August 16, 2007

Oh, What a Journey to Jersey Boys It Was!

August 16th, 2007

Jersey Boys Blog is thrilled to present Special Correspondent Audrey Rockman’s recap of Monday evening’s phenomenal “Journey to Jersey Boys” event!

For fans, the days leading up to “Journey to Jersey Boys” seemed long. Honestly, any wait when it comes to the anticipation of a Jersey Boys-related performance seems too long, but the lovely evening weather cooperated to make the trek to Ars Nova a pleasant one. The venue was intimate–holding a little more than 100 for the lone, sold out performance. A chance to see the four Jersey Girls and newcomer, Travis Cloer was a huge draw (even without the attractive $15 price). It was all in the family with Producing Artist Director, Holly-Anne Ruggiero–formerly Assistant Director at Jersey Boys. Joey Olivia served as Executive Director for the event.

Waiting outside for the doors to open, I had a chance to catch up with JBB Fantastic Fan Howard Tucker (who chose this event over an important networking meeting), as well as Beverley and her husband, Charlie who are regulars and connoisseurs of all things JB. I also met Lulu, a Virginia Tech alumni like me who, although she was in NY last week, came back for the day from Virginia for this special performance. I also enjoyed talking with new friends, Norene and John, who came in from the West Point, NY area. But, let’s face it, none of us JB fans are new friends; just friends who maybe, haven’t met yet… right? I guess we weren’t the only ones interested in seeing a great show. Also in attendance (drum roll please) were… Bob Gaudio and his wife Judy Parker Gaudio, Rick Elice, John Lloyd Young, Michael Longoria, and no doubt several other talents affiliated with Jersey Boys. What a treat for those of us able to attend!

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

The evening started with the five featured performers coming out on stage and joining the seven musicians, including Musical Director, Jim Abbott, already in position. Heather, Jennifer, Erica, Sara and Travis remained on stage the rest of the evening–taking turns at the microphone. The projected words on the back wall read: What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Travis stepped up to the microphone mentioning that NYC wasn’t too great the first time around so he took it on the road, or should I say–sea. Headlining on cruise ships provided lots of romantic settings, a theme that led to “Moon Dance,” the first song of the evening. Ladies and gentlemen… can this guy dance! Travis was so crisp in his moves- forgive my earlier description of ‘newcomer’; his presence on stage was meticulously polished and utterly commanding.

Sara Schmidt was up next, looking thoroughly royal and confessing to wanting to play a princess since she was old enough to remember. At last, in 2005, that moment came- Sara got the coveted role of Cinderella… until the theater burned down hours after opening night. Fortunately, all that preparation wasn’t wasted as Sara sang “A Lovely Night” for a spellbound audience. I doubt I was the only one who saw Cinderella standing there in her beautiful, white sequenced dress.

Up next, the ever popular and dynamic Jennifer Naimo reminiscing on life in LA during 2003 when she was between some national tours and auditions working as a singing waitress at Miceli’s. A wonderful, new man in her life proposed despite her ongoing 20 yearlong affair with… the stage. (Husband, Tim was fortunately in from Pasadena Monday to be in the audience.) Reflecting on her conflict between her real love life and her love of show biz, Jennifer performed her JB audition song “Since I Fell for You,” which seemed perfect for her and Tim’s fourth wedding anniversary as well.

You’ve Got to Be Seen to Be Seen

Under this next projection on the back wall, Heather (hardly the Ringo in the group) spoke. She was cast on Broadway in Les Miserables while still in college. After some time, she decided it was time to head back to Brigham Young to finish her studies. That was until she got a chance to work in Zhivago at the La Jolla Playhouse between semesters. (Hey, fellow Zhivago cast members, Chris Kale Jones and Melissa Hoff–be sure to make a note of the name–Jersey Boys–it just might come up again in the future.) After a beautiful rendition of “Watch the Moon,” a cell phone ring pierced the room. It was… Des calling her for Jersey Boys. “What’s Jersey Boys?” she asked. After some verses of “It’s My Party,” Heather told the audience she soon found herself back on stage in New York taking classes online (with some homework reminders from the ‘girls’).

