Ryan Molloy, part of the Laurence Olivier Award-winning ensemble of Jerry Springer The Opera, will play Frankie Valli in new musical and Broadway hit Jersey Boys when the show opens at the Prince Edward in March 2008.
In this musical story about American band Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Molloy is joined by Stephen Ashfield as Bob Gaudio, Glenn Carter as Tommy DeVito and Philip Bulcock as Nick Massi, all of whom were on hand at the Prince Edward this morning to launch the London production, along with two of the real-life Four Seasons, Valli and Gaudio.
Jersey Boys opened on Broadway in November 2005, winning the Best Musical Tony Award the following year. Spanning three decades from the 1950-70s, the show – described by Gaudio as “a drama with music as opposed to a musical, because I think the story is so strong” – charts the real-life tale of these four blue-collar boys from Newark, New Jersey, whose unique sound – characterised by the falsetto voice of Valli – resulted in numerous chart hits in the US and UK including Big Girls Don’t Cry, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, Bye Bye Baby, December 1963 (Oh What A Night) and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, many of which feature in the show.
At the launch today, Valli and Gaudio stressed how excited they were about the London production of Jersey Boys, which is put together by the entire Broadway creative team. “We spent so much time here. Not just London, we played everywhere round here. Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool. We got ourselves in a little trouble in a few of those places!” said Gaudio. “So this is really a thrill. A number of things were successful here that didn’t even make it in the States. It’s special because the British audience have dug deeper into our catalogue. You folks pay attention!”
“This is certainly a highlight of my life,” agreed Valli. “If it is received as well as we have been over the years it will really do very well. Audiences in the UK have been wonderful to us, even in periods of time when we haven’t been touring here. We are really excited about this.”
Unlike other back-catalogue musicals which often rely on a fictional narrative, Jersey Boys combines the music of the Four Seasons, composed by Gaudio and Bob Crewe, with the true story of their rise to success, which was developed by writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice following interviews with all four band members. Valli commented: “The writers came up with the idea of doing this play from four different points of view. So I think for each of us, [when we] went in to see the play for the first time, there were some surprises – no one knew exactly the way the other guy was thinking and everybody had a little bit of a different take on it.”
“I think that the story was told with as much truth as possible,” he added. “Keeping in mind the fact that we were a group of guys who were, as younger kids, in trouble, in a period of time that if you did get in trouble the chances of getting something played on the radio were very slim, if at all. So we kind of kept our past a secret, or swept under the rug. When we decided to do this we talked about it a long time. We were very careful not to hurt anybody, but as far as our own lives were concerned, I think we were pretty upfront, and I think that has an awful lot to do with the success of Jersey Boys.”
Seeing an actor portraying him on stage took a little bit of getting used to for Valli. “You have to keep in mind that if someone is portraying you they are portraying you through their point of view. As well as you may think you know yourself, you actually don’t know how you look when you walk, or how you sound when you talk, and some of the mannerisms that are just natural to you, that you wouldn’t even think about observing.”
Seeing his life on stage doesn’t make Gaudio feel the need to revisit the old days, however. “How much better does it get to see your life pass before you with a 20 minute intermission and never break a sweat?!” he commented. “It’s really the first time you get to see people enjoying the music, first hand, as opposed to looking from the stage. And because most people don’t recognise me I can stand in front of the theatre and hear all the accolades!”
Both have admiration for the cast of Jersey Boys, who have to perform a demanding score night after night – including recreating Valli’s falsetto. “When I went to see it when it was a workshop, the kid who was playing me was so good, I said to myself, where was he when I needed him? All these kids have been spectacular,” said Valli.
Valli, who revealed he may tour his new album Romancing The ‘60s during his time in the UK, admitted his own voice has changed since his hey day with the Four Seasons. “As you get older you may lose a couple of notes on the top but you’ll gain a few on the bottom. Now I can do Barry White!”
Jersey Boys opens at the Prince Edward on 18 March, after previews from 28 February. Book tickets for Jersey Boys.
Currently at the Prince Edward is Mary Poppins, which finishes its run on 12 January. Book tickets for Mary Poppins.