March 27, 2009

The Broadway Phenomenon That Is Jersey Boys

March 27th, 2009

August Wilson Theatre
Charlene Giannetti of has a wonderful feature about the JERSEY BOYS phenomenon and the show’s amazing worldwide fan base! Charlene talks to fans Wanda Libardi, Beverley Micciche, and Linda SooHoo, in addition to JB’s original Mary Delgado–the one and only Jennifer Naimo!

When I bought tickets to see Jersey Boys two months after it won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Broadway Musical, I knew I would love the Four Seasons’s music and hoped I would enjoy the show. Little did I know that I was about to become part of a phenomenon, an avid fan base that spans the country, crosses an ocean, and continues to fuel a theatrical juggernaut that, even in tough economic times, shows no sign of slowing down. While several other musicals have closed, Jersey Boys, entering its fourth year, still pulls in around $1 million a week with one of the smallest theaters on Broadway.

Jersey Boys now plays to packed houses in Chicago, Las Vegas, Toronto, and London, and will soon open in Melbourne. In addition, the production is making its way around the U.S., appearing currently in Nashville, a music mecca. The musical has given a jolt to Frankie Valli’s six-decade career and he performs to sold-out houses, too.

The success is, in no small way, attributed to loyal fans seeing the play multiple times, even traveling to different cities to experience performances by other casts. I have seen the play nine times, eight times on Broadway and once at the Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas. My record falls short when compared with other fans. One woman in London claims to have seen that production 32 times in one year and with eight future tickets in hand hopes to reach 40 soon. (That Jersey Boys production recently won the Olivier Award for Best Musical). Another out-of-town woman from Florida saw all eight performances on Broadway in one week.

The record, however, seems to be held by Beverley Micciche who has seen the Broadway play more than one hundred times. Her husband drew the line at six times, and so when she goes to see Jersey Boys, she sends him to another play. “I think he’s seen everything on Broadway,” she said, laughing. She is quick to say that she has her “feet on the ground,” but simply loves the show. “I work hard all week and just to know I’m seeing Jersey Boys on the weekend is a lift,” she said.

Yet multiple viewings tell only part of the story. Other plays, Phantom, South Pacific, are terrific entertainment experiences that entice theatergoers to return. Jersey Boys, however, goes beyond that. Fueled by a website launched by devoted fans (, and a Forum, where fans can post, the Internet keeps everyone informed and united. Friendships happen and geographical boundaries no longer matter.

“As a result of the Jersey Boys Forum, I’ve had the chance to meet quite a few of the fans and we’ve become good friends,” said Linda SooHoo, who lives in San Francisco. “I’ve connected with a group of women, the youngest in her early 20s, the oldest is in her 60s. We all love the show and have traveled to New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles to see the show, to support the performers, and to visit each other to celebrate birthdays and other occasions.”
Cast members check in online, too, sensing perhaps that they have become part of a cultural happening that may never come again. Jennifer Naimo, who originated the role of Mary Delgado in La Jolla and then came to Broadway, kept seeing certain fans repeatedly at the stage door. She got to know one fan, Wanda Libardi, and the two have become close friends. “As I got to know [Wanda] and a few others more, I saw they genuinely loved the show, were somehow deeply touched by the material,” she said.

Jersey Boys is a hit, the perfect storm of great music, a compelling story, performers who can sing and act, and a built-in audience, those who love the Four Seasons’s music. Many fans are Baby Boomers who spent their teen years dancing to Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry. “I think the play became like a reunion for those of your generation,” John Lloyd Young told me recently. That explanation doesn’t explain the younger fans like SooHoo’s friend and my daughter who has seen the play twice (once nabbing a backstage tour), downloaded all the songs on her iPod, and promotes the play and music to her friends. I have met many younger fans at JB events discovering the music for the first time no less dedicated than older audience members.

