About the Author:
As an original member of Jersey Boys’ creative team, production supervisor Richard Hester has seen the show about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons go from dubious theatrical venture to international hit. Charged with keeping all productions of the Tony-winning musical running smoothly, Hester arranges the casting of new actors, scheduling rehearsals and launches international versions of the show. Below, Hester gives Broadway.com the inside story on the naysayers of the show while it was in development (he was one of them) and how he taught Frankie Vallis all over the world to “walk like a man.”
When I was first approached to production stage manage the world premiere of Jersey Boys, my response was less than favorable. At the time when Jersey Boys was in development, a whole slew of so-called jukebox musicals had opened in New York and they were all terrible and had gone away very quickly. This just seemed like another one. At the time, there was no script and I dimly remembered some of the songs of the Four Seasons. However, I was told that Des McAnuff was directing it and he was someone I had always wanted to work with. The production was also to be mounted at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. The only reason I took Jersey Boys was because it was basically going to be a three-month vacation by the beach.
The first day of rehearsal, we were all given the script, which we had never seen. I think they finished Xeroxing it about 10 minutes before the read through started. From the second we began, we knew the show was special. Before that, anyone who claims to have thought it was a good idea is lying. Des, writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli all had a vision of what the show was going to be; none of the rest of us did. After that first read through, we lived, breathed and ate Jersey Boys and never faltered in believing in the show.
After Jersey Boys won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2006 and was a success on Broadway, mounting a national tour posed questions. Once you’ve seen the original cast do a show, it becomes very difficult to imagine anybody else playing those parts. While we were launching the tour with a new cast, we all were a little concerned that we wouldn’t be able to replicate what we had on Broadway. We also had to make modifications to the set to allow it to be moved easily to different venues, and questioned if that would work. As we worked on the tour, we realized how strong of a show it really was. Having now done Jersey Boys all over the world, it really does reach everybody. What’s fantastic is when you’re sitting in the audience at Jersey Boys, you’re going to have the same experience whether you’re watching the show in Johannesburg, Boise, New York, or Las Vegas. The music is just so powerful.
Being involved with this show has been an embarrassment of riches. We’ve played in some of the most amazing venues all over the world from Syndey, to Las Vegas, to Singapore. One time when I was in London working on the show, it was 8 o’clock at night and I was walking across Waterloo Bridge over the Thames River. It was a perfect night—St. Paul’s Cathedral was lit up on one side of me and the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye were on the other. As I was walking across the bridge, Frankie Valli called me. He had just seen one of the Frankie’s performing in another production and he had an issue with the way that the actor was singing “Moody’s Mood For Love.” Frankie sang me “Moody’s Mood” the way this actor was singing it, and then he sang me the entire song the way it should be sung. There I am walking across Waterloo Bridge in London, looking at this incredible view on this perfect night and Frankie Valli is singing to me on the phone. All I could think of was how on earth did my life turn out to be like this!
See Jersey Boys rock Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts from November 7 through November 25.