The Warner Bros. bigscreen adaptation of “Jersey Boys” hosted its New York premiere on Monday night just a few blocks north of the Broadway stage where the Tony-winning musical debuted in 2005. A pre-party at the Angelo Galasso House inside the Plaza Hotel included a crowd of theater groupies (Barbara Walters and Regis Philbin), stars (Alan Cumming and Reeve Carney) and other staples from the music world (Clive Davis).
Director Clint Eastwood, sporting a grizzly beard, introduced the film at the Paris Theatre, explaining he’d never seen the hit play about the Four Seasons until the project came to him. He then attended three different versions of the show. “I ended up here on Broadway seeing it,” Eastwood told the crowd. “You’ll see some of the original players. For the most part we tried to keep all the originals from different companies. It was a great privilege for me to tell this story about New Joisey.”
John Lloyd Young, who won the Tony for his performance as Frankie Valli, said playing the character onscreen didn’t require much of an adjustment. “It was much more gratifying for me as an actor,” he said. “I actually just allowed it to be. Onstage, you have to send it out all the way to the back row.”
He recalled many Hollywood executives courting the cast as the jukebox musical became the hottest ticket in town. “Well, what’s really funny,” Young said, “I was at the opening of a major studio film, and a female head of the studio — so you can guess who that might have been — came up to me at this party and she said you have to promise me that you’ll convince (writer) Marshall Brickman to give our studio the rights to the movie. Everyone wanted it.”
“Yes, I did think it would make it to the screen,” Young added. “I hoped that I would. Some of my favorite Hollywood musical movies retained the original Broadway star, like ‘My Fair Lady,’ ‘The Music Man,’ ‘The King and I,’ ‘Cabaret’ with Joel Grey. Many of them were Warner Bros. movies.”
Erich Bergen, who plays songwriter and backup singer Bob Gaudio, was part of a Vegas production, where he said all the actors would speculate about a film version. “We used to sit backstage and dream cast the show, because we thought they were not going to use us,” Bergen says. “And so we’d say, ‘What part could Zac Efron play?'”
Bergen got the part because Gaudio liked his performance so much. “There was no call back, no screen test,” Bergen said. “I’m still not totally believing it.”
“Jersey Boys” opens on June 20.