The Four Seasons: Jersey Boys Look Back at First Year on Broadway

Special Features   The Four Seasons: Jersey Boys Look Back at First Year on Broadway Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer and John Lloyd Young have spent four seasons on Broadway as The Four Seasons in Jersey Boys. Playbill.com caught up with the stars of the 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musical.

Daniel Reichard, John Lloyd Young, Christian Hoff and J. Robert Spencer star in Jersey Boys
Daniel Reichard, John Lloyd Young, Christian Hoff and J. Robert Spencer star in Jersey Boys Photo by Chris Callis

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Christian Hoff

Plays: Tommy DeVito
On his character: "What really struck me about Tommy DeVito was his resilience, the way he was able to take a tough life on the street [and turn it into] a life [as] a musician. These guys had very few options growing up. [He's] just a strong person, big heart and a lot of guts."

Favorite Four Seasons song: "'Candy Girl.' That's not a song we do in the show, unfortunately. There was a time when we had a medley of songs based on some of the girls: 'Candy Girl,' 'Marlena' and some other ones."

On his audition: "[Director] Des McAnuff was in California. He had an hour left and finally got a hold of me and wanted me to stop by because he said he had a part for me. We had worked together on [The Who's] Tommy, and we had kept in touch over the ten years or so that had passed in between. So, I went over and brought my guitar and my two kids (Eli and Erica) and sang an old 50's song called 'Something Else,' which was an old Eddie Cochran song. He handed me a monologue — they had no script yet — and I read that, and he walked around the table, put his arm around me, and I knew it was going to be a journey. His casting me in this role was based on my essence and personality and skill set, and that's something that's rare — people very much [cast] on type and resume." On Tony night: "It was basically a work night for me. We started the day with a rehearsal at Radio City in preparation for our performance. Then we had a matinee, and then had to go to the red carpet press line. It was sort of a checklist evening — we find ourselves in Radio City Music Hall, then next thing I know we're getting whisked off to perform. I found myself back after we performed in my seat with my wife, Melissa Hoff, and we were literally ten minutes away from my category. So my evening was really more about working, and all of a sudden — I was still on high from performing. We really hadn't been winning too many awards up until that time. Howell Binkley had won for lighting early on, and then [laughing] there was a bit of a lull. So just to hear my name announced, I realized 'Okay, here we go.' It was a landslide for me emotionally, realizing this was the beginning of a new part of my life that there was no going back."

What has changed a year later: "Amazingly, it seems to me that the attention that I'm getting as an actor now is more intense than ever. I have a great team assembled — that happened before the Tony Awards, thankfully — so, we were all on board regardless of the outcome, no fair-weather friends. And that was an immediate win. We've got a lot of opportunities for next season here in New York and [in] film and television as well. I can't say anything right now, but good things are happening, and the Broadway community can look forward to seeing me break out next year. And also, I've got my third child, my first born with my wife Melissa Hoff, and her name is Elizabeth Christine. She was born basically a year after we opened. So, it's been a good year."

 

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Daniel Reichard

Plays: Bob Gaudio
On his character: "I think one thing that I'm continuing to learn is that the man I play is a true, naturally intelligent person and a natural business man — he's a high school dropout and it's interesting to be reminded that there are people who are incredibly successful who did not go onto higher education."

Favorite Four Seasons song: "I love 'Dawn (Go Away),' I love 'Bye, Bye, Baby,' I love 'Let's Hang On,' and I actually love their recording of 'Big Man in Town.'"

On his audition: "I went in, and Des had seen me in Radiant Baby — and I didn't know that until I met him — and he said he was a huge fan of mine from seeing that. And, usually, that's the kiss of death. But I auditioned and about a month later went in for a callback and sang 'Oh, What a Night,' and when I was leaving, I turned around and said, 'I do play the piano as well, by the way,' and I sat and played for them. And about another month I heard back from them. It was literally the easiest job I've ever gotten. I lucked out with this one; but I guess it goes back to 'When it's right, it's right.'"

On Tony night: "It felt like we were fulfilling, that night, the enormous amount of work we had put into the show. It was like the most amazing cherry you've ever put on top of a sundae. We really worked hard to get this show going, and the satisfaction of hearing Julie Andrews say 'Jersey Boys' at the end of that night — it just felt like we were fulfilling a dream for the whole show and everyone involved with it. I come from a really big family — there are nine kids in my family — so all of them were up in Radio City Musical Hall, [and] my parents were there. When I made my entrance in the Tony number, to get a big round of applause when I walked on stage was just like any actor's dream to have that kind of moment in their lifetime. I felt just so blessed.

What has changed a year later: "I think I know what I'm doing a lot more now than I did then. I feel like I used to think that a failure taught you the most, because I had done things that were not successful. But I did learn you do learn more from a big success because a success keeps going — so there are ups and downs with the experience of a success. You learn how to maintain your work. I'm a little more clear about why I'm doing my work. It was funny going through an experience like this — all of a sudden these people you're doing a show with, you're in competition with them for awards [and] finding some people like you the most or some people like somebody else the most. And, all of a sudden, the whole feeling changes. It made me really think about what my priority was because you have to get passed your jealousies, your ego. I don't want that to sound dark, but it's like growing up. I think I've had to grow up professionally through the experience. What's different is I feel a lot more confident — I'd handle, God willing, another Broadway experience with a lot more knowledge . . . I'll be even happier the next time I do one."