Fan enthusiasm for the musical extends to the many actors who have taken on the roles of the Four Seasons or any of the supporting players on Broadway or in another city. Although the four actors from the OBC (original Broadway cast, pictured above) have moved on, the fans continue to follow their careers, showing up whenever and wherever they perform. Shortly after leaving Jersey Boys, Young, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli, appeared in two concerts in the Allen Room at Lincoln Center. The two performances sold out in record time, many fans buying tickets to both. (Guilty!) Young, who relocated to Los Angeles, recently finished starring in his first film, Oy, Vey! My Son Is Gay, scheduled for September release. When he returned to New York in February to participate in a benefit for the Women’s Expressive Theater, Jersey Boys fans were there. Fans are, of course, excited about his movie and can be expected to turn out in droves to see it (and write about it on the Forum).

J. Robert (Bobby) Spencer, who originated the role of Nick Massi on Broadway, will soon be appearing in Next to Normal at the Booth Theater. “It’s nice to follow the original four and see what their new projects are,” said Micciche, who already has her ticket and will be attending with a group of fans.

Several Jersey Boys actors have performed in cabaret shows—Christian Hoff (who won a Tony Award for his performance as Tommy DeVito), Daniel Reichard (who originated the role of Bob Gaudio), Spencer, Naimo, and many others. Each performance was packed with JB fans. When Reichard appeared in Candide at the New York City Opera, fans followed. When Young appeared in a Hollywood Bowl production of Les Mis, New York fans flew to the coast. When Jersey Boys opened in Las Vegas, a local fan threw a party for all the fans who came from all over the country. Most of the cast also attended the celebration.

The fan base follows all the other actors who take on the roles in productions outside of New York. Las Vegas appears to be one of the hot spots now with the actors drawing crowds whenever and wherever they perform. (Erich Bergen, who plays Bob Gaudio is appearing at the Liberace Cabaret through April 8 and fans are expected to fill the seats). Fans in London also appear to be particularly revved up these days after the musical won the Olivier Award. There are nearly 1,300 posts on the Forum discussing everything about the play and fans from the U.S. connect with their British counterparts to arrange get-togethers.

It’s hard to explain why a musical has created such a fan fury. “I’ve often looked back in bewilderment at how such a diversified group of people have come together and enjoyed sharing our love for the Jersey Boys and the performers we’ve come to know,” said SooHoo.

Perhaps Naimo summed it up best: “Jersey Boys emphasizes the importance and loyalty of family. No matter what, family comes first, and forgiveness and perseverance. You can gain all the fame in the world, but it all means nothing if you’re not grounded and surrounded by sound, loving family and friends.”


  1. There is just something about this show that gets into your heart and soul. Doesn’t matter where you see it or who is in the cast…it is the story and music that you will never forget. Can’t wait to see it again.

    Comment by Gladys — March 27, 2009 @ 6:45 am

  2. I just have to say, I’m with the fan
    named Beverly. If I could I would see
    JB every weekend! I totally agree, what
    could be better then seeing the best show
    on broadway after a hard weeks work!!! This
    show ROCKS, and to Beverly, YOU GO GIRL!!!!
    I’ll be at the August Wilson again in April,
    can’t wait!!!

    Comment by sharon wardlow — March 27, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  3. You said it all.

    Comment by Zanna — March 27, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  4. I went two nights in a row in NY in March It was fun to be able to pay closer attention to some of the nuance. Even though I have now seen it 7 times, in several different venues, I found there were subtle things I had missed – particularly when Jarrod Spector is performing. He is so dynamic and mesmerizing in his performance, my eyes are on him almost 100% of the time when he is on stage. Also, cast definitely had a higher energy and different response to crowd on Thurs. then Wed. Don’t know how many times I would have to see it to get tired of it.

    Comment by maxine — March 27, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  5. What else can I say… except simply excellent! :)

    Comment by Dina — March 28, 2009 @ 12:22 am

  6. This article hits the nail on the head. Not only do I love Jersey Boys, but so do my daughter and grandaughter. It transcends generations. We all love the music, the story, the actors, the writers, the backstage people. Jen said it best – we’re family. I have met so many wonderful fans who turned into friends and our gatherings are so much fun. We laugh and admit our family, friends and co-workers tease us about our Jersey Boys obsession but we don’t care – we understand the thrill when Ces Soiree La starts. Another wonderful evening is about to begin. And you know what? It never grows old.

    Comment by Linda — March 28, 2009 @ 1:13 am

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