Why Frankie Valli's Jersey Boys are still working their way back to us (and into cinemas)

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The hit West End and Broadway musical has already racked up over four million ticket sales. Now set for a cinematic rendering with Clint Eastwood at the helm, David Hillier charts the story's charm

Four young boys want to become music superstars. It’s a rags-to-riches tale; a story of triumph over adversity. The premise behind hit musical Jersey Boys might be painfully clichéd, but with the show now in its fifth successful year in the West End and its eighth on Broadway, it is clearly a winning formula. Four million people have already seen the play worldwide, and it has broken box office records from Philadelphia to New Zealand. Now, Hollywood bosses are making a bid to transfer the theatrical magic to the cinema with Clint Eastwood tipped to direct. So, how has the story of one of America's biggest-selling bands become greater than the sum of its parts?

For the unacquainted, Jersey Boys charts the rise of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. In early 1960s pre-Beatles US, only the Beach Boys could match the quartet's sales and their early output saw them as regular stalwarts in the upper echelons of the Billboard Chart. They have currently sold over a staggering 100 million records worldwide and are the only band to have had a top 100 Billboard hit in each decade of the 50s to 90s. The musical follows them from local New Jersey band to chart-topping supergroup, all the way to their induction into the musical hall of fame.

Director Des McAnuff says: “It is a remarkable tale, and such an unlikely one, that these guys from Belleville, New Jersey could get out of the Bowery and achieve such success.” It might be heart-warming tale, but it is not without its share of tragedy: the crooner's daughter Francine died suddenly from what Valli believes was an unintentional drug overdose.

For Valli, who is still performing at 78, watching the dramatisation of his daughter's death in the musical must be particularly gruelling. As he once said in an interview “success requires your work must come first” and the show does not shirk from the criticism of him as an absent father. It might have been a ploy to get that requisite cry-out-loud moment and toy with audience emotions, but structurally, it is even more pivotal to Valli's development as a man.

The singer, one of the male falsetto’s greatest exponents, is undoubtedly a crowd-pleaser; however Jersey Boys is not a one-man tribute band. The Four Seasons partnership formed the backbone of the music, and this was born of a handshake between Valli and another man: Bob Gaudio, who has surely got to be one of the greatest songwriters of the last fifty years. Along with co-writer and producer Bob Crewe, Gaudio effortlessly steered the sound of the group through ever-evolving musical waters. While many contemporaries sunk in a maelstrom of predictability, Gaudio conquered genres: disco, on "December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)"; soul, on "Working My Way Back To You"; while "Can't Keep My Eyes Off You" is a hypnotic amalgamation of brass and jazz that was destined to either disappear or become the tour de force that it has. From Lauren Hill to Muse, the variety of artists who have covered it is staggering, each finding their own affinity with the classic.

Many songs are now so synonymous with other artists that it is easy to forget how prolific the Four Seasons actually were. This education is part of the musical's gift to audiences. I once heard someone leave a show humming "the sun ain't gonna shine (anymore)" before incredulously stating "I was sure that was originally Scott Walker?" It is only ever musically alluded to in Jersey Boys, as it was a Valli solo hit, but it was born of Gaudio's genius. Even contemporary hip hop owes a debt. Listen to the group’s 1967 version of "Beggin’" and its core structure hardly differs from Madcon's 2007 cover. It is no surprise that Gaudio went on to work with the likes of Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra (another New Jersey boy). Some people just have music in their DNA.

If Gaudio is the brain of the band and Valli the voice, then the soul must be New Jersey itself. In the eight years since the musical's Broadway debut, it has put the state on the map: from the sublime (Boardwalk Empire) to the subhuman (Jersey Shore). The mafia-riddled neighbourhood had an overwhelming grip on original members Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito, who did time even before the first hit. It gave the Four Seasons an edge, contradictory to some of their saccharine earlier material. It also nearly proved their undoing, when the rough ideologies of DeVito, in particular, almost caused total implosion. It makes for compelling viewing.

After Tom Hooper's triumphant stage-to-silver screen transfer of Les Miserables, Eastwood might seem like another welcome left-field choice for director. But his pedigree has already been proven in Paint Your Wagon. Additionally, the director, an ardent jazz fan, has received various accolades for his musical compositions. Until this interesting proposition hits cinemas Jersey Boys will continue to pack theatre stalls because its story and songs allow the audience to leave their seats feeling totally elated. That is the show and band's true legacy.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?