When it comes to national Broadway tour launches, count Springfield, Ohio, in with the bigger cities. It’s where one of the most popular Tony-winning sensations of the current century will start this fall.
“Jersey Boys,” the story of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons’ rise and fall in the 1960s, will premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.
This show is presented by the Clark State Performing Arts Center.
With facilities and staff eager to welcome productions such as “Jersey Boys” and “The Illusionists,” the Performing Arts Center has built a reputation beyond just a place to watch first-rate shows.
Jonny Wexler is a good example of the understudy who made his way to the top. He played the role of Joe Pesci, who helped the Four Seasons before becoming an actor, before taking the role of lead vocalist Frankie Valli, whose distinct voice helped the group score numerous hits.
“It’s something I wanted and worked tirelessly and diligently for,” said Wexler.
When told he could never sing in Valli’s distinct high timbre, he basically said watch me. Maybe it was fate, as Wexler said he fell in love with the music after seeing “Jersey Boys” during its opening on Broadway in 2005.
He found it is a little harder being on stage as opposed to being in the audience.
“It’s a pinnacle example of the modern American musical,” he said of its appeal. “It’s done in what seems like an incredibly effortless way. To an audience member, it seems to flow, but it’s complicated to get the precision down.”
The other part is the rags-to-riches story about guys from New Jersey who make it big and its cost on friends, family and each other.
Maybe the biggest appeal is the music. “Jersey Boys” boasts 30 hits songs including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll” and “Sherry.”
“One of the gifts of this show is it resonates everywhere and the music has permeated our society already,” Wexler said. “A lot of people come to the show and end up saying, ‘I didn’t know they wrote that.’”
The Buckeye State plays a background role in “Jersey Boys.” It’s referenced a few times, including a scene that indirectly relates to an event that happened here in Springfield.
In the show, the band arrives in Cleveland, only to be arrested for skipping out on a hotel bill the last time they played there. The writers probably chose Cleveland because it’s the biggest and probably most recognizable Ohio city.
In reality, the Four Seasons stiffed a Springfield hotel owner following a 1964 concert at Champaign County’s Coconut Lounge. They were arrested during a show at the Ohio State Fair a year later.
Wexler thought that was an amusing bit of trivia, especially when told the police station and courthouse are just down the street from the Performing Arts Center.
Not unlike the story’s characters, he’s excited to reunite with his performing family.
“Whether you know the story or the music, it appeals to a wide demographic. Some people want to relive the songs, maybe it was their first kiss or dance or just moments to enjoy,” Wexler said.
HOW TO GO
What: Jersey Boys
Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 South Fountain Ave., Springfield
When: Saturday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m.
Admission: $43-69 (prices include ticket and facility fees)
More info: 937-328-3874 or go to pac.clarkstate.edu/events/calendar/jersey-boys/