The Garden-State Path
Jersey Boys, the Tony-winning musical biography of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, follows the group from blue-collar roots to pop fame, bumps in the road (mafia high jinks, gambling, womanizing, heartbreak) and all. Chicago’s much-anticipated run is onstage now, but the show’s inspiration isn’t idling in the wings. A consummate professional who parlayed his trademark falsetto into 25 top-40 hits and counting, Valli just released a new compilation of love ballads, Romancing the ’60s, and has an upcoming concert date at the Chicago Theatre. Marquee spoke with Valli recently about his long career.
Was a musical the best medium for telling the Four Seasons’ story?
The funny thing about it is, no matter which way you do it, the music is part of the biography. The music is there to represent periods of time where we were having record successes, where we were having failures, and where we were trying to get where we wanted to go. But the story is quite unique because it’s told from four different points of view.
Is it an accurate account?
If it got any more accurate, we would scare people.
Has the show brought you a new generation of fans?
There’s an incredible awareness, which at first was very surprising—but as big a hit as the play has been, it’s not as surprising anymore. If I mention [Jersey Boys onstage during concert dates] the audience will really go crazy. I didn’t realize how many people had seen it.
Chicago played an important role in the Four Seasons’ history; the group had its first hits with then-local record label Vee-Jay. Did you spend a lot of time in the city?
We spent an awful lot of time here in Chicago all through that period of having hits; we were constantly coming back for meetings with record companies and promoting records. We played the Arie Crown Theater all the time, and it used to be, back in the day, you’d be there for a week.
Your career has spanned more than 40 years, and you’ve played everything from dives to arenas. What’s your favorite type of venue?
Any place where there are people. A small club has this wonderful intimacy, and a big arena has its grandeur . . . but it’s all about people and how you stimulate them, and how they stimulate you. You’re not doing shows for you; you’re doing them for the audience. As many times as you’ve done it, as overwhelmed as you may become with it, [even when] you’re a little tired of it, you have to psychologically put yourself in the place of the person who went out and bought a ticket or planned for months to come see you. That’s who you’re there for.
Jersey Boys plays the LaSalle Bank Theatre (18 W. Monroe St.; 312-902-1500) through April 13th. Tickets run $30 to $95. Frankie Valli sings at the Chicago Theatre (175 N. State St.; 312-902-1500) 8 p.m. November 9th; tickets run $52.50 to $57.50.
Best Bets for Things to Do This Week
• Relive high school, sans acne or awkwardness, with Back to School, a new production from the literary ensemble In So Many Words. Performers read funny stories (“Surviving Square Dancing in Public Schools”) before a backdrop of science-fair volcanoes and humiliating school photos. There’s even a spike-your-own-punch bar to help ease the trauma. The show runs 7:30 p.m. Saturday the 20th and Sunday the 21st at Victory Gardens Theater (2433 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-871-3000). Tickets are $15.
• Dancing with the Stars is as full of cringe-worthy moves as ever. Don’t rely on Mark Cuban for your weekly footwork fix; do catch dance fusion with Latin flair from Luna Negra Dance Theater. Cugat!, a world-première homage to mambo king Xavier Cugat, headlines the program, which also includes Allegro Con Sabor, featuring performers from the Joffrey Ballet. The production runs 8 p.m. Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th, 3 p.m. Sunday the 21st, at Harris Theater (Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph St.; 312-334-7777). Tickets are $25 to $55.
• Chicago contributor Victoria Lautman chats with National Book Award-winner Andrea Barrett about the author’s new novel, The Air We Breathe, in this month’s installment of Writers on the Record, 11:45 a.m. Sunday the 21st at Lookingglass Theatre (821 N. Michigan Ave.). Admission is free; call 312-832-6788to reserve tickets.
• Earth to Trekkies: George Takei (a.k.a. Sulu) lends his trademark voice to the reading of a new play, Po’ Boy Tango,7:30 p.m. Monday the 22nd at Northlight Theatre (9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie; 847-673-6300). Tickets are $15 at the door. The reading is in English; no Klingon subtitles available.
• Chicago Public Schools are off Friday; keep the kids entertained at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Friday highlights include the Korean flick Ice Bar, about a boy who sells popsicles to earn money to visit his dad (10:45 a.m.; Kerasotes Showplace 14, 2600 N. Western Ave.), and My Favorite Me, a program of shorts at the Harold Washington Cultural Center (11:45 a.m.; 4701 S. King Dr.). Also on tap: the new John and Joan Cusack lovefest, Martian Child, screens 1 p.m. Saturday the 20th at Wilmette Theater (1122 Central Ave., Wilmette). The fest runs through Sunday the 28th; visit cicff.org for a full schedule and ticket info.
• The all-female troupe Babes with Blades tackles Halloween and the greater thriller genre in Horror Academy, a series of three one-acts featuring vampires, cannibals, and zombies, followed by five monologues. The show runs 8 p.m. nightly through November 4th at the North Lakeside Cultural Center (6219 N. Sheridan Rd.; 773-880-0016). Tickets are $18.
• Bust out the fishnets. The Rocky Horror Show, the musical that inspired the film, returns in its original campy form with Scott Alan Jones reprising his Jeff-nominated turn as Frank-N-Furter. The play is onstage now in an open run at The Mercury Theatre (3745 N. Southport Ave.; 773-325-1700). Tickets are $35 to $45.
• Get acquainted with Bronzeville’s burgeoning art district via a five-gallery tour focusing on African, African American, and Caribbean art. Free trolleys run between participating galleries from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday the 19th; get started at Gallery Guichard (3521 S. King Dr.; 773-373-8000).
• See how the other half lives—and decorates—at Sweet Home Chicago, a tour of Gold Coast residences benefiting the Piven Theatre Workshop (927 Noyes St., Evanston; 847-866-8049), 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday the 21st. Day-of tickets are $55.
• If you haven’t made it to the stunning Niki in the Garden installation at Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N. Central Park Ave.; 312-746-5100), take advantage of the Niki Nights finale, featuring live music amidst the foliage, Thursday the 25th from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.
• Pet lovers: Sit, stay, and benefit the furry at It’s Raining Cats and Dogs, a charity event for the Anti-Cruelty Society (510 N. LaSalle St.; 312-644-8338, ext. 307), Friday the 19th from 6:30 to 10 p.m. The bash features people treats from 20 top chefs, plus live and silent auctions. Admission is $125.