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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Jersey’ lore

Based on the musical career of the Four Seasons, touring show opens on Wednesday

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Four Seasons recorded hit after hit, beginning with “Sherry” and on through “Who Loves You.”

During one stretch, they sold almost as many records as the Beach Boys. Yet, these Brylcreem-wearing Jersey boys never earned a Beach Boys level of fame, and were a long way from being the Beatles.

So how, in 2005, did the Four Seasons suddenly bloom into a global entertainment phenomenon? The catalyst was a Tony-winning musical called “Jersey Boys,” which tells the story of the group’s rise. Today, there are “Jersey

Boys” productions in London; Singapore; Adelaide and Brisbane, Australia; and Las Vegas. The Broadway production is still packing them in after nearly seven years at the August Wilson Theatre. And there are two national tours, one of which finally arrives in Spokane for a 16-show run Wednesday.

On opening night in 2005, critic Ben Brantley of the New York Times said the mostly middle-age crowd “goes wild” during “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” They “forget what year it is or how old they are.” And that song is only the show’s fourth biggest number; we’ll list the Big Three shortly.

Nick Cosgrove, who will play falsetto-singing front man Frankie Valli in the Spokane stop, said there’s more to “Jersey Boys” than just a jukebox musical full of hits.

“You learn a story about a family,” said Cosgrove, by phone from the road.

That family, he said, consists of “these four guys, who started by singing under a street lamp and grew to become one of the great successes in pop music history.”

The script was co-written by Marshall Brickman, who won an Oscar for co-writing “Annie Hall.” The story is divided into four “seasons,” each segment told from the perspective of a different group member.

“The scenes are so intimate,” Cosgrove said. “As an actor, you pray for this kind of writing.”

Yet Cosgrove, 2010 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, is perfectly aware that the musical numbers are what really get the crowd revved up. In the first act, you’ll hear what Cosgrove calls “the Big Three”: “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man.”

Yes, Cosgrove sings those songs in Valli’s distinctive falsetto. Cosgrove honed that sound in what the producers call Frankie Camp, for prospective cast members. Cosgrove said it consisted of “20 Italian-looking dudes, all about 5-8 or shorter, and all with these really high falsettos.”

Cosgrove, a former boy soprano, said he has always “had easy access to that part of my voice.”

Yet he’s also comfortable singing Valli’s later non-falsetto solo hits, such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “My Eyes Adored You.”

Cosgrove excelled in Frankie Camp and was chosen to go on the road with one of the national tours in January as the backup Frankie. He was promoted to the main Frankie a few months ago. It was, he said, his dream role ever since he saw “Jersey Boys” at age 17 in Chicago. He grew up on oldies radio, so he was perfectly aware of the music of the Four Seasons.

“My mom wouldn’t let me listen to any New Age music or Backstreet Boys or any of that kind of stuff,” he said.

He listened to Frank Sinatra and Etta James and Valli singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

The show may be driven by boomer nostalgia, but Cosgrove said it has also proven to be a hit with people his own age. Cosgrove noted that plenty of people today know “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” through Lauryn Hill’s cover version.

“It’s really fun to see high school and college kids enjoying the show as much as the people who grew up with it,” said Cosgrove.

This all-ages appeal has helped drive the show’s amazing – and somewhat surprising – success. Other musicals featuring far bigger ’60s musical legends have had a spotty track record on Broadway. “Lennon,” ran 49 performances. “Good Vibrations,” a Beach Boys musical, ran 94 performances. “The Who’s Tommy” ran 899 performances.

To date, “Jersey Boys” has had more than 2,800 performances on Broadway and will undoubtedly blast past 3,000 performances. It is a runaway success on the scale of “Mamma Mia!”

Spokane ticket holders should note that the show was originally scheduled to run a week longer, through Nov. 3. The Spokane run will now close on Oct. 28 “due to tour scheduling issues beyond our control,” according to WestCoast Entertainment. Those with tickets for the canceled shows will be contacted and they can exchange their tickets or request a refund.

“Jersey Boys” will still have a 16-show run in Spokane, far longer than the average six-show Best of Broadway run.

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