April 5, 2009

Jersey Boys Heads to Fort Lauderdale!

April 5th, 2009

Jersey Boys National Tour 12/08

Jersey Boys National Tour Cast Members: Steve Gouveia, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Josh Franklin and Erik Bates. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

With JERSEY BOYS national tour heading to Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, Christine Dolen of the Miami Herald has an in-depth feature on the show, the creative team, and the actors who play the iconic Four Seasons on stage!

Arriving Wednesday for a month-long run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Jersey Boys transcends the ”jukebox musical” label to become a compelling, joyous melding of the storytelling power of theater and the adrenaline rush of a concert.

Gaudio, who co-wrote his first hit (Short Shorts) at 15, has had the odd experience of watching a string of actors play the younger Bob Gaudio since Jersey Boys premiered at California’s La Jolla Playhouse in 2004.

When he and Valli are at a performance together, they’ll focus on the details of a sometimes-surprising story: Gaudio, we learn, was introduced to Valli by future Oscar winner Joe Pesci, who was then just another young guy from the neighborhood. Always, the sound of the music has their attention. Yet every now and then, Gaudio admits, he watches the show in the way Four Seasons fans watched him.

”I’m understanding what an audience feels when it falls in love with something,” he says.

Des McAnuff, the director who played a central role in structuring the show, points to its powerful yet not-so-simple story.

”When we started doing our excavation on the story of the four guys, it became clear and obvious that they had an extraordinary rags-to-riches story,” says McAnuff, now artistic director of Canada’s Stratford Festival. “The road that leads to the top of the mountain is great. But when things start falling apart, it is interesting and every bit as dramatic as when they achieve success and fame.”

As for the jukebox label, Gaudio says of Jersey Boys, “It’s a damned good show, period.”

Gaudio and Valli were right. Jersey men and women, young people, older folks, Seasons fans, tourists, New Yorkers — they’re still flocking to a show full of songs about love and longing, themes that, Gaudio observes, ”never go away.” More than 1,000 people, Rick Elice points out, are employed in the now-worldwide “industry called Jersey Boys.”

One of those is Joseph Leo Bwarie, who plays Valli in the touring company coming to the Broward Center. Though he acknowledges the challenge of singing eight times a week in what he calls ”a play with music,” he is happy to be playing a real-life star.

”I feel like so many kids who want to be a baseball star, a rock star or an astronaut. It’s just amazing,” Bwarie says. ‘People are really screaming for Frankie Valli. The actors lose their identity, and the audience is seeing us as the real Four Seasons. By Act II, people are yelling, `Frankie!’ ”

Josh Franklin, who portrays Gaudio on tour, met the man he’s playing during the show’s pre-Miami Nashville run. He calls Gaudio “a rock star — very smart and funny, but with no huge ego. He’s just a great guy.”

And Franklin thinks he knows why Gaudio and Valli were correct about how Jersey Boys would take off.

”It connects with people who don’t always have their story told,” he says. “You get a rock concert, and you’re satisfied. You get a compelling theatrical story and are satisfied. Every night, it’s a joy to perform. Every night.”

1 Comment »

  1. My Mom & I went to see the Jersey Boys yesterday in Nashville, which was their last day here—we saw the matinee performance–and I am going to say that it was the BEST show that I have seen at TPAC–I absolutely loved it, as well as my Mom! We had the greatest time and it brought back so many memories hearing all of those wonderful songs that I would hear growing up (I will be 48 next week)! I have never known any background information on these guys and it was an incredible story. I have been singing those songs all day and have been raving to my friends and co-workers about how wonderful it was! Those guys and their fellow cast mates were so real and fantastic, that you really believed that they were the original members! I am so thankful that we were able to attend—we have had our tickets for six months, and I had to miss my daughter’s piano recital (which killed me–she’s 15 and that is the first one I have ever missed), but it was a fabulous time and thank you for sharing the story with us and thank you for such a talented group of performers!!

    Comment by Misty Kile — April 6, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

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