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Jersey Boys

The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons – Now Playing at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

It was a sound that came from the streets of the big Eastern cities. It defined rock and roll before there was a British Invasion, before Dylan went electric, before lyrics took a psychedelic turn. And some of its biggest hits were minted by a group out of Newark: The Four Seasons.

Jersey Boys, the Tony-nominated play that tells the story of The Four Seasons’ rise from their hometown streets to the pinnacle of success, is the latest production at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. “People expecting another ‘jukebox musical’ will be surprised,” says Michael Brindisi, artistic director at the Chan and Jersey Boys director. “It’s much more than that. It’s a play with music, and it tells an emotionally packed story. It’s about getting out of the neighborhood, about the importance of family – and The Four Seasons were a family, caring about each other, fighting with each other, all the things that families do. And behind the rags-to-riches story, it’s about all of them wanting to get back home, back to where they started. In the words of lead singer Frankie Valli, they were ‘chasing the music and trying to get home.’”  

“It’s everybody’s story. People find that even if you achieve success, the simple things are still the most important.”

“We’d been pursuing the play for ten years,” says Michael. “It finally became available for licensing to regional theaters, and we’re delighted to have it.” Jersey Boys opened at the Chan on June 16th.
The non-musical part of the play, known in theater parlance as the “book,” was written by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Marshall Brickman (Manhattan, Annie Hall) and his collaborator, Rick Elice. “It’s emotionally packed,” Michael says. “It’s funny, it’s heartwarming. It really has a lot to say.” Written in four parts – four “seasons” – it gives each member of the group a voice, a chance to give his own perspective on their rise to stardom and the triumphs and tribulations that followed.

A Minnesotan since college days, and a 30-year veteran as the Chan’s artistic director, Michael still feels a strong connection to the East Coast environment that produced The Four Seasons and their music. A native Philadelphian, he grew up in an Italian section of the city where “guys sang a cappella on porches, on street corners, and on summer nights the neighbors would come out and listen.” Michael played in several bands himself, on accordion and sax. His connection to the story runs back to those Philly days – “Of all of my friends in the neighborhood, I’m the only one who got out. Just about everyone else ended up doing the same things their fathers did. For me, what resonates about this story is the inspiration to do something that makes you happy.”

Will that East Coast sensibility resonate with a Midwestern audience? “It will,” says Michael, “because it’s everybody’s story – the story of reaching for success, and finding what you really want is home and family. And for the same reasons, I think it will appeal to a younger audience, not just people who remember the early Sixties.” Back in those days, when Beatles songs were just beginning to crowd the airwaves, The Four Seasons ruled Top 40 radio with songs including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Dawn (Go Away)” and “Rag Doll.” “Dawn” even scored the phenomenal achievement of rocketing to the number one spot on New York’s biggest rock and roll station the week it came out. 

Along with its universal themes, Michael suggests, Jersey Boys has appeal as a period piece, harking back to a time when those street-corner a cappella singers and their friends had a certain urban swagger, the kind of attitude that comes across in songs such as “Walk Like a Man.” As one of the band members tells another in the play, it doesn’t mean not walking like a woman – it means not walking like a boy. There’s an old class consciousness, too, evident in lines like “Girl, we can’t change the places where we were born” in “Dawn.” The Four Seasons couldn’t change their Jersey Boy origins, although they came a long way from the streets of Newark.

And what about Frankie Valli’s signature falsetto – that unlikely style of singing that would, at first hearing, sound like anything but mid-century street swagger? Valli pulled it off just fine, with his own style of swagger – and so does Will Dusek, who plays him in the Chan production. “When he auditioned,” Michael recalls, “I made him sing ‘Sherry’ at least 20 times. And I was amazed by his falsetto.”

To learn more about Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, its current production of Jersey Boys and its other fine productions, please visit

  • Michael Brindisi, Artistic Director
  • Photo by Rich Ryan
  • Photo by Rich Ryan
  • David Darrow as Tommy DeVito, Shad Hanley as Nick Massi, Will Dusek as Frankie Valli, & Sam Stoll as Bob Gaudio (photo by Rich Ryan)
  • Photo by Rich Ryan
  • Photo by Rich Ryan

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