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The Hottest Musical of the Year: “Jersey Boys”

The Hottest Musical of the Year: “Jersey Boys”

When Clint Eastwood announced plans to adapt the hit Broadway musical “Jersey Boys” into a Hollywood film, some wondered if he was the right director for the task. Best known for dramatic films like “Gran Torino” and “Unforgiven,” the director seemed an odd choice for a musical based on the songs of The Four Seasons. Once the film landed in theaters, it became clear that Eastwood was the perfect directing choice.

“Jersey Boys” ranks as one of the top musicals of all time. Released in 2005, it uses the top songs recorded by The Four Seasons and tells the story of that band through four different acts. Each member of the band, including its lead singer Frankie Valli, describes their own experiences through the use of the band’s songs in each act. The musical later toured across North America and opened in multiple cities around the world before becoming a film.

GK Films purchased the film rights to the musical in 2010 and tapped Jon Favreau to direct. Favreau later left the production to work on the “Iron Man” franchise and a few films of his own. GK Films then announced a partnership with Warner Brothers, which would allow the larger studio to distribute the film, and Warner Brothers announced that Eastwood would direct. Eastwood claimed he was a fan of the musical, and based on how the film plays, it’s clear that he truly did enjoy the production.

Watching “Jersey Boys” brings to mind wholesome Hollywood fare like “That Thing You Do” and the Doris Day musicals of the 1950s and 1960s rather than the more popular musicals of today. While “Moulin Rouge” and “Rent” tried to amp up the sex appeal of those musicals and combine modern themes and songs with classic stories, “Jersey Boys” remains firmly rooted in the 1950s era of the story. Everything from the songs and sets to the clothing and story makes viewers remember a bygone era.

The film opens with Tommy DeVito walking through a New Jersey town in 1951 and telling the viewers about how launching a band helped save both himself and his friends. Viewers quickly discover the hardships that those four men faced during their early years, including the mobsters running the streets of their hometown and the mistakes that lead one of the founding members to prison. Although the early parts of the film occasionally seem slow, once the men come together to form The Four Seasons, the film finds its footing.

A musical is only as strong as the songs played in it, and Eastwood does a great job of highlighting the band’s best songs. Fans of the original musical, fans of The Four Seasons and those with an interest in rock and roll are all sure to appreciate the production’s score. “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man” play during important moments and highlight the impact that those songs hand on the members of the band. “Sherry,” which became the band’s first hit song, plays repeatedly throughout the film, and the other songs add a powerful touch to the story.

John Lloyd Young previously played the role of Valli in the stage production and agreed to reprise his role for the film adaptation. As Valli, he brings a swagger and arrogance to the role that viewers are sure to appreciate. Watching him on the big screen, it’s clear why his performance on the stage earned him a Tony Award. The other actors in the film previously starred in touring productions and other productions of the musical, but while they are all strong, it’s Young who steals the show.

Eastwood has a tendency to push and pull his actors to bring out the best in them, and he does that effectively in the musical adaptation. He isn’t above showing the dark side of the music industry and making it clear that the 1950s weren’t quite as wholesome as some might remember. Adding those darker elements to the film helps viewers better understand what the founding members went through before becoming famous.

Films based on true stories often suffer from a number of problems, but Eastwood creates a strong film that doesn’t suffer from any of those flaws. While the first half of “Jersey Boys” is a little slower than some might like, those moments set up the rest of the story. With fantastic acting from Young, strong directing from Eastwood and the great songs that made The Four Seasons one of the top rock and roll bands of all time, “Jersey Boys” ranks as the top musical of the year.


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The Hottest Musical of the Year: “Jersey Boys”

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