By Caroline Fontein
The Jersey Boys have a new home on the Las Vegas Strip. In 2008 the show opened at the Palazzo. After a successful run, the four blue-collar kids packed their bags, hit the road and headed west to Paris Las Vegas. “Jersey Boys” opened at its new location in March.
For those who haven’t seen it, “Jersey Boys” takes audiences into the lives of Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio and their rise to stardom as The Four Seasons. Their captivating journey is told through the sensational cast and the band’s hit songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh, What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
At the Paris Las Vegas, the show features a slightly bigger stage and a more intimate theater experience than the Palazzo did for both the performers and the audience.
“There isn’t a balcony there so it feels just like one big orchestra section. The crowds have been great, and we can hear them a lot better on stage, which is nice for us,” said Graham Fenton who performs as Valli.
He started performing as an understudy with the Vegas cast when the show opened. From there he was promoted to performing as an alternate for the role of Valli in the touring version of “Jersey Boys.” He rejoined the Vegas cast in September 2011 in his current role.
Fenton said that playing the part of a famous artist who’s still living was both “daunting and intimidating at first.” For his audition he had to sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” while Valli and Guadio sat about 10 feet away from him watching and listening to his performance.
“It was one of those surreal moments. It felt like it was an out-of-body experience, but they couldn’t be more gracious,” said Fenton.
Having met all three of the remaining members of The Four Seasons, Fenton explained that the story and the characters in “Jersey Boys” is very close to real life. When the writers were crafting the show, they conducted long interviews with the surviving Four Seasons and incorporated their stories into the script.
“According to Fankie, by his estimation he says that the story is 94 percent true, I think is the number he decided to use,” said Fenton.
Keeping the story true to life means that people get to see all of the highs and lows that each member of the group went through. It’s a humanizing experience for audiences and part of what has made “Jersey Boys” so popular. Aside from Vegas, the show also has productions in other locations including London and Auckland, New Zealand. In 2006 it was a Tony Award Winner for Best Musical.
“You have the great tunes there, but then you have this incredible story. It’s been compared a lot to the VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ way of telling the story where you’re really getting an inside look at the lives of these guys,” said Fenton.
Along with the story and the timeless music, he explained that the similarities between the characters and Vegas make it an especially good fit for the city.
“Whether it’s the mob element in there or the fact that these guys were really hitting their peak in the ’60s back when Vegas was sort of in its golden age, there’s that old timey Vegas feel to the show, and that seems to sit well with the town here,” said Fenton.