Jersey Boys follows four blue-collar boys – Valli, Gaudio and their friends Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi – on their journey from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey to international success as an American pop music sensation. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were 30. Amongst their many hits included in the show are “Sherry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, “Working My Way Back to You” and “Who Loves You”.
The London company will star Ryan Molloy (On the Town, Godspell, Eurobeat) as Frankie Valli, Stephen Ashfield (Taboo, Fame, Tomorrow Morning, Imagine This) as Bob Gaudio, Glenn Carter (Jesus Christ Superstar, Whistle Down the Wind, Chess, Cats) as Tommy DeVito and Philip Bulcock (Golden Boy, TV’s upcoming Hanrahan Investigates) as Nick Massi.
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The West End production reunites the Broadway creative team, led by director Des McAnuff, choreographer Sergio Trujillo and designer Klara Zieglerova. Jersey Boys is written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who also attended today’s launch, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe. Following a four-month try-out in La Jolla, California, Jersey Boys opened in November 2005 at Broadway’s August Wilson Theater, where it continues to sell out. Amongst its accolades to date, it won four Tony Awards last year, including Best Musical.
Speaking today, Rick Elice said he was optimistic that the show would achieve similar success on this side of the Atlantic. “It seems to me that London loves great theatre and great theatre is about great stories and this show has a great story.”
Gaudio agreed: “I like to think of it as a drama with music rather than a straight musical because the story is that strong.” The book includes details about the group’s associations with the mafia. “You couldn’t have been from southern New Jersey, blue-collar and first generation Italian and not have been very close to the mob,” Elice explained, adding that the boys were much more likely to have “ended up in the trunk of somebody’s car” than to have become pop stars.
According to Valli, “The story was told with as much truth as possible. I think that also had something to do with the success of it. We were young kids who did get in trouble.” When their careers took off, he remembered, “We kept our pasts secret, kind of swept under the rug. When we decided to do this, we talked about it a long time. We tried not to hurt anybody, but as far as our own lives were concerned, we were pretty upfront.”
The team is unworried about their story being too specific to East Coast America or confusion over the title. Elice said: “The reason the show works is because the idea of the Jersey boy is not a geographical concept, it’s a psychological and emotional concept.” Gaudio added: “It’s about four blue-collar guys who work their way up – it could be anyone, anywhere.”
- by Terri Paddock