Fade over to Travis where life had led him…to Nashville and condo ownership when he learned about an audition for Frankie Valli. This experience included a room full of skinny guys under 5’9″ with dark hair. Hmmm, we all know how well that audition went… so much for home ownership. Could it have been that condo that Travis was referring to when he sang “Since I Don’t Have You”?

Sara talked about tough times while performing in the musical–Brooklyn. As she said, ‘some jobs just aren’t the right fit’. Taking a big risk and leaving there–with her parents’ support–she landed the role of Cinderella two weeks later and with that fiery finish after opening night, was cast in Jersey Boys two weeks after that. Let’s just say that, a teary eyed Sara made it clear that Jersey Boys has been a perfect fit thanks to the people there.

Erica was about to go to La Jolla to do a show directed by Des when the JB audition came up. Once again that question, “What’s Jersey Boys?” All she knew was…if Des is involved, she had to do well. Fast forward, she finds herself in a private dance call with choreographer, Sergio Trujillo. Erica pointed out that it is well known–“What starts with spandex, ends up good.”

We Wait. Two Weeks. Three Weeks.

Jennifer, who originally hails from Grand Rapids, was in the earlier tour of Big River under Des’ direction, yet couldn’t get a JB/La Jolla audition until she overheard another waitress talking about a callback. Wait a minute, this feisty Italian says to herself… get that agent on the phone who then got the casting director on the phone. The next day, she read for Casting; then hours later for Des; then the next day, Mr. Valli, with an ‘i’ and… the whole world exploded. Sure, the JB run in La Jolla was great, but that pregnant pause after it closed left time to ponder a baby for the newly married couple. Some affairs never seem to end, however… JB Assistant Director, Holly-Anne, phoned… the Broadway stage was beckoning.

Jennifer delivered a powerful and room filling rendition- encore and all- of “Movin’ on Up” with Travis finally joining in. With half those on stage now knowing they are ‘in,’ there was no better time to celebrate the recollection of being cast than to continue the tunes with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

Sara told of celebrating her new freedom from the show, Brooklyn, with friends when Holly-Anne came bounding toward her with the offer of Francine’s role. Quick… flash over to an apartment in La Jolla. Erica is standing there doing what she often does when all alone, at home… cooking, when her call comes. Erica learns it’s time for her Broadway debut… by night at least; but still ‘domestic goddess’ by day.

Erica was definitely movin’ on up with the last piece falling into place months later when Andrew, her boyfriend of five years proposed on stage in front of the entire audience one night. Uh-oh… great news, but a big problem. What does a girl do who now has everything?! For Erica, the answer can be boiled down to her main obsession- in two words: “Food Network”! The girl can cook and, it turns out, play the violin!

Just like Jersey Boys stirs up special memories for so many in the audience every night; beautiful memories are being made for these five performers as well. The audience was treated, with Four Seasons’ background music (“Candy Girl,” “Girl Come Running” and “Marlena”) to a montage of photos of Erica, Heather, Jennifer, Sara and Travis with the Jersey Boys cast and creative team, with fans, with a full range of celebrities from Bill Clinton to Michael Douglas and, of course, their families who sacrifice–so that such talent can be shared on stage week after week.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Where do we go from here was the next phrase projected on the back wall of the stage. Jennifer finally addressed the sacrifices that are the flip side of all the excitement and fulfillment of being on Broadway. She starts with Lesson #1- You need to discuss your lifestyle with your significant other: Babies or Broadway? Marriage or Mary Delgado? Erica was next with Lesson #2- Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s just a play. Travis articulated Lesson #3- In order to do a show on Broadway; it’s usually helpful to live here. Heather- maybe you should make a note of that.

Sara added that with all the challenges, inside the theater walls, it still feels as though nothing bad can touch you. Jen admitted that the decision for her to move to NYC while Tim lives on the west coast is something she questions the wisdom of… every single day. Yep, there are moments when it’s hard to say whether life on the stage–pursuing your dream is the best road to take.

The final selections of the evening were as follows: Heather–”Apt. 14 G”; Erica- Show Boat’s “Bill”; Jen–”A House is Not a Home”; Sara–”And I Will Follow”; and Travis–”I’m Already There.”

The excitement these five get when they step onstage is the reason they keep at it, with all the ‘ups and the downs’ inherent in the business. I have to agree with Travis in concluding that, when it comes to the cast members in tonight’s performance, “The Best is Yet to Come” (the final selection of the evening featuring all five).

