Jonny Wexler is glad to be back in Jersey.
For the past year, he has been playing the lead role of Frankie Valli in the musical Jersey Boys on tour after having spent three seasons with the show playing Joe Pesci.
7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Robinson Center Performance Hall, 426 W. Markham St., Little Rock. Celebrity Attractions presentation. Music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. The show features authentic “profane Jersey language” and is recommended for patrons 12 and older.
Yes, that Joe Pesci.
Pesci is best known as an actor (Goodfellas, My Cousin Vinny, Home Alone) and little known as the guy who introduced Tommy DeVito to Valli and singer/songwriter Bob Gaudio, who, with Nick Massi, formed the famous Four Seasons.
Pesci, Wexler explains, shows up "early on in the first act," and, he admits, gets eclipsed by all the other things that happen later in the show. "But it is a very interesting part of their history," he says. "It's certainly surprising to people, that's for sure."
The show (music by Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) is the story of the four guys who took the pop music world by storm with a houseful of hits including "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Oh What a Night," "Walk Like a Man," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and "Working My Way Back to You."
"[Valli] is definitely one of the most demanding roles in musical theater," Wexler says. "It's quite a workout every day, but it's also a great challenge and a great gift to be able to sing all these great songs."
Another challenge: Valli is not only still around, he's still performing. In fact, he and a current Four Seasons lineup will be at North Little Rock's Verizon Arena on Nov. 9.
So far, Wexler says, they haven't met up, even though they have often appeared in tandem in the same town or even the same venue.
"His show is a very different experience from what ours is," he explains. Jersey Boys, he adds, is "kind of behind-the-scenes, making-of-the-band story of these guys. There's really no show like it.
"There are so many hit songs over the years. Bob and Frankie have done a great job, allowing and cultivating their music so it has spread through all of American society and even internationally, through commercials, TV shows, movies and the radio. You hear the songs everywhere. Even if you think you don't know all the songs in the show, you probably do."
Wexler says the show's strong suit is "the way the music is interwoven into the story."
"Sometimes you go and see musicals with band songs and they do the whole song, beginning to end," he says. "This is much more nuanced and artistically creative; they use little bits of this song and that song and inter-splice things so that there's storytelling all the way through.
"It's a great story that really touches people in a profound way; we see it night after night, the way people respond. And it's been going on for ... years, plus, and it never gets old. The story is compelling and captivating, and it really doesn't pull any punches about who these guys were, and what the cost of fame and success can be sometimes, it kind of shows the darker underbelly of success with [elements of] tragedy."
Weekend on 10/11/2018
Print Headline: 'Oh What a Night': Jersey Boys to rock Robinson