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VOL. 125 | NO. 15 | Monday, January 25, 2010



‘Jersey Boys’ Kicks Off Orpheum’s Broadway Season

By JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Memphis News

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ON TOUR: The Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys,” which narrates the musical rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is the anchor of The Orpheum Theatre’s Broadway touring productions this year. -- Photo: Joan Marcus

Musical bad boys make good in The Orpheum Theatre’s season anchor touring production, “Jersey Boys,” which opens Wednesday. The high-flying, biographical musical brings with it a slew of former No. 1 hit songs and a handful of Tony Awards to boot.

The musical narrates the rise to fame of 1960s singers Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi, who as the Four Seasons, created such resonating hits as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” using their signature sharp-edged falsetto vocal style.

IF YOU GO

JERSEY BOYS will open Wednesday and will run through Feb. 14. Tickets are available by calling The Orpheum box office at 525-3000 or Ticketmaster at 743-ARTS, or by visiting The Orpheum kiosk at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in East Memphis or online at www.orpheum-memphis.com.

“There are a couple of serious ballads in the show, but basically the Four Seasons was a fun group,” said Orpheum Executive Director Pat Halloran. “It was dance music. Their music was very entertaining. They were the antithesis of what the late ’50s and ’60s were.”

While audiences will recognize most of the songs in the show, Halloran said the story is lesser known.

“(Audiences are) only learning it now because a lot of people have seen the show in other cities,” he said.

The quartet started out as blue-collar ragamuffins in a poor neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey. Two were sent to prison before the group found its stride, but eventually the four matured in life and in their art.

“This is different from all of the other musicals that have focused on a single group, like Abba with ‘Mamma Mia!’” Halloran said. “The story had nothing to do with Abba. ‘All Shook Up’ was the music of Elvis Presley, but the story had nothing to do with Elvis.

“All of those jukebox musicals, none of them portray an accurate biographical account of the group.”

“Jersey Boys” premiered in October 2004 in California before its Broadway debut, in which it earned four Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Musical and Best Actor for John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli.

Joseph Leo Bwarie portrays Valli in the touring production and has since its inception in 2006.

The musical’s book was written by Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman with orchestration by Steve Orich, all of who were nominated for Tonys.

Besides the touring and Broadway productions, the show plays regularly in Chicago, London, Toronto, Las Vegas and Melbourne, Australia.

Halloran said the number of casts currently performing is comparable to runs of “Phantom of the Opera” and “CATS.”

“Jersey Boys” is the cornerstone of The Orpheum’s season and the only Broadway production running for a three-week engagement. It will be followed by productions of “South Pacific” and “Chicago.”

“There’s no question about it, this is what people want to see right now,” Halloran said. “Even people in their 30s will remember these songs. It’s just a great show that people will enjoy.”

However, Halloran said the show isn’t for everyone – specifically those younger than 13 – because of the amount of “authentic Jersey language,” meaning profanity, in the script. But Halloran forgives the show for its foul language.

“There’s a message there about people turning their lives around,” he said.

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