`Jersey’ byes

As Frankie Valli once sang, “Bye-bye, baby, baby bye-bye.”

It’s closing weekend for Jersey Boys, the show the Bay Area has come to love in a big way. I say that with confidence having heard from friends, co-workers, readers and total strangers about how much they enjoyed what is probably one of the most enjoyable musicals of the last 20 years.

I’ve seen the show four times since it opened last December. Family members came to town — they said it was to see me, but really they just wanted to see Jersey Boys — and friends I haven’t seen for far too long also decided to “suddenly” make the San Francisco trip.

Personally, I fell in love with the show about 20 minutes in, when it became clear that this was far from a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons jukebox musical. By the end of Act 1, I was smitten, and like so many other audience members who have been captured by the show, I felt suddenly like the world’s biggest Four Seasons fan.

My affection for the Four Seasons, which began on opening night of the first national tour, Dec. 1, 2006 at the Curran Theatre in downtown San Francisco, has led to the purchase of various “greatest hits” packages and even some LPs. My two favorites on vinyl are “The Four Seasons Sing Big Hits by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Bob Dylan” and the 1975 album “Who Loves You,” which spawned the title hit and, my personal favorite Seasons tune, “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).” On the latter LP, I’m also fond of “Harmony, Perfect Harmony” and “Silver Star.”

Even the City of San Francisco is going to miss the Boys. Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed Sept. 24 as “Jersey Boys Day” in San Francisco in recognition of all the work the cast and crew did for the AIDS Walk, Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF) and the Dress for Success organization.

Another family member came to town last week to see me/Jersey Boys, and I looked forward to paying one final visit to the show before it closes on Sept. 30 and heads to Chicago. Jarrod Spector, who usually plays Frankie, was on vacation. The people in the row behind us were completely bent out of shape by that fact when they saw the announcement tucked into the program. “But he was just on the Emmys. Why didn’t they tell us he was going to be gone when they bought the tickets?”

All the complaining was for naught. Steven M. Goldsmith, Spector’s understudy, was a wonderful Frankie — very youthful looking but really solid. And Jake Speck, filling in for all of Goldsmith’s roles, was terrific as well.

The show purrs along like a truly fine car doing high speed on a great piece of road. The audience last week was hot — cheering and reacting in all the right places — and everyone seemed perfectly aware that they were just skating in under the wire. They caught the Jersey wave before the tide went out.

I’m going to miss Jersey Boys — and not just because my name is on a quote over the door nearest the box office, well partly because of that, to be perfectly honest, because it’s so satisfying to be linked to a show that I really am crazy about. It was also exciting to have a show in town that excited friends and family enough for them to make a trip.

There are abundant rumors (not to mention official-type Web sites, which have since been slapped down) that say Jersey Boys will be back in San Francisco at the end of the year. Perhaps you should check back here on Monday (Oct. 1) for official word.

Until then, here’s the real Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons singing “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night).” By the way, Frankie and his boys will be performing in concert at the Masonic Auditorium high atop Nob Hill on Saturday, Oct. 6. Click here for information.

J-Boys on the Emmys

Playbill Online reports that the San Francisco cast of Jersey Boys will be performing on the Emmy Awards telecast, Sunday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Here’s who you can expect to see on the tube: Drew Gehling (as Bob Gaudio), Michael Ingersoll (Nick Massi), Jeremy Kushnier (Tommy DeVito) and Jarrod Spector (Frankie Valli) lead the Jersey Boys company, which also features Dominic Bogart, Lyndsey Cole, John Michael Coppola, John Michael Dias, Mike Erickson, Steven M. Goldsmith, John Hickman, Lauren Marshall, Rashad Naylor, Jenny Lee Ramos, Brad Russell, Kevin Russell, Jake Speck, Kara Tremel, Ryan Quinn West with Craig Laurie and Jonathan Weir.

The San Francisco production of Jersey Boys continues through Sept. 30 at the Curran Theatre.

There’s a rumor buzzing about that the Las Vegas cast of Jersey Boys may come back to San Francisco in December as a test run before heading to the arid desert. Who could blame them?

For ticket information in San Francisco, visit www.shnsf.com.

Tony party planning

OK, people, time to start planning those Tony Award viewing parties for Sunday, June 10 on CBS.

