“Jersey Boys” continues to entertain audiences worldwide. The touring show, directed by Des McAnuff, one of La Jolla Playhouse’s prominent artistic directors, runs through Oct. 26 at the San Diego Civic Theatre. The story of how this award-winning show (four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical, a 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album), is interesting: when first presented with the idea, McAnuff didn’t see a future in it.
“The first outline was not called ‘Jersey Boys,’ and I really did turn it down,” McAnuff said. “Michael David, my friend who has produced many things, asked me to take another look at what writers Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman had done. I did. They worked on a treatment and I was knocked out. We went right into production before they even wrote the script. I’m extremely pleased that I took Michael’s advice.”
“Jersey Boys” is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and how they went from a group of neighborhood boys trying to survive to making musical history. Their iconic songs in the show include; “Sherry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Oh, What a Night.”
The cast of the San Diego tour includes Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito), Keith Hines (Nick Massi), Hayden Milanes (Frankie Valli) and Drew Seeley (Bob Gaudio) as The Four Seasons, with Barry Anderson and Thomas Fiscella. McAnuff is involved in casting the tour shows, but it’s less time consuming now, he said.
“It’s 10 years since we started in La Jolla, and we have so many veterans now playing these roles,” McAnuff said. “We move them around; like recently we just moved an actor from the Broadway show to the Vegas production. For an international show — we do it by videotape, however we are taking a trip to London to cast that show.
It’s a credit to all involved that “Jersey Boys” is on its second tour.
“I think it’s booked through 2016 and then we’ll see what happens from there — a thousand years wouldn’t be too long as far as I’m concerned,” McAnuff said with a laugh.
“Jersey Boys” was recently released as a motion picture, but McAnuff had nothing to do with the film. “It’s not abnormal for directors of plays to not be associated with the movie if it comes from a play,” he said. “Jack O’Brien didn’t get to do ‘Hairspray,’ or Michael Grief, ’Rent,’ and Hal Prince didn’t get to do ‘Phantom.’ There’s kind of a tradition in Hollywood to move away from the stage production.
“They did end up using my music director, choreographer, and the writers I worked with, as well as many members of the cast. I’m grateful to all the people who saw the film and come to the theater to see it again. There are strong ticket sales in many areas for the touring show.”
The story of “Jersey Boys” has a magic that continues to draw audiences. “Marshall and Rick wrote a truly brilliant script that created a story most people can relate to,” McAnuff said. “Most of us understand what it’s like to be part of a dynamic group. Many are fascinated with rock ‘n’ roll and celebrity. Also, the organized crime aspect and its mythology in this country (‘The Godfather,’ ‘The Sopranos’) has been magnetic. It’s larger than the sum of its parts and managed to take on a life of its own.”
“Jersey Boys” is only one of many shows the Playhouse produced that went on to Broadway. “Few theaters in this country, to this day, can do the kind of things the La Jolla Playhouse is able to do. Together we built a strong platform for creating great theater. That has to do with the wonderful staff, volunteers, the board, and those who have supported the theater.
“I can honestly say that without the Playhouse, ‘Jersey Boys’ may have never happened. That the Playhouse has benefited from ‘Jersey Boys’ financially is completely just. It has led to many other productions. Looking back at my own history, I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the productions I did had it not been for ‘Chorus Line,’ as Joe Papp channeled that money back into the theater.”
McAnuff always has a basket full of productions he’s involved with.
“I’m working on a new deal with Marshall, who has written a marvelous script; but at this time we have to keep it quiet. I’m also working on ‘Dr. Zhivago,’ at the Broadway Theater in New York, opening in April, which also involves the La Jolla Playhouse’s contribution to theater in general and to music specifically.”