Jersey Boys rings with themes familiar to Jewish audiences

March 1, 2013

What’s Happening

March 5-16

When Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman started writing the book for the award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys, they didn’t think they had much in common with pop sensations and real-life, New Jersey natives Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

“Marshall and I are both Jews—overanalyzed, overeducated, upper West Side, New York Jews—and as much as I hate to say it, at first we had a certain opinion about the people we were writing about,” says Elice.

“We had snobby views, and thought people in New Jersey dressed oddly and that Jersey smelled funny. Over half of my relatives lived in New Jersey, but I was discouraged from ‘looking left.’

“As it turned out, Marshall and I were completely wrong,” Elice says.

During pre-writing interviews and research about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group, Ellis and Brickman discovered the four boys who became the Four Seasons were from the wrong side of the tracks. They had mob connections. They had prison records. They came from blue collar working backgrounds, were high school dropouts, first generation Americans, and Roman Catholics.

As disparate as their lives seemed at first with Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, Brickman and Ellis soon found striking similarities in themes that mirrored their own experiences as Jews.

“Were they marginalized? Absolutely. Were they disenfranchised? Absolutely,” says Elice.

“As a Jew, I have also felt marginalized. I’ve the coldness of a handshake and—even in New York, the most liberal city in the world—I’ve been barred from entering certain places,” he says. “So while I didn’t join the mob or go to prison, and my life was nothing like theirs, I’ve lived my own version of this story.”

Playing at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway since its opening in 2005, the production that is coming to Chrysler Hall is part of the second national tour of Jersey Boys. Songs featured in the show include Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, and My Eyes Adored You, among many others.

More than 16 million people have seen the musical, and no matter where it plays, Elice says audiences overwhelmingly respond positively to the music and the themes explored in the show.

“At some point of our lives, we’ve all been part of a group—whether that’s a bowling league or a synagogue congregation— that was like family to us (and probably sometimes a very dysfunctional family). Jersey Boys tells the story that even nice Jewish boys like us could understand— the feeling of wanting to belong, to achieve, to be respected. Of wanting to find ‘home.’

“Whether on Broadway or in Norfolk, or Singapore, or south of the Mason Dixon line, or Seattle, audiences come and they connect with this story,” Elice says. “Because while our differences are cosmetic, our similarities are profound.”

For a sneak peek of Jersey Boys, visit www.JerseyBoysInfo.com/watch.

At Chrysler Hall. Tickets begin at $33 and are available at www.ticketmaster.com, 1-800-745-3000, all Ticketmaster Outlets or at the Scope Arena Box Office.

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