Oh, what a journey for 'Jersey Boys'

How musical went from 'pipe dream' to reality

  • Michael Ingersoll, from left, Jarrod Spector, Drew Gehling and Jeremy Kushnier star in

    Michael Ingersoll, from left, Jarrod Spector, Drew Gehling and Jeremy Kushnier star in "Jersey Boys."

Published: 10/14/2007 5:59 AM | Updated: 10/17/2007 8:30 AM

It took more than three years from the time Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio realized The Four Seasons story might make a better musical than TV film for "Jersey Boys" to become a reality.

"It was a pipe dream then," Gaudio says, one of the original Four Seasons and the group's primary songwriter. "At times we thought it would be impossible, but we stayed with it and here we are.

"Your gut instincts tell you that you have something, but it's impossible to know," he says, but the workshop production's opening night in La Jolla, Calif., convinced him.

"Sometimes you can do no wrong," Gaudio says. "This was one of those times."

His hunch was confirmed in November, 2005 when "Jersey Boys" opened on Broadway where it went on to win four Tony Awards, including one for best musical.

The same year "Jersey Boys" made waves in New York, Dayton, Ohio, native Michael Ingersoll began making waves in Chicago. After relocating to the city with his wife, actress Angela Ingersoll, he did a few shows, including "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights and "tick, tick …BOOM" at Pegasus Players, for which he earned a Jeff Citation nomination. In her review of that show, a Chicago critic suggested he might want to learn the music to "Jersey Boys" and take a shot at the national tour. He followed her advice and won the role of the enigmatic Nick Massi on one of the national tours opening at Chicago's LaSalle Bank Theatre today.

After six years working 70-hour weeks for little money, Ingersoll has become an overnight success. Actually, he's just happy to be home. And he's thrilled to be part of a show that delivers on its promise of great tunes and a compelling story.

Memorable melodies notwithstanding, it's the truth behind the tale of four blue-collar guys becoming one of the 1960s' top selling pop groups that makes the show, says Gaudio. To that end, he and Valli insisted it be told warts and all.

"We weren't the glamour boys. We weren't the Beatles. We didn't get press," he says. "We knew it was a gritty story that no one really knew."

Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, the show doesn't follow the typical musical format of songs advancing the plot. Rather than shoehorn songs into a narrative, the creative team used them as a soundtrack, presenting them concert-style chronologically.

"It's an American dream story," says Ingersoll. "What we really want for ourselves is to start with what we have, make the most of it and become a great success. These guys could have been construction workers or plumbers. Instead they became one of the biggest bands in history and they came by it honestly."

"Audiences identify with them," he says. "Audiences see themselves because the characters are allowed to be flawed, that's what makes them interesting."

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