August is a gorgeous time in Maine. The warmth of the sun wraps its arms around you for 31 days straight. There’s an anticipatory energy in the air as vacationers squeeze every last moment of beach time out of their summer before Labor Day comes around, and high school students drape themselves over the back rows of chilly movie theatres in order to escape the watchful eye of their parents who are anxious for school to start back up. August brings a “new year” for many families, and in August of 1962, teenagers and their parents from all over the world were given the gift of a new voice of a generation with the coming of The Four Seasons’ first nationally released single, and subsequent number one hit, “Sherry.”
What was this sound? Who owned that glorious young voice? Why were we suddenly hearing it on jukeboxes in every soda shop, grocery store and post office in town? Sherry is a song that’s upbeat, joyous and just downright fun. It’s a story about a boy wanting a girl to come out and dance and that’s all you needed. The country yearned for this musical lift as the Cold War raged on and breaking news reports cluttered the airwaves. By the time The Four Seasons second hit, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” made it to the radio, the United States found themselves in the throes of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and teens and parents could see themselves on the brink of nuclear war. The Four Seasons’ music allowed these families to step outside of the fear and tension that such a massive threat brought into their homes, and celebrate the simple joys in life – Boy meets Girl, it doesn’t work out – he moves on – let’s write a song and dance about it! At this time, the social impact of The Four Seasons was most deeply felt in the blue collar suburbs of places like Maine and New Jersey, as so eloquently stated in Bob Gaudio’s last speech of Act One, which is my favorite of the entire show and a perfect example of the poetic genius of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.
Cut to 42 years later – August 2004. A group of established creative powerhouses and raw new talent unite in a basement at the University of California San Diego. This modest, low-lit space will become the canvas for Brickman, Elice and Des McAnuff to interweave the blue collar stories of The Four Seasons with their now extensive catalogue of number one hits that live in the heartbeat of a generation. They chose a Rashomon approach, allowing for each band member to give you their perspective of “how it all happened,” for every story truly has a dozen ways of being told.
I remember each and every moment of that day and the many incredible days to come. The first time that David Noroña (our original Frankie) stepped up to the solo mic in rehearsal to sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” you could feel the entire room hold their breath for three minutes until the final dissonant chord of the tune echoed throughout the room. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
No matter when we first came upon them, be it in 1962 or 2004, these songs speak to all of us. They pulse with the rhythm of our heartbeats and represent the simplest of joys and struggles in our daily human interactions. The girl that you lost, the love that you simply can’t get away from; raw human interactions that can only be told through these melodies.
After that first run through, every person in the room knew that we were a part of something that would have a massive cultural impact. Jersey Boys was born, and August brought another number one hit for The Four Seasons.
Now we leap forward to August 2018. Fourteen years to the day that I first found myself involved in this story in a basement in California, we embark on rehearsals for a new exploration of this magnificent story of family and friendship, and now it’s your turn to view it with fresh eyes. Allow yourself to take all of the experiences that you’ve had with The Four Seasons, Jersey Boys, the music, the story, or the lack thereof and find YOUR Rashomon moment. What has stuck with you? What are you looking forward to reliving and seeing in a new light? What makes this timeless story special to you? Let tonight be your “August” – a new start for you with the material. What will be the story that will stay in your heart after tonight?
I’m so very grateful for the opportunity that Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe have given to all of us to continue the journey of exploring and celebrating their story with new generations of theatre goers and music lovers. As I can personally attest, the music and the heartbeat of Jersey Boys will never leave you. This show truly embraces the notion that “family is everything,” and I am thrilled to welcome you into ours.
Holly-Anne Palmer, Director