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'Jersey Boys' discuss fifth gay 'Season,' aging in movies
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Over the years, Jersey Boys—the musical about the lives of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons—has won multiple Tony Awards and thrilled audiences around the world.

The story of four men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who formed the 1960s rock group is now moving to a new medium: film. The legendary Clint Eastwood directs the flick, with John Lloyd Young playing Frankie Valli, Erich Bergen playing Bob Gaudio and Michael Lomenda playing Nick Massi.

Windy City met the Jersey Boys at the Waldorf Astoria to hear more about this musical movie.

Windy City Times: Hey, Boys. Where is everyone from?

Michael Lomenda: I was born and raised in small town Alberta, Canada, population 5,000. I lived in Toronto for the last 15 years. Just recently, I moved to LA.

Erich Bergen: I was born and raised in New York City just blocks away from Times Square. I left when I was 20 years old to tour Jersey Boys when I dropped out of college. I moved to Vegas to do the show for two years then moved to LA and have been there since 2010. I am moving back to New York in 15 days.

John Lloyd Young: Eventually, when you make the big bucks then you can be bicoastal and have a place in LA and New York.

Erich Bergen: Even if I was Richie Rich it would give me stress to have multiple properties!

John Lloyd Young: I was born in Sacramento and dotted the country after that. I was in a military family. I went to school at Brown in Rhode Island then moved to New York. I spent a decade of my career there and now live in Los Angeles.

WCT: Everyone was in the live version before the movie?

Erich Bergen: Yes, except for Vincent Piazza, who we left on the plane.

WCT: Where is Vincent?

Erich Bergen: He's filming Boardwalk Empire. He's much more famous than us and has a job! [All laugh.]

John Lloyd Young: Michael was the original Toronto company, I was in the Broadway cast, Erich is the second guy to ever play Bob Gaudio.

Erich Bergen: I did the first national then launched the Vegas company.

WCT: Were you in Chicago?

Erich Bergen: No; they used San Francisco as the hub where all the tours started. The San Francisco cast left and became the Chicago company. All of them started in San Fran including the Vegas cast.

John Lloyd Young: When we do our press day in San Francisco they are going to love these guys so much and resent me!

Michael Lomenda: Jerry, we have met before because you interviewed our cast on the Chicago tour.

WCT: I thought you looked familiar.

Erich Bergen: What did you think of him then?

WCT: It was fun hanging out with the cast in the past. What did you all think of the differences in the movie version, as opposed to the stage?

Erich Bergen: We love the movie but I don't know if we will ever be able to see it objectively. This show is in our blood but sometimes we don't know if something works or not. Every time I watch it, I hear music and my body goes for a quick change!

John Lloyd Young: I am starting to get used to it. Last night we watched it here in Chicago and it felt like this is the definitive way now. The musical version is really slickly told and connects to the audience in a very immediate way. You really get into the characters in the film version more than onstage because you move so much onstage.

Michael Lomenda: The more I see it with an audience I realize it is the same story and the electricity is still there. It is nice to sit in the audience and see them enjoy it the same way as the stage production.

John Lloyd Young: In the musical, the music was the reason for the story and in the movie the story is reason for the music. The Four Seasons wanted a showcase for their music and the story made it possible to put it onstage as jukebox show that worked. The music is incidental in this movie. It could be a story about working class guys but there wouldn't be any great songs.

WCT: It didn't seem like a musical until the credits in the movie version. I wanted Christopher Walken to dance more!

Erich Bergen: You have to watch that Fatboy Slim video again.

John Lloyd Young: When we were contemplating that last number with Clint Eastwood we had conversations about that. You can't ignore that this was a Broadway musical for nine years all over the world. It was an international hit.

We were enthusiastic about the last song because it brings back all of the characters that you get to know throughout the film. It is an acknowledgement that we are actors playing those characters. That configuration could never be realistic and is not realistic in the stage version either. Nick is deceased and comes back for a Bollywood ending!

The audience is ecstatic because it is a fantasy and he is not alive. The fact that the movie let's go of the hyper realism that Clint Eastwood has created and for the first time in his career he allows it to go into fantasy.

WCT: A friend of mine worked with Clint Eastwood and said he would ask the actors, "How did that feel?" and then move on. Was that what it was like?

Michael Lomenda: It is surreal to have Mr. Eastwood step out from behind the camera to ask if we can move on.

Erich Bergen: We answered shakily!

