‘Jersey’ battle

A Jersey Boys war of words erupted last week when
Marshall Brickman (right, photo from BroadwayWorld.com), co-writer of the show’s book, responded angrily to comments made by director Des McAnuff in a Feb. 14 San Francisco Chronicle story.

Here’s McAnuff’s quote from the story when asked about how he came to be involved in the musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and the story outline originally presented by Brickman and Rick Elice:

“I didn’t like it very much,” McAnuff recalls by phone from San Diego, where he’s in
rehearsals for Aaron Sorkin’s new play, The Farnsworth Invention, at the La Jolla Playhouse. “Marshall and Rick were very gracious about the rejection. And even after I turned them down twice, they were very persistent. So we came up with the outline together. I helped them with the structure.”

And here’s part of Brickman’s response:

Twice we offered him the crown and twice he refused it, it says. Sheer modesty. We offered it to him 139 times. Only after we doused ourselves with gasoline and lit a match did he agree to interrupt his restructuring of the book for “Dracula, the Musical” to heed our pleas and, as a bonus, instruct us in the niceties of the musical theater: how to arrive fashionably late, how to humiliate the cast, how to create an atmosphere of collegiality rivaled only by a board meeting at Hewlett-Packard, how to give interviews that, for sheer fantastic invention, rival anything out of Lewis Carroll.

And just to further demonstrate how clever, Academy Award-winning writers give good feud, here’s Brickman’s final word:

But why be churlish? I owe the man. He wrote our show, ate my dinner, married my wife and fathered my children. For all I know, he may have even written this letter.

On Saturday, the New York Times got involved with a little report on the tussle by Campbell Robertson. Elice, who was reported as speaking on his collaborator’s behalf, said:

We do not dispute nor have we ever disputed that Des was involved with the structure of the play, and he was involved in the outlining process of the show,” he said. “We celebrate that fundamental contribution.

Robertson ends the story with ths: “As for other issues raised by the letter, Mr. Elice said, they are working that out between themselves.”

In the musical, Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio seal a lifetime deal to share their profits with a simple handshake. Sounds like another handshake — and maybe a hug — might be in order.

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