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‘Jersey Boys’ returns to Costa Mesa for a three-night run

‘Jersey Boys’ returns to Costa Mesa for a three-night run
Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning Best Musical "Jersey Boys" will return to Segerstrom Center for the Arts Jan. 19 through 21. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Oh, what a night.

After ending its Tony-winning 11-year run on Broadway, musical "Jersey Boys," the tale behind Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is embarking on its North American tour with stops throughout the nation.

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Tommaso Antico, who portrays the Four Seasons' Bob Gaudio, will get some advice on his role from the musician who actually lived it.

"I want to hear straight from his mouth if he has any notes from me," Antico said from the tour's current stop in Nashville, Tenn. "Who better to hear from than Bob Gaudio himself, right?"

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Antico and the entire cast and crew of "Jersey Boys" will travel 2,000 miles west to Costa Mesa, taking up residence at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for a weekend run Jan. 19 through 21.

The musical follows the meteoric rise of Valli and the Four Seasons from humble New Jersey street urchins to a doo-wop hit-making powerhouse. The Broadway run ended in 2017 but not before Clint Eastwood adapted the show to film in 2014.

"They really were four blue-collar guys with nothing, not a cent in the bank," Antico said of the group whose hits include "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Sherry" and "Walk Like a Man.

"They were either going to join the military, get 'mobbed up' or become stars. They were so adamant about crawling their way to the top and in the end [changed] music history."

Performing beside Antico will be actor Jonny Wexler as bandleader Valli.

"People are constantly surprised at how many of the songs they know and recognize," Wexler said. "So many people have stories or experiences connected to many of these songs, so it's really cool to watch people relive [memories like a] first dance, first kiss."

Wexler, a Canadian actor tackling Valli's mid-century Garden State accent described the play as "'Goodfellas' with music."

Wexler, who previously portrayed one of the play's other characters, Joe Pesci, has met his real-life counterpart several times.

Valli's vocal parts in Four Seasons tunes are marked by his telltale falsetto at the upper register of the male voice. To effectively imitate Valli's high-tenor timbres, Wexler exercises not only his voice but also keeps his physique in tip-top shape for a typical eight-shows-per-week schedule.

"You start with the massive workload of what 'Jersey Boys' is for whoever is playing Frankie," he said. "You really get to learn your voice and become very attuned to how you're using it."

"These guys were maybe only singing these songs once every week. We're doing this eight times a week," Antico said. "We need to [perform] eight times a week for months on end and still feel comfortable."

Themes of brotherhood and overcoming adversity are just some of the show's messages that can be enjoyed without knowing the music, said production supervisor Richard Hester, who shepherds productions of "Jersey Boys" worldwide.

"Whatever anybody's preconceptions of what the show might be if you haven't seen it I think will be dispelled within three minutes," Hester said from Nashville. "I've had so many friends who were skeptical about coming to see it — I gave a money-back guarantee. No one has ever asked me for their money back," he said with a laugh.

Hester has overseen productions of "Jersey Boys" in Japan, the Netherlands and other countries — all undertaken in each nation's native language. His aim is to give Segerstom theatergoers — who have seen other iterations of the show in New York, Las Vegas and London — a similar experience.

"There is something universal about the story of these guys who against all odds succeed," Hester said. "Then of course the reality of success sinks in. It's a story that is very human and reflects the best and worst in us."

Hester, who will next oversee a new production of the show for Norwegian Cruise Lines, says Valli and Gaudio are the two people whose seal of approval he seeks most of all.

"Every time Frankie and Bob see the show, they never are happy to let it just sit there," said Hester, who has known the crooners since "Jersey Boys" first came to Broadway in 2005. "If there are things that they think will make it better, they are not shy about telling you."

If You Go

What: "Jersey Boys"

When: Jan. 19 through 21; 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

Cost: Tickets start at $40.75

Information: (714) 556-2787 or scfta.org.

Eric Althoff is a contributor to Times Community News.

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