The smash Broadway hit Jersey Boys, detailing the initial collaboration, rise to fame–and even the heartbreaks along the way–of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons has always been a Music City favorite, partly because, no matter your age and musical taste, you likely know at least a few of their songs, even if you didn’t realize it was them. Another reason locals love Jersey Boys is the fact that for several years, original Four Seasons founding member, and co-creator of the Jersey Boys musical itself, Bob Gaudio has called Nashville home.
Like a catchy earworm you just can’t get out of your head, the Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning musical returning to TPAC’s Jackson Hall with performances Tuesday, January 9 through Sunday, January 14. Being a true fan of the show myself, I knew I wanted to chat with a couple of the current touring company members. When I discovered two cast members have some fun Music City connections themselves, I knew they were the ones for me. What follows are my conversations with Wade Dooley and Corey Greenan, who play Bob Crewe and Tommy DeVito.
RAPID FIRE 20 Q WITH JERSEY BOYS NATIONAL TOUR CAST MEMBERS
RAPID FIRE WITH WADE DOOLEY, BOB CREWE IN JERSEY BOYS
JONATHAN PINKERTON: In the show, you play Bob Crewe, who not only co-wrote with Frankie Valli in the early days, but who also signed him and the boys before they even became The Four Seasons. What can you tell me about your portrayal of Crewe?
WADE DOOLEY: Bob Crewe was a legendary performer, songwriter, producer, and artist that co-wrote some of the biggest pop hits of all time. He actually co-wrote with Bob Gaudio, the keyboard player for The Four Seasons. I love playing Bob. He has some of the best written dialogue in the show, so funny and snappy. It helps break up the dramatic tension. I love it when jokes come back in a piece. Be on the lookout for his love of astrology.
JP: How familiar were you with The Four Seasons’ music before joining the cast of Jersey Boys?
WADE DOOLEY: Who doesn’t know this music? Beyond the radio, it’s used in some wonderful films. I grew up listening to this music with my Dad on the radio. I’m an old soul. I may not know what Kanye is doing, but I love the oldies.
JP: I’m right there with you. Gimme the oldies any day. Of Crewe’s Four Season’s songs, do you have a personal favorite?
WADE DOOLEY: Bob wrote the lyrics to Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You. It brings down the house every single night.
JP: In addition to the numerous songs Crewe wrote or co-wrote for The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli, he’s also wrote a handful of hits for others. In preparing to play Crewe, did you check out any of his other music?
WADE DOOLEY: Yes! It’s amazing when you look at his contribution to the music industry, either writing or producing…Lady Marmalade, Devil With a Blue Dress On, Silhouettes. The guy knew what he was doing. On top of his life in the music business, Bob Crewe was an artist. While touring, we actually got to meet his brother, Dan, and visit an exhibition of his artwork. Some pretty amazing things. Also, if anything is missing from the walls…I had nothing to do with it.
JP: Since Crewe was instrumental early on in The Four Seasons’ careers, his stage time is a tad limited in Jersey Boys. I understand observant audience members might catch you playing other roles as well. What ensemble roles do you play in addition to Bob Crewe?
WADE DOOLEY: I consider this to be one of my favorite parts about being in this show. I get the challenge each night to believably play a judge, a bar patron, a gangster, an accountant, a record executive, Bob Crewe, and others. I try to bring a different walk, attitude, and voice to each one. Hopefully, you won’t be able to pick me out each time. Then I know I’m doing my job!
JP: Prior to joining this tour, you were part of the National Tour of The Trip to Bountiful starring Cicely Tyson. What’s your fondest memory of being part of a show starring the legendary actress?
WADE DOOLEY: I loved working on The Trip to Bountiful. Our production is partially immortalized thanks to Lifetime with a made for television version. The play and original film with Geraldine Paige, rank very highly in terms of my favorites. Check it out if you can. It was truly one of the greatest jobs of my life. Working with Vanessa Williams, Blair Underwood, and Cicely is a master class in how people should be treated…everyone was so kind. We became a family.
JP: A quick Facebook stalking revealed a photo of you and another living legend…Angela Lansbury…DO TELL?
WADE DOOLEY: I was a production assistant on the last revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man on Broadway starring Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, and many others. But, I had the opportunity to work directly with Angela and James. You couldn’t find two nicer people. The stage manager used to tell James and me to be quiet because he could hear us talking and laughing in his dressing room as the show was still going on.
JP: You were also previously part of Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Were you part of the tour that set up house here in Nashville at the iconic Grand Ole Opry?
WADE DOOLEY: Sadly, I never performed the show in Nashville, but I have many friends that did. The Christmas Spectacular is very dear to my heart. It was my first professional theatre job at the age of 9. I performed as a child in the show for four years (3 in Branson and 1 in Chicago). Then, after auditioning for the show as an adult five times, I booked it. It was a wonderful, full circle moment.
JP: Another Music City connection…I understand you appeared on the Nashville-based talk-show Crooke and Chase, and played at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, located in Nashville’s famed Lower Broad honky tonk district. Can you tell me about that?
WADE DOOLEY: After I had a stint in professional theatre with the Rockettes, I became a normal kid again and moved back home to Peoria, Illinois. I then had a band from about age 10 until I was a sophomore in college. We played fair and festival circuits for many years and I sang a lot of country music, because that’s what we listened to. I sang with Shania Twain and opened for many acts including Jo Dee Messina, Pam Tillis, Ty Herndon, and more. Performing in Nashville…at Tootsie’s…was a highlight of that time. But, I think the idea of a boy country singer was hard for the industry to consider… “What’s gonna happen when your voice changes?”
JP: True enough just google Billy Gillman. Any plans to revisit Tootsie’s while you’re in Nashville during this leg of the tour?
