Even eight years after opening, Jersey Boys is still filling the August Wilson Theatre with theatergoers who want to go behind the music with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. After a rough start in blue collar New Jersey, the men went on to fame with hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” powered by founding member Frankie Valli’s soaring falsetto. And it’s all laid out here documentary style. True fans know that hidden amongst the jukebox hits are Easter eggs that they easily catch – and anticipate when they come back to see the show again and again. Here are eight signs you are a major fan of Jersey Boys.
You’ve attempted to croon the high notes. You’ve failed.
In the show, there’s lots of falsetto, of course, courtesy of the actor playing Frankie Valli (one of the many reasons John Lloyd Young won a Tony for the role back in 2006). There are rafter-raising notes in “Walk Like a Man” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” And at the end of the show, the group hits a spectacular high note in the final moments of “Who Loves You” that is way up there in the stratosphere. And it’s precisely these vocal pyrotechnics that bring fans back for more. “It’s like you’re hearing a very close replication of this studio sound you’ve only heard on the radio,” says fan Cheryl Coons, who has seen the show five times. “It’s as though you’re present at the exact moment of creation of this sound you’ve known for years.”
That said, you can actually sing “Oh, What a Night” in French.
As any true-blue Boys lover knows, the show opens with one of the group’s biggest hit songs, “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” But there’s something a little different about this version. Yes, there’s the oh-so-famous piano vamp. But pretty soon, it’s clear we’re not in Jersey anymore, when a singer starts rapping in French. It turns out the song was translated – and transformed — in 2000 by a singer/rapper from France named Yannick. So be ready for “Ces Soirées Là,” with lyrics like “On drague, on branche toi-même tu sais pourquois.”
You’ve tried to do the group’s dance moves at home.
The choreography in Jersey Boys seems basic, with performances taking place behind standing microphones. But the seeming simplicity is deceptive, as you probably realized as you tried recreating it in your kitchen with a broom. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo worked his magic, with side steps, hip sways, spins and snaps all in time with the classic songs. And you will have watched performances (like the one above from the 2006 Tonys) over and over again until you get the moves just right.
You aren’t shocked when Joe Pesci shows up.
So Joe Pesci is a character in Jersey Boys. Yes, the Joe Pesci: the actor from Raging Bull and Goodfellas. But before he introduced the classic line “Like I’m a clown? I amuse you?” into the cultural lexicon, he was just a guy from the Jersey streets. He happened to know some of the then-struggling group’s members, and suggested that his bud Bob Gaudio join as the fourth. It’s a curious little footnote in musical history. And when the audience figures out that “Joey” is actually “Joe Pesci,” it gets a big laugh. But you’re ahead of that joke. And you chuckle every time your fellow audience members gasp at the reveal.
You picked up on the show’s Four Seasons concept.
The show has a deceptively simple narrative device: the script is split into four seasons, with each member of the group speaking directly to the audience and telling his own version of the story, from the spring of their incarnation, the summer of their development, the fall of their troubles and the winter of their ultimate success. It’s super clean and smart—and highly satisfying for theatergoers that catch on. “The show is structured so brilliantly,” says fan Cheryl Coons. “And then the second time you see it, it’s like going back to a favorite film. You notice all these new details.”
You know who Sherry is. And all of the other women almost named in the song title.
Legend has it that the hit song “Sherry” took all of 15 minutes to write. The falsetto is iconic, but it turns out that the title was the hardest part. The woman’s name started out as Jackie as a nod to then-first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. For a millisecond it became Terri, then Peri, before the group eventually landed on Sherry. A true Jersey Boys fan knows that the Sherry in question was the daughter of popular New York DJ Jack Spector. And you also know that her name was actually spelled Cheri.
You know who Marshall Brickman is.
Marshall Brickman is one funny guy. He collaborated with Woody Allen on the screenplay for Annie Hall, coming up with such classic zingers as “Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad: sun, milk, red meat… college.” He also collaborated on the script for Jersey Boys with former adman-turned-playwright Rick Elice. True, you wouldn’t think that the man who also co-wrote the screenplays for Allen’s Manhattan and Manhattan Murder Mystery would be the ideal co-author for Jersey Boys (see how crazy that sounds?). But it worked like a charm.
You were out of town. You saw the road company.
Maybe it was a work conference, or visit to the in-laws, that just so happened to overlap with a tour stop. What luck. No matter where you see it the show still resonates. Just ask Louise Paugh. “The first time I saw it in Palm Beach, they had a real car on stage,” she says. “That was really something.” She adds, “If I could see it again right now, I would.” Spoken like a fan.