 

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J. Robert Spencer

Plays: Nick Massi
On his character: "I was really excited to play a living guy and also that I would be playing the instrument, and I punch up his name, and he's dead! The thing that stood out for me was his gift for music and harmony, and that's something that I instantly clicked with because I'm that way. I hear music differently — I was never taught it in school."

Favorite Four Seasons song: "'Dawn' is my favorite. I love that it's really an entire sing-a-long for all of us. Also, the drums have a unique groove, and it changes three separate times throughout the piece. Being a drummer first, rhythmically I love it. It's really kind of a sad little song. It's got this really dark undertone, but it's just got great hooks, great rhythm and a jolly old jingle to it."

On his audition: "I was out in California writing and doing short films, and my wife was in New York doing a Broadway show. Then I got a phone call saying they want to see [me], and I wasn't interested in doing a revue show. I actually went in to read for Tommy, brought in my acoustic and sang a song of that era, and I had good vibes about it from the get-go. Des said [he wanted me] to come back . . . and [at my callback] I did something funny in my read, and he leaned over to Ron Melrose, our music director, and whispered something, and I knew that was a good sign. Then he said, [he wanted me] to read for the role of Nicky and, in my head, I said, 'Ah, sh**! Damn it.' I never get to play a guy like this. But, they gave me two monologues for Nicky — one was the table read when I yell at Tommy about the towels in the hotels, and the last one when I talk about my kids. Because I'd spent so much time prepping prior and the rhythm was so evident, I was able within a couple of minutes to knock on the door and go, 'I'm ready.' And I walked in and, boom, and left there knowing I got that part."

On Tony night: "It was a total Cinderella night. I knew we were going to win, first of all. Not because someone told me, but I knew. There's something about this show, I know, from being on the stage and seeing the audience and hearing them and seeing them outside the stage door, that this show is completely different than any other. It's really electric. Tony night was, you know, you gotta enjoy the bling — how often do you get the bling? My wife [Jenny-Lynn Suckling] was in a Versace dress, and it was gorgeous on her. To be able to be with my wife and three of my best friends, how much better could it be?"

What has changed a year later: "Well, my wife is expecting a baby in January, which is amazing. All that time spent in L.A. writing scripts, Jersey Boys has allowed me to meet a lot of people whose work I've loved through the years. And I was able to meet a wonderful gentleman and flat out said to him, 'I've got this comedy I've been handing out a couple of years.' He read it and said, 'I always wanted to start a movie company, so let's go.'"

 

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John Lloyd Young

Plays: Frankie Valli
On his character: "I never really spoke to Frankie Valli directly. I wanted to portray him in the most truthful way possible, so I went to his best friend Bob Gaudio and got his perspective on him. I watched Frankie Valli in concert in Las Vegas to research the role and dug up footage and watched his behavior."

Favorite Four Seasons song: "One of my favorite Frankie Valli songs is 'Our Day Will Come,' and I really like when The Four Seasons did that Bob Dylan song 'Don't Think Twice' (under the name Wonder Who), and 'Peanuts' is another favorite."

On his audition: "I hadn't seen a musical script in about two years. So I went in and read [for the La Jolla audition], but I didn't get it that time. I wasn't as prepared for it, really as much as I wanted to be. So, it wasn't until a year later — when it came to Broadway and they were needing to cast the role — that I remembered how great the script was and had the motivation to go in there and seize the role."

On Tony night: "From the outside, you would think it would be exhilarating for me, and it was, but in a really detached way. The greatest thrust was the work involved. Red carpet, even arriving was work — you're talking to the press — you might win or you might lose, so you want to say something that saves your ass in either scenario. Then standing up there with the 60 stars of Broadway, next to Stanley Tucci and Rita Wilson, who's nervous because she's opening in Chicago the next day. I told Brian Stokes Mitchell, 'I don't feel like I belong up here,' and he said, 'Well, everybody's new once.' Then onto the performance, and even the speech. I had to go up and say something knowing it would be part of Tony history — that's what I was thinking: 'How do I make this worth it?' So it wasn't until the day after the Tonys, we were on a tour bus to perform at the White House, until I was lying in one of the bunks that it sank in what had just happened."

What has changed a year later: "I'm finally enjoying starring in a hit Broadway show. Enjoying it — having fun. I was appreciating it before, but the workload and the outside pressure — especially leading up to the Tony Awards — were just so incredible that I never felt like I was flying on the success of the show. I felt more like I was holding it up like Atlas — it felt like excruciating work. Now, those pressures are gone, and there's nothing to prove, so now when we go out there, the audience is coming to see the Tony Award-winning cast and production, so there's just such enthusiasm, and we walk out to bask in the glow of that affection and give them what they came there for. And that's just so rewarding now."

Daniel Reichard, John Lloyd Young, Christian Hoff and J. Robert Spencer in <i>Jersey Boys</i>
Daniel Reichard, John Lloyd Young, Christian Hoff and J. Robert Spencer in Jersey Boys Photo by Joan Marcus
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