Jennifer Naimo reflected on her experience with Monday’s show. “The show flew by… we all bonded as a group and developed new found respect for one another’s talents, considering the girls barely get to sing or show their wares in Jersey Boys. Jim Abbott was amazing and helped form the format for our songs. I chose my own songs to express my journey and to reflect on the parallel of my life on and off stage/and Jersey Boys, the show.”

Congratulations to Travis Cloer, Heather Ferguson, Jennifer Naimo, Erica Piccinnini and Sara Schmidt for their own, extraordinary writing and spectacular performance in this unique event directed by Holly-Anne Ruggiero. A special acknowledgment goes also to Musical Director, Jim Abbott on keyboards, Rebecca Buxton on flute and tenor saxophone, Ken Dow on bass, Bruce Eidem on trombone, Scott Harrell on trumpet and flugelhorn, Adam Jackson on drums and Craig Magnano on guitar as well as all the integral staff at Impulse Theatre and Ars Nova (

Thank you to Jersey Girl (well… central New Jersey counts, doesn’t it?!?) Audrey Rockman for her coverage of this special program “Journey to Jersey Boys“!


  1. Audrey, this is a great summary of a truly memorable night. First, since Ars Nova was sold out, my last minute decision to attend forced me to sweat it out on the “waiting list”. But I was #2 with 5 cancellations–so “the stars were in alignment.”

    The direction was swift and smart, and Travis brought the house down with “Moon Dance”–can this guy sing and dance or what? Also delighted in his hilarious Frankie tryout story, where he went into some detail about he perfected his wonderful falsetto!!

    The song choices were so appropos of each performer’s “journey”, not only to JB, but in life. Jennifer’s “Since I Fell for You” was even more poiugnant since Tim and Jen celebrated their 4th anniversary this weekend. And, she took me back to the late ’70′s with her infectious “Movin’ On Up” and George and Weezie Jefferson as Travis and Jen shouted in unison,

    “Now we’re up in the big leagues
    Gettin’ our turn at bat
    As long as we live
    It’s you and me, baby
    There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that”

    cause “We’re Movin’ On Up”…..

    Sara looked exactly like Cinderella as she told her touching story with such a sweet yet powerful voice. I was waiting for Prince Travis to try on the glass slipper!

    Heather’s “It’s My Party” took us back to Lesley Gore and 1963. Coincidentally, Erica graduated Tenafly High School, which was also Lesley’s alumnus.

    Loved Erica’s comedic bit about the Food Network. My ex-colleague with ABC and President of the Food Network, Judy Girard, will be happy she has at least one dedicated viewer! Question: I look at the Food Network and put on 20 pounds…Erica watches all day, cooks everything, and may be 100 pounds after a good shower and Thanksgiving Dinner…what’s the secret?

    As a wonderful side benefit, the evening brought together so many of the fans and Jersey Boys family–and I was really able to reflect on my Clifton, NJ roots. I met Bob Gaudio for the first time and shared a boyhood story involving his cousin Maureen Gaudio. Finally got to give regards from my friend’s daughter, Dana Whitcomb, to her Tenafly High classmate, Erica Piccinnini. Had a wonderful Q & A with Rick Elice about our passion for Bette Davis movies–Rick, that DVD of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” is on its way–and yes, I’m still impressed you knew the identity of the murderess from “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” and the Marilyn Monroe scene in “All About Eve.” You had me with the specifics of “A Catered Affair” though!

    In the way of fans, fellow “All My Children” fan Lulu Thompson and I comforted each other about the roles of Rosemary Prinz in 1970 and Christian Hoff in 2006..”that as we recall, ended much too soon”. Ran into Pat Palumbo, whom I hadn’t seen since “Rockers on Broadway” and finally met the elusive Gary, who always comments on the Blog. (Gary, if you’re reading this, please send your e-mail to [email protected]–somehow we were separated before we had a chance to exchange addresses.) And it’s always a pleasure to see Audrey, Beverley and Charlie of course.

