‘Jersey Boys’ musical on stage at Waterbury’s Palace Theater
Fans of “Jersey Boys,” which has been seen by millions, will tell you it’s a Tony Award-winning show about the Four Seasons — the 1960s group that gave us such hits as “Sherry,” “Rag Doll” and “Walk Like a Man.”
But those words only scratch the surface, according to Chris Stevens, who will appear in the national touring production coming to Waterbury’s Palace Theater, Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24. The musical tells the story of “how four blue-collar kids worked very hard and diligently to become The Four Seasons and wind up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” (in 1990), he said in a phone interview.
Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi were New Jersey guys who “came from really nothing,” said Stevens, who portrays Massi. They just kept working “whether relationships were succeeding or failing, whether record producers were saying yes or no,” they kept at it.
The Four Seasons invented their own sound and sold 175 million records, all before they were 30. Many of their songs are in “Jersey Boys,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
“Like every showbiz story, theirs had ups and downs,” Stevens said. “These four had some major problems. The four who started the group aren’t the ones who ended up in it (Massi left in 1965), but it is a special story about real life and what underdogs go through to rise to success ... with great cross-generational music that’s still around.”
Speaking of real life, one challenge the group faced was dealing with DeVito’s gambling habit. In the show he is portrayed as Massi’s messy roommate, using every towel in the room, then leaving them on the floor and worse. In one scene Massi goes on a colorful tirade about it, after it’s discovered they’re $162,000 in debt because of DeVito.
Palace Theater, 100 E. Main St., Waterbury. Friday, March 23, 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, 2 and 8 p.m. $95.50-$67.50. 203-346-2000, www.palacetheatrect.org
“Nick is very much the quiet one of the group,” Stevens said. “But at that point in the story, he’s gone a long time without opening his mouth. Nick says, ‘You’re really not a good human, dude,’ and he wants the rest of the group to know.”
Stevens said he “had the honor of meeting the real Bob Gaudio this past January. He told me Nick (who died in 2000) cared only about the music, wasn’t into the drama and didn’t hang out much.”
So how did Stevens win the role of Massi? The 2011 graduate of DeSales University in Pennsylvania said he did a national tour of “Cats” right out of college, and auditioned numerous times for a spot in “Jersey Boys.”
“It took six years for me to get into the show. I was always called in for Bob Gaudio, but then they said, ‘We think you might be aging out of Bob Gaudio.’ I kind of looked at them and said, ‘I’m 28, how am I aging out of anything?’ ”
Fortunately, they asked him to audition as Massi, and when he did, putting his own spin on it, everything fell into place.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @LindaTKoonz