‘Walk Like A Man’

‘Walk Like A Man’

Story of Frankie Valli and Four Seasons struts back to WAC stage


It’s the music that has permeated our culture — from TV and movies to radio and commercials, you’d be hard-pressed to find an American who doesn’t recognize at least one song by The Four Seasons (whether they realize it or not). The story behind the icons who trilled “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” growled “Working My Way Back To You” and crooned “Sherry” is less known, but just as captivating.

The musical is based on the true story of the 1960s rock ‘n’ roll group and takes a journey through four “seasons” of their time together. Four guys from New Jersey, with the world against them, defy the odds to find super-stardom, only to have it crumble beneath them.

“The show doesn’t pull any punches about the negative parts of these guys’ lives,” reveals Jonny Wexler, returning to the starring role of Frankie Valli. Wexler stepped into the role of Valli after three years touring as Joe Pesci in the production and has gotten to know the characters quite well.

“They lived these crazy rock star lives, for sure. But [the story] also takes the time [to give an] honest, truthful look at some of the consequences that come with that — from the effect on your friends and your fellow band members and your family, and what it does to you in terms of addiction.”

The idea to create a story around The Four Seasons’ music was initiated by original band member Bob Gaudio. Once a creative team was in place, though, he and the other band members stepped back from development for objectivity’s sake. Portraying a real person — much less, one who is still living — can present a unique set of pressures for an actor, but the most effective approach for Wexler is to treat the character the same way he would any fictional one. He was never asked to play at someone, to do an impression, he reveals.

“It’s like an almost Shakespearean-sized story arc; I guess you could kind of look at it as like the ‘Hamlet’ of musical theater, in a way,” he muses. “So on a daily basis, [I] just try to bring the truth of what that might be like, or is — both the positive, the feelings of achievement and camaraderie that exist, but also the dark feelings of loneliness and trying to be enough.

“The vulnerability of this character to me is very interesting,” Wexler continues. “And that vulnerability kind of juxtaposed to a volatility that exists, that was a discovery that took place as we went along. And certainly connected to my real life.”

The almost unbelievable rags-to-riches story paired with some 30 mega hits of the era make for an incredibly engaging night of theater, Wexler adds.

“That’s why it’s been around for 12 years and is still going strong. For people who know the music and love it, they’ll love it. And for people who may be experiencing it within the context of the show for the first time, it’s also amazing.”

Photo courtesy Joan Marcus
“Jersey Boys” was most recently at the Walton Arts Center in 2013, but the musical is back by popular demand for a limited, weekend run.



‘Jersey Boys’

WHEN — 8 p.m. Oct. 5; 2 & 8 p.m. Oct. 6; 2 & 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $38-$87

INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org


Engagement opportunities

The Walton Arts Center has developed several programs around its Broadway shows to provide insight for the story, offer community fellowship or just for pure fun.

Arts and Appetizers

The week before each Broadway premiere, the WAC hosts a free, intimate evening of conversation with context, backstage stories and historical perspectives about the show over delicious apps from Bordino’s. The ‘Jersey Boys’ event has already passed, but keep an eye out for upcoming shows.

Broadway Book Club

The Monday following a show’s run, guests can participate in discussions on books that expound on a show’s time period or themes. The program continues in its second year and participation is free. With registration, guests can receive a 10 percent discount on up to four show tickets. ‘The Axeman’ by Ray Celestin is the accompanying book for ‘Jersey Boys’ and will be discussed at 6 p.m. Oct. 8.

Just for ‘Jersey Boys’

The WAC will host a Craft Cocktail Class at 6 p.m. Oct. 6 that can be an add-on experience to either performance that day. Led by a master mixologist from Maxine’s Tap Room, the class includes a history of the cocktails, tips and tricks on how to make them, light appetizers and two cocktails that you will mix yourself. $30. 21 and up.

Categories: Theater