'Jersey Boys' shake things up with a holiday CD

NEW YORK-December 16, 2011 Cast members from various "Jersey Boys" productions across the country have recorded a selection of Christmas classics in the style of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

The eclectic CD ranges from the spiritual "Rise Up, Shepherd," to a doo-wop version of "White Christmas," to a synth-pop version of "Angels From the Realms of Glory" to a medley of Santa songs with those signature Jersey Boys harmonies.

"It's probably not going to be what some fans expect," said Bob Gaudio, a founding member of The Four Seasons and the group's principal songwriter. "It's not all `Jingle Bell Rock.' But that's why it's fun."

The album - "Seasons Greetings: A Jersey Boys Christmas" from Rhino Entertainment - is one of a crop of new CDs out this season with a Broadway connection, including cast albums from "Elf," "Follies," "Anything Goes" and "Godspell."

Recording the "Jersey Boys" holiday album was a logistical puzzle since it combines performances from six stars in the various show casts - Joseph Leo Bwarie from the national tour, Travis Cloer and Rick Faugno from the Las Vegas cast, Bobby Fox from the Australia show, Ryan Molloy from the London cast and Jarrod Spector, currently on Broadway. John Lloyd Young, who won the 2006 Tony Award in the original Broadway production, also sings a few songs. Most of the performers had to record their portion in a single day after flying to a recording studio in Nashville, Tenn.

The CD is a clever way to further the reach of a franchise whose staying power continues to wow even its creators more than six years after debuting on Broadway. A second national tour has begun and a new production starts up in New Zealand in April. A holiday CD is a logical extension.

"It's one of those privileges that comes to shows that have these kinds of rare runs," said Michael David, a "Jersey Boys" producer. "You can think beyond how are we going next week and begin to think of a future that's longer than the traditional tenure of Broadway shows."

The musical, which opened in 2005 at the August Wilson Theatre, tells the story of the band - Gaudio, Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi - and features 20 Four Seasons songs, including "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and "Oh, What a Night." It won the Tony for best musical, a Grammy Award for best cast album and has been seen by over 13 million people across the world and grossed over $1 billion worldwide. Plans are in the works for a movie to be made of the musical.

Gaudio said the show taps into the enduring popularity of The Four Seasons' music, which each generation seems to discover and rework. Like the song "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," which was part of a bar sing-along in the 1978 movie "The Deer Hunter" and found its way in the breakthrough, Grammy-winning album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" 20 years later.

"We've transcended some stuff here," he said. "Something's going on."

David says the show's popularity is like a theatrical lightning strike - unpredictable and hard to replicate. It has attracted families and couples, fans of the music, people drawn to the true story and those who like the rags-to-riches tale. One group, he said, particularly stands out.

"I can't think of a show that has attracted and surprised men like this does - men who wouldn't be caught dead in a Broadway show," he said. "And they return. That's a lot of our business: people who bring back someone else to see it again."

The success of "Jersey Boys" on stage means the creative team is free to think of creative ways to tap into the interest. A few years ago, they released "Jersey Babys," soft instrumental versions of Four Seasons songs for infants.

"After two martinis, it's even more fun," said Gaudio, who helped produce that CD. "I'm not so sure I want people falling asleep, babies or otherwise. But that's why we did it - soothing."

Babies and now Christmas. What other sonic collections might be next for the "Jersey Boys" team? "Arbor Day, Easter, Valentine's Day," said David, his tongue firmly in his cheek.

Not to be undone, Gaudio asked: "Are there any Thanksgiving songs?"

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