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‘Jersey Boys’ co-author sees group through four seasons

September 16, 2016 GMT

When “Jersey Boys” co-author Rick Elice was approached to write a play based on the Four Seasons, he thought they were talking about the classical piece by Vivaldi.

“I heard all those Four Seasons songs on the radio growing up, but I never knew who they were,” he said. “And when I finally met with Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio, I asked them, ‘So how come I know all these songs and I don’t know anything about you guys?’ And they said, ‘Well, we were never written about. We didn’t have long hair and British accents. Our songs were written for guys about girls, and all our fans looked like us.’ We thought that was really interesting, in terms of writing a muscular story about who these guys were. And, of course, how they navigated the shark-infested waters of the Italian-American experience.”

Working with co-author Marshall Brickman (of “Annie Hall” fame), Elice shaped a story that’s not just about the music, but the strong personalities within the group. In particular, they flesh out Tommy DeVito as the bad boy of the Four Seasons. “He really becomes a classically tragic figure, a bit more of a Shakespearean type. You see the triangle that plays out, since he was originally like Frankie’s big brother, then Bob Gaudio comes in and takes over that role.”

The structure hinges on four phases of the group’s career, their own four seasons.­

“The spring is the beginning of the group, summer is the first flush of success. The fall is the dissolution of the original quartet, which starts Act 2, and then we have the winter of Frankie’s discontent. Since he became the face of the group, it made sense to give him the last word.”

Like most good stories, it ends with a rebirth — in this case, the group’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “By now they’re in their 50s, but we didn’t age them, you still see four strapping guys onstage. Because of that, it becomes a rejuvenating experience on a subconscious level. You see older guys who were fans, walking out with a little spring in their step.”

“Jersey Boys,” at Boston Opera House, Oct. 4-16. Tickets: $40-$150; 866-523-7469 or boston.broadway.com.