Saturday, June 1, 2019

Jersey Boys

The Broadway Bound Blogathon is an event spotlighting film adaptations of Broadway shows, hosted by Taking Up Room. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the host site.

Netflix viewing

Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys received mediocre reviews, but I didn’t think it was that bad. It certainly didn’t redefine the famous-musician biopic — it hits all the familiar beats chronicling the rise, fall and redemption of the 60s doo-wop group the Four Seasons, and maybe one shouldn’t expect more than that, particularly from a director as un-flashy and workmanlike as him. It certainly didn’t feel like a stage show, I’ll say that much — and I had no problem with him using the stage stars, including Tony-winner John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli.

I remember hearing the Four Seasons on AM radio as a kid. In fifth grade, in fact, I had a crush on a girl named Sherri (with an “i” not a “y”), but I’d feel awkward whenever I heard the song “Sherry,” like it was advertising to the world how I felt about her. I recall thinking the group’s high-pitched voices were very unusual for guys. They couldn’t be girls, could they?

The Four Seasons were not the kinda doo-wop group my father listened to. Growing up, I always heard him play the black groups: the Drifters, the Coasters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, all those pre-Motown acts from the 50s and early 60s. I discovered the white groups like the Four Seasons on my own. I know I heard Valli’s solo hit “Grease” on the radio. I had heard the R&B remake of “Working My Way Back to You” first and thought it was the original. And I remember liking the storytelling aspect of  “December 1963” and wanting to know more about that night. Even as a kid, I had a yen for songs that told stories.

One of Virginia’s friends sings barbershop music, and she was briefly part of his quartet for a time. Barbershop is in the same ballpark as doo-wop, though I associate doo-wop with the inner city. It’s the music of street corners and dance halls, on hot summer nights — and while I never heard anybody sing doo-wop on any corners in my neighborhood, that image is inherently urban. With barbershop, I think of state fairs. Totally different vibe.

Jersey Boys is still playing in Manhattan, at the New World Stages. It opened in 2005, with the book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elise. Young was part of the original cast, as Valli, along with Daniel Reinhard as Bob Gaudio, Tony-winner Christian Hoff as Tommy DeVito and J. Robert Spencer as Nick Massi. It won the Best Musical Tony as well as the Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. The musical was Gaudio’s idea. Here’s an interview with him discussing the show. Brickman & Elise also wrote the screenplay for the film version.

Eastwood talks about the making of the film here. Recently there was a lawsuit involving Eastwood and Warner Brothers in which the matter of whether or not material from a DeVito autobiography was used without consent. The lawsuit originally applied to the stage show before the film version was included too. You can read about it in this THR article.

Other adaptations of theatrical shows:
Little Shop of Horrors 
West Side Story 
Guys and Dolls 
The Music Man 
Bells Are Ringing
Hedwig and the Angry Inch 
Carmen Jones
Brighton Beach Memoirs 
A Bronx Tale 
Watch on the Rhine 
A Raisin in the Sun


  1. Every couple of years another production of Jersey Boys opens in Toronto and it is always successful. I think there is a lot of nostalgia associated with it, but also in my observation, younger audiences seem hungry for something different. Whether it becomes a habit with them or not is another matter.

    Sometimes you do go into a movie expecting what you get. Not every movie has to reinvent the wheel. I think Jersey Boys, the movie is one of those.

  2. I was under the impression JERSEY BOYS skewed much older too — the movie, at least — but maybe it’s different with theater audiences?

  3. I'm not sure how I've been a huge Eastwood-o-phile and have yet to see this movie. I must not be as good of a human being as I think I am :)

  4. I wouldn’t sweat it. There are lots of other Eastwood films you could see before this.

  5. Mr. Eastwood is definitely a man of many talents. Thanks for joining the blogathon with this terrific review (sorry the link didn't get posted right away)!

  6. Quite alright. Thanks for having me.

  7. I remember when the film came out and I wanted to see it. I never really caught it on TV and I'm not sure if it is on Netflix here, but your review makes me want to look for it again. It may not be revolutionary, but by your account it looks enjoyable.
    Thanks for adding my post to the link round-up!

  8. Not sure if this is your kind of music, but if it is, enjoy.

  9. Really good review! I like how you incorporate your personal memories with the music into your post! I also reviewed Jersey Boys, so check it out if you get the chance!

    On the right hand side of your blog, I noticed something called "Murder She Wrote Cookalong". This sounds interesting, but I don't know what it is. Could you please clarify if this is a blogathon?

  10. All your answers are here:

    1. Thanks for the info about the cookalong! Sounds like a lot of fun! Will definitely consider joining the event!


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