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Published: Sunday, 2/5/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

'Jersey Boys' musical tells the ‘good yarn’ behind the hits

BY JULIE NJAIM
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The "Jersey Boys," from left, Brandon Andrus, Brad Weinstock, Jason Kappus, and Colby Foytik. The "Jersey Boys," from left, Brandon Andrus, Brad Weinstock, Jason Kappus, and Colby Foytik.
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER Enlarge

Brad Weinstock is truly a Jersey boy.

But sharing the same birth state, stature, and four-octave range with the pop music living legend Frankie Valli could never have prepared Weinstock for his role in the Tony, Grammy, and Olivier Award-winning musical Jersey Boys running Tuesday through Feb. 26 as part of the Broadway Series presented by the Theater League at the Stranahan Theater.

"It’s more responsibility than I’ve had on stage before. I’m on the Frankie regimen: a lot of sleeping, a lot of hotel time, a lot of hydration," said Weinstock, 27, in a recent phone interview from a Philadelphia hotel during the first leg of this cast’s national tour.

"It ain’t easy to do this," said Rick Elice who co-wrote the musical with Marshall Brickman. "Twenty-seven songs. They are all over the place — in your head, your chest, your falsetto."

Before Jersey Boys, little was known about this band of blue-collar Jersey boys — Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, Tommy DeVito, and Valli — who became Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. They were from the wrong side of the tracks and defied odds to gain international acclaim in the 1960s. The group sold more than 175 million records worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 1990.

Their songs — including "Sherry," "Big Girls Don’t Cry," "Oh What a Night," "Rag Doll," and "Can’t Take My Eyes Off You" — are highly recognizable, unlike the group.

"They were not [from] the culture deemed good material to sell magazines," Elice said during a recent phone interview from his New York home. But that all changed when he and Brickman met Valli and Gaudio and heard how the group got together, what kept them together, and how they fell apart.

"It’s what they call in England a ‘good yarn,’ just a great story. I got that goosebump feeling, you know the hair standing up on the back of my neck, the mother lode, the great story nobody knows," Elice said.

The wildly-popular production opened on Broadway Nov. 6, 2005, and after more than 2,550 shows is still running. In addition to open runs in New York, Las Vegas, Australia, and London, a tour will soon start in New Zealand, and there are two national tours.

Along with Weinstock, the cast coming to Toledo includes Brandon Andrus as Massi, Colby Foytik as DeVito, and Jason Kappus as Gaudio.

Ohio, long before the Hall of Fame induction, played a key role in the life of the original Four Seasons, Elice said. "Events depicted in their lives take place in Ohio, including a weekend in jail."

The musical covers about a 20-year span. "You really get the sense of how each of their songs was crafted, how huge hits might have come out of a really trying time in their life," Weinstock said.

In October he was in Las Vegas playing Joe Pesci in Jersey Boys and was an understudy for the Valli role when he found out he’d been chosen for this national tour.

"They gave me this ridiculously good news... The part is really demanding," he said. "I get to play him as this wide-eyed impressionable kid and wind up a seasoned rock-and-roll star who’s seen everything from the highest highs to the lowest lows, and that’s a really rich character to sink your teeth into," Weinstock said.

"My favorite part of the show is in Act One they do the big three: ‘Sherry," ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry,’ "Walk Like A Man.’ The audience response after that is as close as a musical theater actor can get to feeling like a rock star."

Weinstock recalls going to the Jersey shore as a young boy with his parents and hearing those classic songs on his parents’ cassette player. "It had a formative part of my upbringing."

About two decades later he met Valli.

"Frankie popped into one of our rehearsals in New York. You could see some cast members shifting in their seats." Weinstock didn’t know he was there. "We were beginning to sing ‘Dawn.’ He was very nice, came around and shook our hands. He was very encouraging."

Gaudio also keeps an eye on the productions, Weinstock said. "He was there for every preview we had in Philadelphia. We got first-hand insight from him."

Jersey Boys opens at 8 p.m. Tuesday for a three-week run with 24 performances at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets range from $33 to $128. Information: 800-982-2787, 419-381-8851, or theaterleague.com.

Contact Julie Njaim at: jnjaim@theblade.com.



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