Bob Gaudio calls the creation and success of “Jersey Boys” the “perfect storm.”
“It was one of those situations where it just all came together — everything worked,” says the guy who, with Bob Crewe, wrote the songs in the 2006 Tony Award- winning musical that tells the story of hitmakers Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.
The show, which opens Saturday in The City, has been huge since its premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in 2004. Gaudio only began to have an inkling of its power when he and his wife saw a long line of people waiting in the rain at the theater’s box office: “This can’t be for us,” they thought. Since then, the show has had record-breaking runs in New York; London; Las Vegas; and Brisbane, Australia.
Gaudio — one of the original members of the group that took radio by storm in the 1960s with songs such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man” — attributes the success of “Jersey Boys” at least in part to the band’s unique harmony, or lack thereof.
“In our case, we were like from different planets; there was an edge to our harmony that was different from the Beach Boys, who blended so well that there was not an individuality of sound,” says Gaudio, also describing his friend, business partner and lead singer Valli as “the voice of pop music.”
Still performing, Valli, 78, appeared on Broadway not too long ago, right down the street from where “Jersey Boys” was playing: “Fans could see both in 24 hours,” Gaudio says. “It may have been a first.”
Gaudio, among the business backers of “Jersey Boys” — who answers “depends on who you talk to” when asked if the show was his idea — has seen “Jersey Boys” about 150 times, and mentions that the typical audience member has seen it three times. Meantime, audiences are getting younger, too, thanks to people like Lauryn Hill, who covered Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
Despite his intense personal connection to “Jersey Boys,” Gaudio handed over creative development of the show to writers Marshall Brickman (who won an Oscar for co-writing “Annie Hall”) and Rick Elice, and director Des McAnuff (Tony winner for “The Who’s Tommy”). McAnuff crafted it not as a jukebox musical like “Mamma Mia!” but as the real story of the band, told “Rashomon”-style by each of the members, kids from New Jersey: Valli, Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi.
Although it has been decades since Gaudio resided in New Jersey — he lived in Los Angeles and now lives in Nashville, Tenn. — Gaudio describes his formative years making music there (he wrote the hit “Short Shorts” as a teen) as “the heart of what I’m about.”
He doesn’t necessarily think “genius” is the best way to describe his work — he would have written “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Desperado” if he could have — but he can put his finger on what makes a good song, in 1962 or in 2013. It’s something that people get lost in, he says: “It transcends whatever you’re feeling at the moment.”