Conventional wisdom is that straight men would rather watch paint dry than go to a musical. But Jersey Boys star John Gardiner would have you believe that the key to his show's long-running success (it premiered on Broadway in 2005 and first ran in San Francisco in 2006) has been its appeal to that very demographic. The story of The Four Seasons, the 1960s quartet who produced inescapable top 40 hits like "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man," and "Oh, What a Night," is "Sopranos crossed with the Ed Sullivan Show," Gardiner says.
Take this story about singer Tommy DeVito, whom Gardiner portrays:
"He told me this story where a bar owner wouldn't pay them, so he went in with a baseball bat and wrecked everything in sight. And then he threw the guy across the bar. But he told me that as an example of how he wasn't a violent guy."
How does Gardiner rank the guy appeal of Jersey Boys over the other SHN shows this season?
"When guys normally think of when they think of musical theater, they think it's all Mary Poppins. But I see them in [our] audience every night, and by the end they're standing up [cheering] like they're at a football game."
The Lion King
"I did The Lion King, and the brilliant part is that it appeals to everybody. But it's sort of… how can I put this gently? It's a little syrupy. Jersey Boys is an adult show. I tell people, don't bring kids to this show, we say the F-word like 17 times. It's hardnosed. There's nothing sweet about Jersey Boys."
"The thing that Jersey Boys has in common with Wicked, oddly enough, is that it's a great underdog story that people don't know about. The thing that Jersey Boys has over Wicked, one, it's a true story. Two, it's more of a fraternal story. It's the story of brothers from the old neighborhood."
Book of Mormon
"Book of Mormon is about cutting-edge comedy, and I'd never take anything away from it in terms of comedic style and the quality of the songs. But we're more accessible. We've got dirty jokes for all adults. And for people who like rock concerts, we've got songs they grew up with, all known hits."
Speaking of hits, who does Gardiner think sings Tommy DeVito's part better: Him or DeVito?
"I'm not answering that," Gardiner said. "I know him well enough not to answer that question. You're trying to set me up for a punch in the face."
Jersey Boys plays at the Curran Theatre through April 28. Go to SHN.com for tickets and showtimes.