    And hey, Audrey, you suprised me with the picture above..but not to worry, until Monday, attracting any paparazzi was something I only dreamed about!! Thanks for a wonderful memorialization of a terrific evening.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — August 17, 2007 @ 12:22 am

  2. I had such a wonderful time at this performance. The highlight, I must admit, was meeting Bob Gaudio and Judy Parker for the first time. It’s a blur- I just remember shaking hands with him in a stunned stupor. (I had to keep my game face on, but inside- bells are going off.)

    Such talent is all around this show. I’ve commented to Rick Elice about how many times this show is quoted each day. Lines from the script fit right into my life no less than three times just today, leaving a big smile behind each time!

    Sara, Jennifer, Erica and Heather were amazing! It has got to be a thrill to be in a show with such a stunning reputation, but I wonder what individual limelight might these four girls be missing being in a show about four boys. And then there’s Travis- sorry Blog readers, I just couldn’t find the words to describe his spectacular performance.

    Who are these people? Five black guys? four girls and a guy? What can I say- I LOVE THESE PERFORMERS! But as Hank Majewski would say “Don’t give up your day jobs” That would be a loss for the rest of us.

    (Apologies to Ken Dow for not getting a clear photo of him on bass or Adam Jackson on drums. You can see them in other photos.)

    Now, folks… this Jersey girl has a friendly bet going with Howard Tucker about the number of ‘hits’ this comment section can get. We all know what kind of numbers (after all he is an accountant) Howard racks up every time he puts his hands to the keyboard for the JB Blog. I’m taking a big risk and saying- maybe it’s time for me to start my own group.

    So… all you people we fly over on the way to Los Angeles and every other JB-loving part of the planet, we are looking to hear from you!! Frankie’s… oops, I mean- YOUR voice has never sounded better, so hit the comment button and start typing.

    if there’s a little setback? You experiment, you refine. I’ve got ten ideas already!

    Comment by Audrey — August 17, 2007 @ 12:46 am

  3. What a great descriptive review, Audrey, I almost feel like I was there! Of course, I wish I could have been there for it.

    It certainly sounds like a fantastic evening was had by all in attendance. How wonderful it is to see all the support from the rest of the cast, crew and fans!

    I just hope that someone taped the show, or that Jennifer, Sara, Erica, Heather and Travis consider doing another performance sometime!

    Comment by Courtney — August 17, 2007 @ 7:18 am

  4. Audrey,

    What a wonderful review! The pictures are fantastic!Heather,Erica,Sara,Jennifer and Travis did such a fantastic job,I was so happy I was there.This cabaret was the highlight of my summer!

    Comment by Christina — August 17, 2007 @ 8:45 am

  5. Audrey

    Thanks for putting those of us who couldn’t be there in person “virtually” there through your fine article.

    And who is this celebrity guy Howard anyway? He’s just plain old Howard to my son Crist.

    Comment by David Cace — August 17, 2007 @ 8:58 am

  6. What a wonderful evening this must have been!!! Thank you so much Audrey for covering this event in such detail and sharing with all of us….especially those who couldn’t be there. I agree with Courtney, I wish the show had been taped and I hope that Jen, Sara, Erica, Heather & Travis will consider doing another performance of this show or someting like this, maybe sometime in the fall!!??? I know it would be sold out once again! Thank you again Audrey!

    Comment by Wanda — August 17, 2007 @ 9:06 am

  7. Thanks so much Audrey for the wonderful coverage, description and of course, the pictures. It was essentially important for us JB fans who weren’t able to make it. I am from Los Angeles but have seen JB at the Ahmanson like 13 times and is a great fan of Rick Faugno who is the alternate for Frankie Valli. I am also a great fan of JLY….wonder where I can possibly watch the OBC ? I’m working on it though.
    Again…my congratulations to you Audrey…”You sure have started your own group” Ha …ha…ha.

    Comment by Mila — August 17, 2007 @ 10:20 am

  8. Thanks Audrey for such a spectacular review! This was so well-written, I felt like I was there. I do wish I could’ve been there to see some of those performances. Wow! It sounds like it was quite a night. It’s wonderful to see that there was so much support from the cast, crew, and fans!

    Comment by Lauren — August 17, 2007 @ 11:15 am

  9. Audrey,

    Thanks for the fabulous review and insiders recap of this special performance. I was sorry to miss it, but felt partially there after reading your wonderful descriptions ! The depth and amount of talent inherent to Jersey Boys is truly amazing. I’m glad the Jersey Girls and Travis had a chance to show off their incredible talents and diverse backgrounds. I just saw Jersey Boys for the 7th time, and the cast continues to shine.


