinatra)
JMC went back to his title of from “Sinatra to Springsteen and Everyone in Between” with Sinatra’s popular You Make Me Feel So Young”. It was first introduced in 1946, with words by Josef Myrow and lyrics by Mack Gordon in the musical film “Three Little Girls in Blue,” where it was sung by the characters performed by Vera-Ellen and Charles Smith. Although the boomers may remember Paul Anka’s 1962 version, arguably Sinatra’s and now Coppola’s are the two most popular versions!

“PS, I Love You/Come Rain or Come Shine” (by Johnny Mercer and recorded by various artists)
Both of these songs are memorable standards, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. “P.S. I Love You” (not to be confused with the much later Beatles version) was published in 1934, and recorded by Rudy Vallée. It was revived in the 1950’s by The Hilltoppers and in the 1960’s by The Vogues, and again in 1984 by country music singer Tom T. Hall of “I Love” fame.

“Come Rain or Come Shine” was written for the musical St. Louis Woman, and was published in1946,with the first recording by Sy Oliver (with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra), but possibly the most well-known by Dinah Shore. While the song did not actually make the charts in the period following its publication, it has indeed become a standard.
John wove these two classics in a beautiful medley, appreciated by the entire crowd, old and young.

“We Live on Borrowed Time” (by David Friedman and recorded by various artists)
David Friedman’s “We Live on Borrowed Time” poignantly describes the fragility of life and love, and never knowing where life will take us. It was done by so many artists, but arguably the one most remembered is Barry Manilow’s. However, it was Jason Alexander, (yes, George Costanza of “Seinfeld”) who sang the version that attracted John Michael to this beautiful work. Jason, who by the way has a “Best Leading Actor in a Musical” Tony for “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” performed it on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.

John actually had some of the audience “tearing up” with the beautiful lyrics and sentiment before his uplifting finale.

Finale (Springsteen, Morrison, Monkees, Diamond, and Valli)
John covered everyone here (yes, and finally Springsteen) in a raucous sing-along. Starting with Springsteen’s “Glory Days”, and continuing with Morrison’s “Brown-eyed Girl”, and moving on to the audience drowning him out with the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer”. The traditional wave of the hands accompanied the tribute to Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, of course, with “Sweet Caroline”….and how could JMC not finish a great evening with Valli’s signature classic, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”….

How did John have the stamina? He and his wonderful band were sent off with a well-deserved standing ovation, and of course, in “Jersey Boys” tradition, John greeted each and every fan at the after-party. We’re waiting for the follow-up, JMC!

John Michael Coppola


  1. Another great write up, Howard. Wish I could have been there, but your article put me front and center at the concert! Loved the way you not only talked about John’s backstory, but the backstory to each song as well.Bravo, my friend!

    Comment by Pamela — August 16, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

  2. Howard, thanks once again for bringing the readers in and making us feel like a part of the evening. I hope to get the chance to see JMC perform first hand. His show sounds wonderful!

    Comment by Carolyn Miller — August 17, 2012 @ 9:18 am

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