Michael Lomenda: If the boss was happy, then we were happy.

John Lloyd Young: He just talked about that with us in New York and said when he was an actor he was so frustrated when past directors would talk immediately about what they wanted to without asking him as an actor.

Michael Lomenda: He resented that and just wanted to work together with the director. He wanted everyone to bring things to the table.

John Lloyd Young: I think that's why people say they love working with Clint Eastwood. How lucky are we that we get to be amongst those actors?

WCT: Let's talk about the gay Fifth Season, Bob Crewe.

Erich Bergen: I was just in Nashville hanging out with Desmond Child, who has written some of the greatest songs in the past 30 years. Bob Crewe was his mentor. He told me stories about Bob and how is an unsung hero in popular music. The man wrote the lyrics to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." There are people who have gotten recognition for doing far less.

Bob was a gay man and very flamboyant, but there is a danger in a role that is written that way. It can be over-the-top or go for the laughs.

I am glad that Mike Doyle's performance in this film is very truthful. He makes sure that what comes across is how talented he was and what he created in the studio with voice doubling. Bob wrote a lot of those songs with Bob Gaudio. I'm so glad he's getting the recognition that he deserves.

John Lloyd Young: I always felt bad he got second thrift but when you produce the movie of your life then you will be the protagonist too. Frankie and Bob were the executive producers of this so they are front and center obviously.

I got to know the real Bob Crewe when we were opening. He was gay but never admitted it, really. He was a gentleman homosexual. He dallied because he was an aristocrat.

Erich Bergen: There were always women around.

John Lloyd Young: He never really admitted he was a homosexual. It made him uncomfortable to admit it. He was bisexual even all those years later when we were opening.

Even in the shooting script that we did for Clint there was no acknowledgement to him as the lyricist of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." In the scene where he pitches the song to me I told Clint that I wanted to work in that Bob Crewe wrote those lyrics. I think that is so important for the record. Clint allowed me to work it into the scene where we talk about the music.

Erich Bergen: It is in the diner scene where I give him the sheet music to it.

John Lloyd Young: I wanted to give him a little bit of credit where credit is due. There is a little bit of a risk that he is just the silly homosexual producer. We need to give him more gravity than that because he had a lot more to do with their success.

Erich Bergen: For the streamlining of the story you get why it is focused on the four guys but that is not an attempt to reinvent history. He certainly deserves more.

John Lloyd Young: You have to trim the fat sometimes when you are telling the story in a two-hour show. I think it would be deeply insulting to Bob Crewe's legacy to cut him out of the credit for a lot of these things.

WCT: How was the old age makeup?

Michael Lomenda: Long! Most of us had four or five prosthetics on our faces.

John Lloyd Young: I had seven.

Michael Lomenda: After the makeup is approved you sit there for two hours to get it on. It feels like you are in a full body cast.

Erich Bergen: You feel like a lot of the women in Beverly Hills!

John Lloyd Young: Or imagine they would feel... you still have that beautiful elasticity of the late 20s.

Erich Bergen: Thank you. That was when it felt like Hollywood to me. We were still playing around. We thought we were going to do the whole ending in makeup including "Who Loves You." We were in a conversation with Clint until the end.

Michael Lomenda: In fact, we did a take of "Who Loves You"—which is pretty athletic—as these older gentleman.

Erich Bergen: After we did the first take he came up to us and said, "We are going to take that out." We almost looked like the guy in the Six Flags commercial!

WCT: Upcoming projects?

Erich Bergen: I have an upcoming show on CBS called Madam Secretary, with Tea Leoni and Bebe Neuwirth.

Michael Lomenda: I am moving to LA so I can hit the ground running when the dust settles from the movie. I would love to see the floor of my apartment. It is full of boxes and I am sleeping on an air mattress.

WCT: The glamorous movie-star life!

John Lloyd Young: While Erich is doing a West Wing kind of thing on TV, I am doing the real thing. I was appointed by Barack Obama to the Arts and Humanities Committee after we wrapped. I will be doing some arts advocacy in a really big way. Reagan started this committee and the thrust under Obama is arts education. I will be sharing a school district with Kal Penn in Des Moines, Iowa to help kids in the poorest performing schools and using the arts to bring them up and create better community. It is called Turnaround Arts.

Jersey Boys Movie opens June 20 in theaters everywhere. Jersey Boys The Musical returns to Chicago May 12-24, 2015 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

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