I love you, Baby

‘Jersey Boys’ brings catchy tunes and great storytelling to Theatre Aspen

Katherine Roberts
From left: Alex Ross playing the keys as Bob Gaudio and Trevor James as Frankie Valli. Photo taken during a dress rehearsal.
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“The show is one of the best musicals in the theater cannon,” said actor Trevor James.

James plays the lead role in Theatre Aspen’s upcoming production of “Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons,” so he might be a tad biased, but he does promise a performance that will be full of energy, and totally unique, even if theatergoers have seen this jukebox musical before.

Trevor James plays the lead role of Frankie Valli in ‘Jersey Boys.’
Courtesy photo

Typically, “Jersey Boys” is presented as part of a proscenium stage, meaning the audience looks straight ahead at a flatly staged performance. Theatre Aspen is presented in the round, so it provides more intimacy and interaction than a traditionally staged production of this piece.

“It’s really cool to get to create a very new version of this show in this space. We use the aisles; there’s nowhere to hide, in the best possible way. We have fun getting to create these angles for the audience,” said James, who had never seen the theater in person until he attended a recent Theatre Aspen performance of “Gypsy.”

“Because the space is set up the way it is, we’re extremely close to the audience,” said Mike Backes, who plays the infamous mobster Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, but also has performed the show in multiple roles, multiple times before. “Hunter Foster and Andrew Frace (director and associate director, respectively) and the rest of the team have worked hard to create an immersive experience. I think that’ll be exciting for people coming to see the show. The Four Seasons talk directly to you, so they’re going to really get a chance to connect in a deeper way — (with) both us as actors and the audience.”

The interesting juxtaposition of the sometimes-serious subject matter with the upbeat doo-wop songs creates moments of tension and inspiration.

“An audience is going to be surprised, because they’re going to learn about these guys beyond their music,” James said. “It’s so fun to get to see their personal lives and how they had conflict with one another and how their relationships affected the group. Audiences don’t always want fluff. When you add that layer of depth to it, it has everything.”

Backes agrees.

“It’s almost like the VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ take on it,” he said. “It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, either. We get to see them, warts and all. I love that about it. Every group member — Frankie, Tommy, Bob and Nick — get to tell their side of the story. And besides all that, you’ll sing along the whole time, because most of the songs they had were once at the top of charts.”

Mike Backes plays Gyp DiCarlo.
Courtesy Theatre Aspen

Frace’s experience working with “Jersey Boys” for the past dozen years adds a deep knowhow, while Foster comes in with fresh perspectives, since it’s his first time directing the musical. Four of the actors in the production have performed it before, but only two had ever worked together prior to coming to Aspen.

“There’s no other way to do it than to just jump in headfirst,” James said. “It’s so collaborative. It’s really special when you find other actors who are fully present, looking you in the eye. These guys are so willing to commit and just go for it. It makes for a heartbreaking and hilarious show.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a stronger cast,” Backes said. “The four guys playing the Seasons are going to blow people away. Acting, vocals, choreography: you name it. The three women in this show also play a million people too. Don’t forget: It’s not all about the boys, and they’re all fantastic. … It’s really easy to just do what’s been done before, but the creative team is definitely making it their own.”

It’s not all about the guys; the girls rock it, too. From left: Shea Gomez, playing Francine and Ana Marcu, playing Mary. Photo taken during a dress rehearsal.
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And here’s another twist:

“People are referring to this show as ‘The Sopranos’ with music,” James said.

So be sure to bada-bing your way to Theatre Aspen for a unique take on the story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

If you go …

What: ‘Jersey Boys’

When: Aug. 1-23

Where: Theatre Aspen

More info:

Actors rehearse ‘Jersey Boys’ during a dress rehearsal.
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From left: Alex Ross, Trevor James, Nick Bernardi and Jason Michael Evans. Photo taken during a dress rehearsal.
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From left: Shea Gomez, playing Francine; Nick Bernardi, playing Tommy Devito; Ana Marcu, playing Mary; Jason Michael Evans, playing Nick Massi; Alex Ross, playing Bob Gaudio; and Marissa Medina, playing Lorraine. Photo taken during a dress rehearsal.
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From left to right: Jason Michael Evans, playing Nick Massi; Trevor James, playing Frankie Valli; Alex Ross, playing Bob Gaudio; Nick Bernardi, playing Tommy Devito. Photo taken during a dress rehearsal.
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Trevor James belts it out as Frankie Valli during a dress rehearsal.
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