June 29, 2009

Four Seasons’ Story Ready to Hit High Notes in Melbourne

June 29th, 2009

Robin Usher of The Age has the behind the scenes story of JERSEY BOYS–which opens on Saturday at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. According to Usher, the songs were a given, but telling the Jersey Boys’ back story took courage.

Director Des McAnuff already had a reputation as a hitmaker when he agreed to take on the unfinished project that was to become the musical Jersey Boys, but he had no inkling that it would become “a juggernaut” until opening night.

“I had never seen anything like it,” he says. “We had to keep the box office open at interval so people could buy tickets for their friends.”

The premiere was at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse, where demand in the opening weeks was so strong they had to install a new phone system to deal with it. “This was an incredible response in California, which is Beach Boys territory. But I wasn’t cocky because I knew that nothing is guaranteed to succeed on Broadway.”

McAnuff’s original instincts were sound. The account of the rise and fall of the 1960s pop band, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, went on to win four Tony awards in New York, as well as London’s Olivier Award for best musical.

An original Four Seasons member, composer Bob Gaudio, who wrote Sherry while a teenager, had the idea of turning the band’s story into a musical after seeing the shows Smokey Joe’s Cafe and Mamma Mia.

“But I knew we could do something different, because we had such a strong story,” he says. “Everybody knows the music but I felt at least half the show had to be given over to telling the story.”

Read Usher’s full story on TheAge.com.au.

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