Rick Elice (left) and Marshall Brickman Photo by Joan Marcus
Jersey Boys writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice were preparing for the musical's premiere in San Diego when they received a call directing them to go to a phone booth in a supermarket parking lot at a certain time and wait. When the phone rang, a tough-sounding male voice said, "I understand that you are using my uncle, Gyp DeCarlo, as a character in the play and we want to make sure he's being depicted in a respectful fashion," Brickman says. If the writers knew what was good for them, the caller continued, they would fax over some pages. "It ended with, ‘If you don't send it, we know where you live,' " Elice adds. "Even though we were thousands of miles away from home, our blood ran cold." For a moment, the two New Yorkers seemed to have entered the story they were writing about — the environment in which the members of the Four Seasons got their start during the 1950s in Newark, N.J. "They were peripherally involved with the mob," Brickman says of the band comprising Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito. "This guy Gyp DeCarlo, who essentially controlled New Jersey, took a liking to Frankie and the group and became like their godfather." When the two writers interviewed the group's three surviving members (Massi died in 2000), they heard different versions of the same events. That sparked an idea: to tell the story from four separate points of view. "Each section is narrated by one of the band members," Elice says, and each corresponds to a season in their lives: spring, summer, fall and winter. "One thing they all talked about in some way or another was tied to the concept of neighborhood, what they did to get out of the old neighborhood," he says, and how in many ways they never did. "That was about the time we decided to call the show Jersey Boys. "There's a place that you come from that's always part of who you are." For details on Richmond performances of Jersey Boys, see Success Story.