Jersey Boys (The Movie)…Good Enough

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some summer movies I was looking forward to and one that I was uncertain about. That movie was Jersey Boys and I was uncertain about it because it is the film version of the stage production by the same name which presents the history of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

The Four Seasons were one of America’s top groups.  Between their first hit in 1962 and early 1964,  only the Beach Boys could challenge them in record sales. Between 1962 and 1965, at least one, and often two, of their songs ranked in Billboard’s Top 3. In 1966, three of their songs were on Billboard’s Top 10.  And as late as 1975 they had two songs (Who Loves You and December, 1963)  in Billboard’s Top 3.

I saw the stage production of Jersey Boys in Las Vegas a few years ago and loved it. My experience has been that film versions of stage productions are not as compelling. Part of that is because, in my opinion, stage productions have relatively minimal sets and so the characters come to the forefront. Films are much more visual and that can detract from the characters. I’ve seen both the stage and film versions of Phantom and Mamma Mia! and prefer the stage versions.

But since Clint Eastwood directed the Jersey Boys film, and it’s a fascinating story, I decided to see it on opening day last Friday. My hopes for the film were boosted when I read in a review just hours before I saw the film that Frankie Valli is played by John Lloyd Young, who won a 2006 Tony for the same role in the Broadway production which won four 2006 Tony awards and has been on Broadway for nine years. (It is one of the top 15 longest running Broadway shows.)

Here’s John Lloyd Young and the rest of the Broadway cast, introduced by Joe Pesci, performing at the 2006 Tony awards ceremony.

Two of the other three Seasons (the bass guitarist and the keyboardist / songwriter) also played those roles in a Jersey Boys stage production and I’m pretty sure I saw the songwriter in the Vegas production. Casting three stage production members was a very smart decision by Clint.

Since I saw a Friday  afternoon show, I didn’t expect (nor want) a large crowd. There were only about twenty of us in the theater and every one of us was a senior. During the film, a woman in my row a few seats away hummed or softly sang along with a few of the more upbeat songs.

I did notice two significant differences from the stage production.  One I was a bit ambivalent about and the other was an enhancement that would have been difficult to incorporate into the stage version.

First, the role of a local Mob boss (played by Christopher Walken) is given more visual emphasis than in the stage production, which only alludes to this issue. For example, in the film, a “showdown” scene between the band members takes place at the Mob boss’ home but in the stage production only the band members are involved.

Second, the band’s record producer (Bob Crewe) has a significant role in the film and I do not even recall that he was in the stage production.  However, the role works very well in the film and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is nominated for a “supporting actor” award. I don’t know if this was true or not, but in the film he is gay and does not attempt to disguise it and that seems historically inaccurate.

My verdict: not as good as the stage production but good enough, especially if you don’t think you’ll be able to see the stage production.



5 responses to “Jersey Boys (The Movie)…Good Enough

  1. Though I’m from the New Wave era, I dig The Four Seasons. I love Silence is Golden and..My Eyes Adored you? Or was that a solo by Frankie Valli.

    • I like New Wave almost as much as 60’s music, although I think comparing different musical types is like comparing apples and oranges. I like many musical types, including reggae / ska, and zydeco (which I think is Louisiana’s form of disco because the songs all sound the same but are very danceable.)

      Here’s some interesting info about “My Eyes Adored You” I found on wikipedia:

      “My Eyes Adored You” (original working title, “Blue Eyes in Georgia”) is a popular song written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan.It was originally recorded by The Four Seasons in early 1974.

      After the MoWest label balked at the idea of releasing it, the recording was sold to lead singer Frankie Valli for $4000. After rejections by Capitol, Atlantic, and other labels, Valli succeeded in getting the recording released on Private Stock Records, but the owner/founder of the label wanted only Valli’s name on the label. The single was released in the U.S. in November 1974 and topped the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1975. “My Eyes Adored You” also went to #2 on the Easy Listening chart.

      I hope films make it to the PI faster than I recall when I lived there. See it on a “big” screen and not one of those mini-screens that some multiplexes have. “Oh what a night” that’ll be!

  2. Thanks for the info. Im too lazy for wiki-research

  3. Saw it today. Wish I could have reversed the order and seen the movie first and then the theatrical version. As I have previously remarked I find most movie adaptations of stage musicals fall far short of the theatrical factor. (i.e. Les Miz and The Phantom) Actors can’t sing as well as singers.

    This movie was not as good as the play but it was a good movie and I am happy to have seen it. I thought Eastwood did a great job of directing. The last 15 minutes of the movie separated it from a 3 star to a 3.5 in my opinion. Very entertaining.

    I think what made the difference was casting real Broadway singers. in the roles.

    • Am I right that that their producer Bob Crewe had no or little role in the theatrical version, or did I just forget?

      Transformers is out but I think that will wait until it comes to the $3 theater or maybe even Redbox. That kind of ‘cheap thrills” movie needs to be…cheap. Then I can afford the popcorn!

      I’ll probably be willing to pay $5 for a weekday matinee to Sin City.

      Keep your eyes out for the latest jukebox musicals “Beautiful” (Carole King) and “Motown the Musical”.

      King’s “Tapestry” album is forever associated in my mind with my college girlfriend my sophomore year, who introduced me to King and played that album constantly. She transferred to Oregon (or Oregon State) at the end of that year because it had a better anthro program and that was her major.

      If she hadn’t transferred, who knows what may have happened. I night have married her. I’ve never been able to learn what happened to her.
      I heard at one time that she was living in Africa or the Mid-east, which wouldn’t surprise me because she was very “inquisitive.”

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