December 4, 2010

The Crowd Goes Wild: Five Years of Jersey Boys–Paley Center for Media Recap, Part Three

December 4th, 2010

(Photo Credit #3-16:

This is the third of a four-part segment on the amazing Q&A event at the Paley Center for Media on November 8, The Crowd Goes Wild: Five Years of Jersey Boys, which featured original Four Seasons members Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli and JERSEY BOYS writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. The event was moderated by Late Night with David Letterman’s musical director, Paul Shaffer.

In Part One, Paley Center for Media President and CEO Pat Mitchell welcomed the audience with rare television footage from The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio shared some amazing insights about the group and their unique sound and in Part Two, Gaudio and Valli continued to share thoughts about their music and their long-lasting careers. In Part Three, the panelists talk about how The Four Seasons story progressed from an idea to a script at La Jolla Playhouse to an award-winning Broadway and international phenomenon.

Paul Shaffer: [to Marshall & Rick] How did you two guys become involved with JERSEY BOYS?

Rick Elice: I was sitting at my desk and my phone rang. It was from a guy who had been my client. This was right after Mama Mia had opened. Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli wanted to do a similar show with their music. I was invited to meet Bob and Frankie. So, I called Marshall, who had never done anything on Broadway before.

PS: [Asking Marshall] You loved their music before the show?

Marshall Brickman: I was a banjo player and in a group [The New Journeymen] that later became The Mamas & the Papas and I later was on the soundtrack for Deliverance. I really was not all that familiar with The Four Seasons. When Rick gave me their Rhino collection, I was knocked out! It was so strong—like great folk music in some ways.

So, we went to meet these guys and I didn’t see a Mama Mia after talking with them.

PS: How did it go from their story to the stage?

RE: In April, 2002 we did our interviews and submitted a treatment of the show, but it wasn’t as documentarian as it is now. Then, we waited until the end of 2003 when the catalog was now free and clear. Dodger was my client for 15 years, and at the time, we didn’t know what the show was going to be, but 95% of the people interested in this are the same age as the people who go to the theatre. Turns out the gentleman who would be directing the show would be Des McAnuff, whose first album he bought as a kid was “Sherry and 11 Others.”

From January through the end of May 2004, Marshall and I worked with Des and the auditions began in August and it opened in October. Fans came in from all over the country, including Charles Alexander, who watched the show three times in the first week. People came back and back and back to see it. Almost a year later to the date, we began our Broadway run.

Frankie Valli: We wondered who was going to be interested in this show on Broadway, but we just showed them our box office returns in La Jolla and that was it!

The one thing that Bob and I had struggled through is that we had first gone with a different producer and this producer had it for three or four years. We had already given him an extension. A great guy, but we had been through a series of drafts and nothing was happening.

We had a director at the time and he quit. He just couldn’t handle it anymore. So, it gives you a real good example of how important it is to have the right people to be able to understand what you really are all about and put it together. That’s what makes success—it’s the chemistry and the people.

When we finally left the other producer who asked us for another extension. I said, ‘Listen, this is terrific and we love you and all that, but I would like to see this become a play before I die! [audience laughter]

Usually, this kind of thing happens to somebody after [they die], so this was really incredible the way it happened and these guys did a magnificent job in what they put together in La Jolla and I was blown away.

The first time I went to La Jolla to see the play, I was sitting next to Bob. From the reaction of the audience, I couldn’t believe what was going on. I looked at Bob and said, ‘If this ever goes to New York, what’s going to happen?’

PS: Well, we saw it happen. Pandemonium—that’s what happened!

Bob Gaudio: You know the thing that’s so incredible, besides what Frankie just said is, here you got a show about four almost-greasers from New Jersey, two Jews from the Upper West Side, a Canadian director, Des McAnuff, and a Dominican choreographer [audience laughter]. How does that work? And, here we are. It was just a marriage made in heaven; it just all came together.

MB: You know, the great composer Sammy Cahn was asked, “What comes first, the music or the check?” and he said, ‘The Check!’ [audience laughter]. In the beginning, there was no money–we did it for nothing. We loved this and we said, let’s see what happens.

PS: What about the integrity of the story & the music? I’ve been involved in rock and roll on Broadway and in rehearsals, it seemed to be about the lighting [laughs]. This music sounds great! Did you have to teach musicians how to act or to teach actors how to play music?

RE: Des insisted that we have actors who play music.

Dominic Nolfi: Des asked me, ‘Do you play guitar?’ I said no, but I started to learn when we were in rehearsals back in La Jolla.

RE: Nobody in this show was going to be singing about two girls named Sherry. There are four microphones from the right era and the guys will be playing their own music.

It’s not like Patti LuPone playing one note on the tuba during the show; the guys in JERSEY BOYS are playing their instruments!

BG: The guys who are playing Bob Gaudio in the show actually learn the parts for the keyboard, even though they’re not actually playing. The story would have to stop if they were playing the keyboards themselves, since the set moves around, but they know how to play.

RE: Bob looks like a mild-mannered guy, but he’s obsessive compulsive with the sound.

FV: Sometimes he’s a pain in the ass [audience laughter].

PS: In the book, how did you achieve that balance between sadness and happiness?

MB: With a computer program called, ‘plot perfect’! [audience laughter]

These guys were very courageous. As a group, The Four Seasons were not certified by rock intelligentsia and most of the fans didn’t know as much about them as they knew about the Beatles.

This happens to be a true story and a good story. There’s a good balance between sarcasm and sentimentalness. Rick Elice has what I call a ‘liquid center.’ So, there was a good deal of push and pull as we were writing the story.

In one scene, Bob is trying to get Frankie to go out as a single. Bob wants to drop out of the group and put Frankie out front. Frankie asks Bob, ‘Why does everybody leave?’

Then he asks Bob, ‘What if they don’t like me as a single?’

Bob comes back with the sarcasm and says, ‘What makes you think they liked you before?


It was beyond a thrill and an honor to be a member of the audience at the Paley Center for Media as Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, Bob Gaudio, and Frankie Valli shared their thoughts on their phenomenal journeys with such insight, humor, and candor! Originally, I had said this was going to be a three-parter–but due to the fantastic opportunity for the audience to ask questions to the panelists as the evening wrapped up–this will be turning into a four-parter!


  1. Thank you for this marvelous recap of the Paley Center event. You took fantastic notes and it’s a wonder you were able to capture it all. Looking forward to the next part.

    Comment by Tiggerbelle/Linda — December 6, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

  2. Thanks so much, Linda! It was one of the most exciting events to cover as a Four Seasons/JB fan!

    Comment by Susie — December 7, 2010 @ 8:33 am

  3. Excellent, Susie.

    You’ve made it easy to re-live that special night!


    Comment by Ray — December 9, 2010 @ 10:16 am

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