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Oh, What A Sound! Cast and creative team work to keep JERSEY BOYS the same but different

February 9, 2012

Feb. 11-March 22 - Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

JERSEY BOYS, one of the most popular and biggest selling shows in Charlotte’s theater history, returns to the Queen City on Feb. 22.

When the Tony® Award-winning tale of pop music icons Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons opened here in 2010, it sold out night after night and broke Belk Theater box office records.

JERSEY BOYS has become a modern classic. But with that many shows performed night after night, how do the casts and musicians deftly pull off recreating a distinctive version of one of the biggest bands in pop music history consistently? Maintaining the sound is a major focus for the show’s producers.

The real Bob Gaudio, who's producing the album, with musical director Ron Melrose. Courtesy of Broadway.com

JERSEY BOYS Musical Director Ron Melrose has seen the show over 1,000 times. Part of his job is flying from city to city to check on each production. “I try to see it through fresh audience eyes and ears pretending I’m seeing it for the first time,” he said.

Although JERSEY BOYS strives to maintain that distinct sound of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, it’s not a static show. Sure, JERSEY BOYS is built on the pre-existing hits of its star subjects, songs like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” but live theater gives the music room to breathe and change. In today’s digital landscape where Autotune and backing tracks are the norm on big budget concert tours, JERSEY BOYS production is as linked to the time period it depicts as the music itself.

“This show doesn’t have a note of pre-recorded vocals in it,” he says. “We only play along with a click track on the first and last numbers in order to synchronize with the video.”

Each cast brings something new to its roles as well. “I see it take a slightly different unique form each time and that can change within a company,” Melrose says.

(l to r) Michael Lomenda, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Preston Truman Boyd and John Gardiner Photo: Joan Marcus

In September, actor Preston Truman Boyd joined the touring JERSEY BOYS cast for the role of Bob Gaudio, the Season who penned and produced the group’s beloved songs and was instrumental in bringing the story to the stage. A classically trained opera singer who Charlotte audiences saw as The Monster in 2011’s Young Frankenstein, had been stewing over what he’d do with the role.

“This is a new world for me vocally. I always enjoyed pop and rock music, but now I’m a singer and a pop writer on the stage. It’s a personal challenge to make sure I don’t slip into sounding like the golden age of musical theater,” said Boyd.

While the JERSEY BOYS casts change and the performances evolve, the anchor is the compelling story and more importantly the music that speaks to generations. “The music is some of the best music of all time. It’s stood the test of time in the pop world and lives up to what it was back then today as well,” says Boyd.

Melrose talks to audience members in the lobby wherever he is taking in a show. He often finds repeat viewers who notice the subtle changes too, a good sign that JERSEY BOYS has a long life ahead.

“They’ll say, ‘It was the same, but it was different,’ ” he says. “People come back to JERSEY BOYS. It doesn’t seem to be a show that people see just once.”

This is an abridged version of a story that originally appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of OnStage Magazine.  CLICK HERE to read the full story.

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