Tickets went on sale this morning for the Broadway in Richmond production of Jersey Boys, coming to the Landmark Theater in January. On Tuesday, three cast members of the Tony-award-winning musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were in town to offer Richmonders a preview.
John Michael Dias (Valli), Alayna Gallo (multiple characters) and Matthew Bailey (Tommy DeVito) answered questions posed by Greg McQuade of WTVR/CBS 6 about what it’s like to perform in the show — though as I learned, they won’t necessarily be part of the Richmond production.
Jersey Boys tells the story of how Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi grew up in the scrappy environment of Newark, N.J., and became one of the top singing groups of the 1960s with hits such as “Sherry (Sherry Baby),” “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Who Loves You,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
Dias, who has been playing the role of Valli for about seven years — three of those in Chicago — explains that there are about seven companies performing “Jersey Boys,” meaning there are seven main actors assigned to the role of Frankie Valli, plus four understudies for each one. Dias himself has filled in on Broadway, appearing as Valli at the August Wilson Theatre on West 52nd Street. The touring version is in Grand Rapids, Mich., this week, and then heads to Waterbury, Conn. Jersey Boys is also running in Las Vegas, London, the Netherlands (Utrecht) and until recently, South Africa. All told, 23 million people have seen the show, according to a Chicago Tribune interview with Frankie Valli.
Bailey, who hails from California, plays DeVito, and says he’s performed in 45 cities, including Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington and Miami.
To say audiences have been enthusiastic is an understatement. The three actors say they’ve often received multiple standing ovations — even before intermission. Gallo described audience members "catapulting out of their seats."
But, says Dias, “I don’t feel like they’re clapping for me. They’re clapping for the experience.”
“Mostly, it’s about the American dream,” Gallo says. Watching these four blue-collar young men achieve such wild success — “it’s breathtaking.”
That’s not to say it was all smooth sailing for the group. “Things got rough,” says Bailey. “There was jail time.” And mobsters lurking in the background.
Dias and Bailey also talked about the experience of portraying real people who are still around — and whose families and friends may even be in the audience.
“I feel a responsibility to bring it every night and to be as true to their story as possible,” Bailey says.
On stage, three women play a total of 54 characters. Gallo, a Philadelphia native, plays Lorraine, a journalist who has an affair with Valli, as well as 16 other parts. “I wear many hats — and wigs,” she says with a laugh. With all the quick changes between scenes, she adds, “There’s a whole other show going on backstage.”
“You never change in a dressing room,” Dias adds.
“God forbid you have to use the bathroom,” Gallo quips.
Sixteen Richmond performances are scheduled from Jan. 7 to 19, with ticket prices ranging from $43 to $138. (For tickets, call 800-514-3849 or visit broadwayinrichmond.com.)
Meanwhile, a movie version directed by Clint Eastwood, is in production in Los Angeles. The cast includes Christopher Walken as mobster Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo and Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio. John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of Frankie Valli on Broadway, will play him on film and Erica Piccininni, another Broadway cast member, will repeat her role as Lorraine, a journalist who has an affair with Valli. Katherine Narducci, who played Charmaine Bucco on “The Sopranos” was cast as Valli’s mother, Mary Rinaldi. Just for fun, here's a few minutes of Ellen DeGeneres trying to get Clint Eastwood's attention at the set.