The other afternoon I joined the mostly over-60 group at the theatre to see Clint Eastwood’s production, Jersey Boys, based on the Broadway hit of the same name, the story and music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Everyone was tapping their toes and mouthing the words to all their great hits from the 60s and reminiscing, watching the combs come out of the back pockets, the long cadi convertibles with fins, American Bandstand, and the Ed Sullivan Show.
For those unfamiliar with the group’s background, 3 of the 4 original Four Seasons group were from Belleville, New Jersey (just outside of Newark) and 2 of them had done time for petty crimes — break & enter, robbery, auto theft, etc. Frankie had a protector in a Jersey crime boss named Gyp DeCarlo (played by Christopher Walken). But it wasn’t until the group hooked up with Bob Crewe (played with flair by Mike Doyle), brilliant lyricist and record producer, that they become an “overnight” sensation with hit after hit.
Each of the 4 group members narrates part of the story from his own perspective and early on, DeVito says there are only 3 ways to leave the neighbourhood: join the mob and maybe get killed, join the army and maybe get killed, or get famous. While they were able to get famous and escape the neighbourhood, they still had larger than life problems that are documented in the movie and despite their success, the group members went their separate ways in the early 70s, (Nick Massi actually left in 1965) with Bob Gaudio continuing to write for Frankie who worked as a single with back-up groups continuously right up until today. (Check out tour dates at his website; watch a video of his 4th of July Vegas performance.) The movie goes to their reunion in 1990 for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
All of the singing for the movie was filmed live which gives a real concert atmosphere to the production and you may find yourself surprised at how many hits belong to this group. It’s no wonder that since the Broadway production and now the movie, a whole new generation is becoming fans of the unique sound of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. There is a great interview with Clint Eastwood on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon where he discusses the dark side of the group and a really terrific interview with the 4 leads, Vincent Piazza (Tony DeVita), Michael Lomenda (Nick Massi), John Lloyd Young (who played Frankie Valli in the Broadway show as well and won a Tony for his portrayal) & Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio), where they talk about how they landed in the movie, their favourite Four Seasons’ songs, and what it was like filming the movie.
If you want to find out how accurate the movie is, you can check out Slate.com where there is a comprehensive overview along with photos of the original characters beside pictures of the actors who play them. Don’t be surprised at the high level of accuracy; when you have Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio as executive producers, the movie can’t go too far wrong.
For me, the two best parts of the movie are when Valli sings “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” at Roosters (the Rooster Tail) in Detroit with a big band back-up, horns, saxophones, the works, and at the end where the whole cast, as they appeared at the beginning of the story, come out on the street and dance to the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons while production credits appear on screen.
Here’s the trailer. Go see the show — you’ll love it!