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"Jersey Boys" premieres this week at Selma Arts Center!

Updated: Jun 4

Jukebox musicals have become a staple of the musical theatre landscape because people will pay whatever it costs for a two-hour hit of nostalgia. You can’t see Elvis perform anymore (do people still think he may be alive?) but you can see Joe DiPietro’s very fun All Shook Up. However, every once in a while, a jukebox musical goes beyond the standard formula of hit songs forced into a makeshift plot and, instead, provide audiences with a sincere, in depth look at the artist/group whose music is but one part of the journey. Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical–one of the most objectively successful ones the post-Golden Age era–and makes its Central Valley (“Central Valli” for those following the socials) at Selma Arts Center this week!

Helmed by Ben Sells, I had the opportunity to peek into the director’s mind to get his thoughts and anticipation for you to read ahead of seeing the show. When asked what about the Tony Award-winning Best Musical made him want to direct it, Ben explains, “Jersey Boys was a show we presented as a council, and we wanted to take it on because, like most people, we all grew up listening to the music while having the honor of watching those songs grow and evolve in media over time.” I know what Ben means. Growing up with my parents, and especially my father, Frankie Valli’s falsetto could be heard constantly while doing chores or completing homework. Jersey Boys takes a pretty close look at Frankie and The Four Seasons’ rise from doo-wop harmonizers to worldwide music sensations. 

Ben then discusses his thoughts on why Jersey Boys is well-suited for Selma. “Jersey Boys, a timeless tale of resilience and dreams, resonates with many. As a Valley Premiere, it offers our community a unique and exciting opportunity to experience a show they may not have seen before. We're committed to telling this story honestly, and ensuring a memorable and authentic experience for all.” When it comes to Selma Arts Center, they know how to handle jukebox musicals well, especially when the artists’ journey serves as the plot. Most recently, their production of On Your Feet! was an excitingly staged and designed production where Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s career is center among the music hits.

With opening night just on the horizon, I asked Ben to give us insight to how the rehearsal process has been going. In his response, Ben details, “we connected and learned about the show and each other like never before during the rehearsal process. We hired Renee Newlove as the Dramaturg to ensure we were portraying the show as historically accurately as possible, especially regarding character work, accents, posture, and the honest story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. We also decided to ensure our team had a safe space, so we asked Rebecca Potts to be on our team as the Cast Ambassador. With her background in therapy (focusing on Drama Therapy), we knew she would be the perfect fit to ensure that each team member felt heard, supported, and understood. We cast two Frankies (Thomas Hayes-weeks one and three, and Adrian Ammsso-weeks two and four) to give audiences two different experiences while ensuring both actors had enough rest between shows. We did this because Frankie Valli is one of the most demanding male roles ever written. Luckily, we have two actors who can take on the role and give each song focus grace, and extraordinary vocals so that audiences will be as mesmerized as the team has been from day one.  Lastly, the cast, crew, and band have come together with such force that we can guarantee this will be a show that the Valley will be captivated by.” The role of Frankie Valli was originated by John Lloyd Young, who would go on to win the top quad of New York Theatre awards in 2006 (Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Theatre World, and the Tony Award) for playing Frankie, while also originating the role in the West End premiere and leading the Clint Eastwood-directed film adaptation. Many Frankies who came after Lloyd Young would go on for long runs, with alternates in place, as the vocal calisthenics on playing Frankie are challenging. In addition to the singing demands, the show is often narrated by the Four Seasons, with Frankie handling a decent amount of the shared narrations.

To conclude, Ben leaves us with this encouragement of what he hopes audiences get when they see Jersey Boys. “We are excited for audiences to experience Jersey Boys for the first time and give them the true story of the Four Seasons while allowing them to feel like a kid again while also tapping their toes and dancing along with the team. With our concept, we want audiences to know that no matter what, you can face your failures and follow your dream, whether you’re from Jersey or the Valley. We all have dreams that can come true if we don’t let No be the final answer. Lastly, we want people to experience that euphoric feeling they had the first time they heard songs like ‘Sherry,’ ‘Oh What A Night,’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes off of You.’” Lastly, Ben wants to thank the sponsors, donors, and community for all their support. “Without you, this show would not have been possible, and we can’t wait for the community to experience the Jersey Boys June 7th – 29th.”

Central Valley premieres are always exciting, especially when it’s a title many have heard of; when the music of a beloved, Half of Fame group comprise the score; and the talent of the cast, crew, and production team match the level that the musical requires. Do everything you can to make it down to Selma and enjoy your time with The Four Seasons!

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