We’ve got to get those dismal ratings up, so if you’re having people over, make sure they’re still setting their TiVos (and VCRs if you’re archaic) to record the telecast. If you’re a Nielsen family, do some creative figuring and say you watched the Tonys on all five of your TVs.

The show’s organizers have begun talking about what we’ll be seeing.

Audra McDonald will sing “Raunchy” from 110 in the Shade, for which she is nominated in the best actress in a musical category.

Christine Ebersole will sing “The Revolutionary Costume for Today,” which happens to be the best song in Grey Gardens, for which Ebersole is competing with McDonald in the best actress category.

The cast of Curtains, featuring David Hyde Pearce, will peform “Show People” and the adorable cast of Spring Awakening (so I’m biased — sue me) will perform a medley from the Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater score. The cast of Mary Poppins will perform — probably the TV-ready “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

The revival of A Chorus Line will likely trot out “One” again (we’ve seen that baby everywhere, from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to “The View”), and Raul Esparza will probably sing “Being Alive” from the revival of Company.

Fantasia, a recent replacement in the hit The Color Purple, is also slated to perform.

There won’t be a host (sorry, Nathan Lane) this year, but the list of presenters is impressive and includes Harry Connick Jr., Claire Danes, Neil Patrick Harris, Anne Heche, Marg Helgenberger, Felicity Huffman, Eddie Izzard, Jane Krakowski, Angela Lansbury, Robert Sean Leonard, Cynthia Nixon, Bernadette Peters, Christopher Plummer, Liev Schreiber, John Turturro, Usher, Vanessa Williams, Rainn Wilson and the cast of Jersey Boys.

The new `Jersey’ boys

Who knew we were all so hungry for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons?

Last December, when the national tour of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys opened at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre, audiences whooped, hollered and screamed through the musical retelling of how Valli and his Seasons went from New Jersey criminals and nogoodniks to international fame and fortune.

The show kept getting extended and extended, and now it looks like Jersey Boys will be here at least through Sept. 30.

But last month, the cast that opened the tour in San Francisco headed to the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, where Jersey Boys has reportedly amassed the largest advance sale in that theater’s history. Performances begin May 25 in L.A., and the run has already been extended through August.

Next stop is Chicago, and that run has already been extended before anyone has even seen the show.

And the Valli hysteria continues.

On June 5, Rhino Records releases a three-CD box set of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons songs complete with a DVD of rare live performances.

In Livermore, the Wente Vineyards’ annual summer concert series always features a wide range of acts, but you’ll never guess the first show to sell out for the upcoming season: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Aug. 30.

Why are Valli and his Jersey boys suddenly so hip, hot and happening?

The answer is simple: Jersey Boys is 2[1/2] hours of pure promotion.

And I mean that in the best possible sense. Even people who don’t know their Valli from their Gaudio walk out of the theater feeling like they’ve just shared a significant life event with the guys who sang “Walk Like a Man” and “Sherry,” among many others.

The show is so ingeniously constructed by book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and so slickly directed by Des McAnuff that it manages to feel like pure entertainment and real life at the same time.

Jersey Boys is a vehicle that can pretty much drive itself, which is to say the individual talents of the actors — though important, of course — are only part of this show’s revved-up, finely tuned motor.

On a second viewing, the musical holds up remarkably well. The first time through, the experience is dazzling and a little overwhelming. The second time, you begin to see how all the pieces fit together, and it’s mightily impressive.

This is so much more than a collection of Four Seasons hits strung together. There’s absolutely no sense of “moldy oldie goldie” nostalgia here.

The new cast delivers on all counts, so there’s no shortage of sturdy vocals, suave moves and high-energy performing.

Jarrod Spector as Valli is incredibly nuanced, and his vocals are stellar. It’s no surprise that he’s ahead of his cast mates in terms of delivering a full-bodied, charismatic performance: He has been performing the role of Valli twice a week (at matinees mostly) since the show opened in December.

Steve Gouveia, who plays Four Season Nick Massi, also has a leg up. He comes from the Broadway production and is, well, seasoned.

Drew Gehling as Bob Gaudio and Jeremy Kushnier as Tommy DeVito are both terrific. Musically they’re top-notch, and dramatically they’re still plumbing the depths.

I first saw Jersey Boys on opening night last December, and the atmosphere in the Curran was, to say the least, super-charged. The real-life Valli, Gaudio and DeVito were in the audience, and the screaming and yelling throughout the show was astonishing.