WADE DOOLEY: I have a lot of to-do’s on my list for my time in Nashville. Tootsie’s is definitely one of them. I hope we have the time to visit the Ryman, the Opry, and of course, Robert’s Western World. Did you know Robert’s JesseLee Jones also hails from Peoria?
JP: I did not.
With that, it was time to chat with Corey Greenan who plays Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys about his connections to Nashville and his role in the show.
RAPID FIRE WITH COREY GREENAN, TOMMY DEVITO IN JERSEY BOYS
JP: I just chatted with one of your Jersey Boys costars, Wade Dooley and mentioned his Nashville connections, so let’s start with yours. A few years ago, you played TPAC as part of the National Tour of If/Then. Did you get to do any sight-seeing while in Nashville?
COREY GREENAN: The last time I visited I had a great time exploring the city but what really stood out that week was the music and the food. The name of the particular event escapes my mind, but they had closed down a long strip of the main drag and had stages with live music going nonstop. It paired perfectly with the tremendous BBQ I practically lived on during that week!
JP: I believe you were here in June, so that event would have been CMA Music Fest. That same year, you were also part of the National Tour of Jersey Boys, playing Billy Dixon and other roles. Now you’re back in Jersey Boys and playing Tommy DeVito. Before we go any further, I gotta know…There’s virtually nothing about Billy Dixon online…was Billy Dixon just a pseudonym for Frankie and the boys before they became The Four Seasons and is the character in Jersey Boys simply a nod to than and an amalgamation of several people?
COREY GREENAN: What you said. Ha! Actually, I’m not certain, either. I know they were going through a period of finding themselves, finding their sound, and that entailed both backing up more established artists and sometimes working under different names to establish a “brand”, as we would say now.
JP: Now, on to your current role as Tommy DeVito, founding member and lead guitarist of The Four Seasons. Describe your take on Tommy DeVito.
COREY GREENAN: Tommy’s a force of nature. He has to be the center of attention in every room, he instinctually bucks against any attempt to control him, and the ‘code of the streets’ is his Bible. And while he ends up getting himself, and the group, into a lot of trouble, he’s not without his charm.
JP: How much did you know about The Four Seasons before becoming part of the Jersey Boys family?
COREY GREENAN: Not nearly as much as I learned while rehearsing the show. I was familiar with their music for sure, but what struck me was the reality of the members themselves. I knew them as a staple in the pop music world, something to hear on the oldies station. What I learned was that these were four very real guys growing up in an incredibly challenging environment who made an international name for themselves.
JP: DeVito left the group in 1970 after Crewe and Valli took over more leadership roles of The Four Seasons. Do you think you would have stuck with it or moved on?
COREY GREENAN: Well, I don’t know that Tommy had much of a choice in the matter. But if I had the option, you better believe I’d stick around!
JP: DeVito joined his former bandmates on stage in 1990 when The Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is now 89 years old. Since being a part of Jersey Boys, have you ever had a chance to meet or speak with the real Tommy DeVito? If not, what’s one things you’d ask him?
COREY GREENAN: I know he used to stop by the Las Vegas production every so often but, no, I’ve never met him. And if I did, I would ask him to show me a card trick!
JP: Perfect lead-in for my next question…When DeVito left The Four Seasons, he moved to Vegas and eventually dealt cards. A quick perusal of your Twitter account reveals you have an interest in cards as well. Care to elaborate on that card trick clip I found?
COREY GREENAN: Ha! Yeah, I’ve been interested in sleight of hand and magic since I was a boy. It’s a hobby that has taught me a lot about acting and relating to an audience. And, as icing on the cake, Tommy gets to do a couple card tricks…the twelve year old in me is positively giddy.
JP: DeVito is known for his rich baritone vocals. How low a note can you hit comfortably?
COREY GREENAN: I’m more of a bari-tenor these days but I can get down there occasionally. Certainly not low enough to hit Nick Massi’s notes.
JP: Ah, nice mention of Massi, who along with the aforementioned Gaudio, DeVito and Valli was the fourth founding member of The Four Seasons. In addition to be being a founding member, DeVito played lead guitar for The Four Seasons. Do you play, or is that just theatre magic with the orchestra guitarist providing the licks?
COREY GREENAN: I can strum my way through a few songs but our amazing band is creating the music you’re hearing. Fortunately, they’re onstage with us most of the time so it fosters a real sense of everyone being in the same ‘group.’
JP: As always, these questions go by so quickly…so…one last question…What do you hope audiences take away after seeing Jersey Boys?
COREY GREENAN: I hope they enjoy the amazing music they’ll be hearing, as well as the incredible performances they’ll be seeing onstage. But more than that, I hope they enjoy learning about and accompanying these four guys whose sense of family and drive to succeed helped them beat the odds and become international superstars.
The National Tour of Jersey Boys begins its Music City run at TPAC’s Jackson Hall (505 Deadrick Street) on January 9 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and a 1 p.m. matinee and 6:30 p.m. final early evening performance on Sunday, January 14. Tickets range in price from $32.50 to $87.50. Click Here to purchase tickets.
Following Jersey Boys’ Nashville dates, the tour continues with performances across the country. Click Here for upcoming tour dates and information. Jersey Boys is just the beginning of second half of TPAC’s 2017/2018 theatre season. TPAC continues the current Broadway season with The King and I January 30-February 4, The Illusionist February 16-18, Cabaret February 27-March 4, Wicked March 28-April 22, Waitress June 5-10 and Love Never Dies: The Phantom Returns June 19-24. Click Here for tickets or more information. You can also follow TPAC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Be sure and subscribe to Nashville Arts Critic by entering your email address in the “Newsletter” tab at the top of this article. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumbler. Interested in coverage of your performing arts events, be sure and drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.