From Broadway to the Big Screen: Jersey Boys Stars Return to Roles in Film Adaptation
16 Jun 2014
John Lloyd Young
Photo by Joan Marcus
Stage performers and observers of theatre history know the usual heartbreaking story by heart: an actor makes a hit creating a character in a play or musical; the show becomes that rare piece of theatre that is made into a film; then the movie director hires no one in the original cast, but fills the parts with movie stars with no familiarity with the play. See: Mame; Hello, Dolly!; Chicago; Doubt; Proof; Guys and Dolls; Gypsy; and just about any other Broadway show you can think of.
Clint Eastwood’s film version of the long-running Broadway hit Jersey Boys, about the tumultuous formation of the Four Seasons pop group, is the exception.
Not only was John Lloyd Young given a chance to recreate his Tony-winning performance as lead singer Frankie Valli, two other actors from the first national tour of the musical — Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda — were tapped to recreate their work as keyboardist-songwriter Bob Gaudio and vocal arranger-bassist Nick Massi, respectively. Only one of the Four Seasons, the troublemaker Tommy DeVito, is portrayed by a newcomer to the material, “Boardwalk Empire”’s Vincent Piazza.
“I felt, after so many performances in the role, that I would have something to contribute, so I hoped I would get a shot at the role,” said Young, who first played Valli a decade ago. "And I’m so happy I got to. The icing on the cake is the director that chose me.”
“It was sort of unprecedented that so many of the alumni of the Jersey Boys Broadway production would be involved in this,” commented Lomenda. “It was an absolute surprise when Mr. Eastwood showed up at a San Francisco matinee I was doing. I didn’t know he was casting the movie. I thought in the back of my head he was brushing up before he started shooting and had already cast the movie with Justin Bieber, or someone.”
Bergen noted that he, Lomenda and Young weren’t the only lucky ones.
Holed up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, two former lovers unpack the deep secrets and dark desires of their tangled relationship, passionately tearing each other apart. Led by director Daniel Aukin (Back Back Back at MTC, 4,000 Miles), Tony winner Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur at MTC, Born Yesterday) and Sam Rockwell (A Behanding in Spokane, The Way Way Back) bring an explosive intensity to Sam Shepard’s (Buried Child, True West) landmark myth of the new Wild West.