It was interesting to see the musical earlier this week with a normal audience. Things have calmed down, though the atmosphere is still charged, especially by the middle of Act 1. Adults — many in the senior category — scream and shout like crazed teenagers, which is hardly your normal theater behavior (except maybe for certain performances of Mamma Mia!).

The audience just can’t get enough.

The final song of the evening asks the question: “Who loves you, pretty baby?”

When it comes to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the answer is, apparently, everybody.

For information on Jersey Boys, visit www.shnsf.com.

`Chaperone,’ `Purple’ in new season

We’re not getting sleepy, but we are getting Drowsy.

The hit Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone (above), winner of five 2006 Tony Awards, is part of SHN’s new Best of Broadway season, which was announced Wednesday.

“This season is for families and the young at heart,” says SHN president and owner Carole Shorenstein Hays, who produces shows at San Francisco’s Curran, Orpheum and Golden Gate theaters.

The season opens in the fall (no exact dates were announced) with the Oprah Winfrey-produced musical version of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The gospel-, jazz- and pop-tinged score is by Grammy-winners Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.

A culturally diverse version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens next spring in a production full of actors, dancers, martial arts experts, musicians and street acrobats from India and Sri Lanka. The show has been a hit in South Asia and at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. The San Francisco engagement marks the show’s North American premiere.

Chaperone, a throwback to zany musicals of the 1920s, is slated for summer 2008, as is director Des McAnuff’s reinvention of The Wiz, which already made a splash at the La Jolla Playhouse last year.

“I’m having a love affair with San Francisco,” says McAnuff, who also directed the oft-extended hit Jersey Boys at the Curran Theatre. “We are reinventing `The Wiz’ with a multiracial cast and a wired Web sensibility. This will be theater you enter rather than watch.”

A fifth Best of Broadway show is still to be announced.

Season subscriptions range from $140 to $516. Call (415) 551-2050 or visit www.shnsf.com for information.

New `Jersey’ cast

Blog reader Jersey Boys Front Row-er writes with evidence of some excellent detective work being done by Jersey Boys fans to find out who will be taking over in the San Francisco production.

Read all about it here.

Among the actors rumored to be taking over are: Jarrod Spector (the San Francisco understudy who performs twice a week and is said to be fantastic) as Frankie Valli, Steve Gouveia (who understudied the part on Broadway) as Nick Massi, Jeremy Kushnier (Footloose, Rent on Broadway) as Tommy Devito and Andrew Gehling as Bob Gaudio.

Viva `Jersey Boys’!

As the San Francisco cast of Jersey Boys heads down to Los Angeles to finally begin the actual touring part of this national touring company, the Curran Theatre welcomes a whole new cast (more about that next week).

In the meantime, the big Jersey Boys news — and it’s hardly a surprise — is that the show will open in Las Vegas, a town that hasn’t exactly become the “Broadway of the West” some expected.

Mamma Mia! is the one huge hit, but Avenue Q, Hairspray and We Will Rock You all bit the dust much sooner than expected.

Other current Vegas shows include shortened versions of The Phantom of the Opera and Spamalot.

Apparently every new Vegas resort (they used to be just hotels) needs to build a theater for a Broadway musical. Jersey Boys will be housed in the new Palazzo, whose theater will seat 1,650. The show is expected to arrive in early 2008. No word yet on whether this will be the full version or a (typical for short attention spans in Vegas — “Get me back to the casino!”) 90-minute version of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons story.

`Boys’ bag big bucks in Bay

Every year around this time, the casts of Broadway shows make a spiel at the end of every performance and solicit audience donations for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which then makes donations to organizations caring and providing for people living with HIV and AIDS as well as to organizations dealing with women’s health issues such as breast and ovarian cancer.

Well, for the first time in BC/EFA history, the company that raised the most money happens to be out on the road. More specifically, the cast of Jersey Boys at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre raised $238,000.

To raise that much money, the San Francisco company, after singing their way through the life story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, asked audience members to give on their way out of the theater, charged nominal fees for photo opportunities, sold signed posters and sold rag dolls (get it — like the Four Seasons song “Rag Doll”) they made themselves. They also performed a fundraising cabaret that included Jersey Boys trivia questions.

Applause applause to the Jersey Boys fundraising effort (headed by company member Jennifer Evans) and to Bay Area audiences for such stellar contributions.

For Jersey Boys info visit www.shnsf.com.