Weekender

The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presents Broadway’s ‘Jersey Boys’

From left: Keith Hines, Aaron De Jesus, Drew Seeley and Matthew Dailey.
From left: Keith Hines, Aaron De Jesus, Drew Seeley and Matthew Dailey. Photo provided

There are a total of five Frankie Valli’s running around the world somewhere right now — six if you count the real deal, the legendary front man of the Four Seasons and the only one who is not currently starring in one of the touring productions of the hit Broadway musical, “Jersey Boys.”

Which is a shame because he probably knows all of the songs.

Nearly a decade after the musical’s heralded arrival, several Vallis and many calendars worth of Seasons later, it seems safe to say that “Jersey Boys” has made do.

The show took home a Tony Award for Best Musical and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 2006 and has even racked up a few international honors like the 2010 Helpmann Award for Best Musical in Australia.

On Nov. 3, the musical, presented by the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State, will make its local debut at Eisenhower Auditorium, where even audiences already familiar with the backstory behind Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons can enjoy a new cover of an old favorite.

“Each cast has its own energy. Its not a cookie-cutter mold,” Richard Hester, production supervisor, said.

“Jersey Boys” tells the story of how Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi became The Four Seasons — the 1960s and 70s super group that sold 175 million records worldwide. The musical features all the band’s hits, including “Oh What a Night,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Sherry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

Hester has been with “Jersey Boys” since the very beginning, back when the very concept of a jukebox musical was considered the kiss of death.

“It was definitely not the show that any of us thought was going to be this hit,” Hester said.

That all changed when the production team finally received the script on the first day of rehearsals and realized that the show wouldn’t be anchored by a collage of loosely strung together golden oldies, but by a compelling narrative.

None of this is to say that the music has played a small role in the show’s ongoing success.

“It also hit at exactly the right time that the people who grew up with the music and loved it were ready to hear it,” Hester said.

He oversees each of the five “Jersey Boys” teams currently on tour, helping to get new production offices off the ground, putting new actors in front of directors and producers and ensuring that the show’s original story remains intact.

Hester’s goal is to make sure that audiences in State College are enjoying the same show as the crowds in London.

“The quality of performer and tech are the same wherever you go,” Hester said.

No matter how closely the creative team sticks to the script, there’s always one major variable that’s still in play.

“The actors really have to listen to the audience and adjust their performance accordingly,” Hester said.

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