Head to The Muny at Forest Park July 9-16 for the regional debut of the Broadway hit “Jersey Boys,” a biographical tale of the magic behind the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, a world-renowned group of musicians known for hit songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Walk Like a Man,” and “Oh, What a Night!” Although the band became popular in the ’60s, the group’s hits are timeless classics still enjoyed by millions today.
Bobby Conte Thornton, who plays Bob Gaudio in “Jersey Boys,” made his Muny debut in 2013 as Enjolras in “Les Misérables.”
“With improbable odds, I was given the opportunity to play a lead at The Muny and had the most epic moment I’ll ever experience,” he says. “Striking the final pose, I saw 11,000 people stand up and give us a walloping sound of approval and cheer. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that.”
Thornton decided to return to The Muny after five years, in part, to help celebrate the “immense milestone” of the theater’s 100th year.
“There’s no other theater in the world that does what The Muny does,” Thornton says. “On paper, it shouldn’t work. It’s an inherently crazy idea, but we’re all here to release our own ego and put everything toward making the best show possible. There’s no pretension or judgment because there’s no time. It’s really heartening and reminds you why want to do this crazy thing called theater in the first place.”
Now, in Thornton’s return to The Muny, his “utter fascination” with the musical helps him bring Bob Gaudio to life.
“He’s a real genius — a child savant with a Billboard hit at age 15,” Thornton explains. “The second he heard Frankie Valli [portrayed by Mark Ballas] sing, his entire life became rooted in him. Even after they embarked on different lives and careers, he still has this partnership with Frankie that was built on a handshake 45 years ago. When Bob Gaudio came on, it was the last piece of puzzle and struck a cord with the lower middle class all throughout America. There was no real social agenda; it was just about connecting and giving people a break from their daily lives.”
Directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes, the regional debut of “Jersey Boys” remains true to the storyline while adding a few Midwest flourishes.
“The original production was extraordinary, so it’s a real vote of confidence the producers gave to The Muny to say, ‘Take this thing the world really loves and make something new with it,’” Thornton says. “Josh is going boldly and fiercely to make this palatable for a Midwestern audience. The Muny, basically an enormous outdoor concert venue, gives the show a different kind of filter.”
As for the many familiar songs that will be performed, Thornton says, “How could you not know ‘Sherry,’ ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ or ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You?’ That’s three No. 1 hits back to back to back.”
Additionally, Thornton says the songs will be heard at The Muny the same way they were recorded.
“It’s part of the genius of the Four Seasons’ producer,” he explains. “They doubled Frankie’s voice so it explodes off the record. Mark Ballas will be singing on stage while someone is backstage doubling his vocal line, and it will be the same with every person on stage.”
In the end, Thornton says, “It’s a remarkable true story about people who rose from their bootstraps and became icons through a tumultuous road filled with drama and a lot of love. People will have an absolute blast.”
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit muny.org. M