    Comment by Pamela — August 17, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  10. Audrey,
    Perhaps this post will help to put you over the top in the race to beat Howard. My husband and I could not stop talking all the way home about how great this special performance was! The amount and depth of talent that exists on Broadway is unbelieveable, and of course, it is always so wonderful to attend JB events and spend time talking with bonafide JB fans like yourself and Howard. I was also glad I had an opportunity to meet Lulu. It is also a thrill everytime to see and say hello to JLY. Your review was captivating and the pictures were terrific! I am so glad my husband and I were able to attend. I am seeing JB tomorrow night AGAIN! As always, I can’t wait…

    Comment by Beverley Micciche — August 17, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  11. Just returned home from San Francisco where I left my heart, for a while, with the Jersey Boys San Francisco cast! But I brought my heart back with me and am ready to head back to Broadway to see JB three times in September.

    Audrey, great article. I was sorry to have missed this performance but after reading your review, feel as though I was there.

    I will post my comments about the SF performance on the bulletin board. In two words, “I loved it.” Trying to mimic what Tommy says in November about April being 9 months away! IE

    Comment by irene eizen — August 17, 2007 @ 11:25 pm

  12. Audrey,
    Thanks so much for the great review! Work keeps me very busy so I could not attend but thanks to you I felt like I was there. Great writing Audrey! You and Howard always do such a good job in reporting every detail for us fans who cannot attend. We appreciate you taking the time out to write this review for us.
    It is great to see the Jersey Girls and Travis show thier talent outside of Jersey Boys. I got the pleasure of seeing Jennifer and Sara in past Rockers on Broadway shows and realized just how talented these ladies are. I hope all of the Jersey Girls perform at this years Rockers on Broadway.

    Comment by Damaris Dugan — August 18, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

  13. Jennifer has added photos of some people at this ‘Journey to Jersey Boys’ event that I didn’t have… as well as noting other JB related folks in attendance like stage managers, Michelle Bosch and Rachelle and JB dresser, Michelle.

    Comment by Audrey — August 20, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

  14. Great review! I like when the blog posts reviews like this, especially for people who could not attend the show. Thanks for taking the time to write the review and including pictures too! :)

    Comment by A — August 21, 2007 @ 10:12 am

  15. Okay, Audrey, I didn’t forget to add my two cents to the blog comments…I was on vacation. That said, let me add my gratitude for such a good review…it allows me to remember what a fun and enjoyable evening this was! First, I finally got to meet you, (thanks for meeting me at Penn Station and going with me to the Ars Nova) & Beverly and Charlie, & Doreen and John, & Howard Tucker. With prime seats on the second row, we got to see a first rate cabaret show featuring our favorite Broadway show stars. Travis was a smooth combination of Sinatra and Micheal Buble.
    And the ladies really showed off! As I mentioned before, the first song Heather sang was hauntingly beautiful…and she looked stunning in an Audrey Hepburn-esque dress. Sara’s lilting voice fit the princess persona she yearns to be. Erica was so much fun to watch and talk about your split personality (and I mean this in the kindest sense)…a sultry songtress…a Food Network wannabe…and an accomplished violinist…what can’t the girl do??? And then there is Jennifer…a talented fireball of energy who commands a stage. Yet, she too, along with the others, faced difficult life decisions as she followed her dream of perfoming in a hit Broadway show. We really don’t know all the tribulations of such a lifestyle, but we have a better idea after this intimate show that featured songs, stories, a photo montage and personal revelations from Travis, Heather, Sara, Erica and Jennifer. Your fans appreciate the time, the talent, the perservance, and sacrifices that these stars and the rest of the JB cast make for our entertainment. No matter what the venue, when there is a JB event, the audience is full of their own supporters, such as JLY, Bob Gaudio and his wife Judy, and Rick Elise…this genuine concern for each other spills over after each show when cast members/performers mingle with the audience talking with us, signing autographs, answering questions, posing for photos and introducung us to their families! They end up making us feel special! Let me say thanks again to Audrey for this review . . . and for all those who attend other JB events, report it on the blog and let us all share the memories!

    Comment by LuluThompson — August 30, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

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