Award-winning “Jersey Boys” comes to the Marcus
TCD spoke with actor/songwriter Barry Anderson, one of the stars of the touring Broadway musical, about the thrill of touring and the longevity of The Four Seasons' music.
Wisconsin-born actor and songwriter Barry Anderson will visit Milwaukee for the first time in three years, playing the role of Bob Crewe in the hit musical Jersey Boys. He has previously graced the Marcus Center stage in the Broadway and touring production of Legally Blonde. He has toured nationally in My Fair Lady, Damn Yankees, Where’s Charley? and Honk!
TCD: Were the Four Seasons an influence on you as a songwriter, and when did you become aware of them?
Barry Anderson: I grew up listening to oldies as a kid. My father was in a band, and there was always music in the house. So a lot of the Four Seasons’ songs were on the radar. They’re still played today, so they’re still in the mainstream, and in the public’s consciousness. A lot of the songs were used as commercials. As far as it being a direct influence on my songwriting, I think my influences come more indirectly. It’s based on a lot of the stuff that I’ve heard over the years. I do love a lot of their big hits. “Dawn” is one of my favorite songs ever. What I also enjoy about the group and their sound is all of those 60’s lush harmonies. The Beach Boys were great that way, too, and the Association. I love backing vocal on records, and I love creating vocal harmonics.
BA: I think so. If you can have something to draw on from your real life to bring to a character, it always helps. I think about that a lot, actually. We have a couple of scenes that take place in a recording studio, and it’s fun for me. I’ve recently spent quite a bit of time in recording studios doing a lot of that same thing. Now, technology has changed for sure, and it’s a different beast now. Sitting behind a computer using Logic or something like that versus being behind a big board and putting stuff on tape, doing take after take. On the original Four Seasons recordings, they double-tracked Frankie Valli’s voice on almost all of the records to give it that layered sound. That definitely is the sound we strive for in the show as well. We have what are called “Frankie doublers,” who sing along with a lot of the songs backstage to give it that nice full sound.
TCD: So, you’re double-tracking the vocals live?
BA: Yeah, exactly. A lot of time and effort was spent to maintain, as close as possible, the original sound of the group. So a lot of the arrangements are almost verbatim. Of course, there are so many songs in the show, we can’t do three choruses and three verses of each song because the show would be way too long. So there are shortened versions of some of the songs. You hear so many of them, and I’ll hear people in the audience as they’re leaving the theater saying, “I can’t believe they [The Four Seasons] did that song too. I didn’t know that was their song.” People tend to forget just how many hits they had. There are several other songs listed in the playbook categorized as “Songs That Got Away,” which are the songs of theirs not presented in their entirety but are played by the band incidentally during the course of the show. The Four Seasons’ core audience was not the same as that of the Beach Boys, or the British Invasion bands. Their audience was more the working-class, blue collar everyman. Hard-working American guys, a lot of times. If you listen to a lot of their lyrics, it’s about living on the wrong side of the tracks, or “I’m not good enough for this girl I’m in love with,” etc. They definitely spoke to a specific section of people, and there was definitely a need for that. It’s still something that resonates with audiences today.
TCD: This is your first time playing the Marcus Theater in about three years. Does being a Wisconsin native make playing the Marcus Theater all the more sweet?
BA: It does. I’m from Eau Claire, so growing up, I would mostly see shows in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I haven’t spent a ton of time in Milwaukee, but what’s great about playing there is that I’ve got a bunch of friends in the area and some family. When I was there before [with the cast of Legally Blonde], I got to see many familiar faces, and I already know a bunch of people who are coming to see the show. That is really the cool part about playing Wisconsin for me, getting a chance to see people that I hadn’t seen in years. High school friends, college friends and family.
TCD: What’s next for you?
BA: I’ll continue to write more songs on the road. I’ve been working on an album with my writing partner (Mark Petty)…we’re hoping to get it done by December. He lives in London, so we write remotely most of the time through Skype and email. I guess it’s unconventional, but we’re able to get things done because we set up a specific time and the time becomes precious. As far as Jersey Boys goes, I’m going to keep doing this for a while. I’m still in total love with the show; it’s such a blast. We’re coming up on the end of our second year, and it’s gone so quickly because I’m having so much fun with it.
Another great thing about the show is that Frankie Valli is still on the road, and he follows our tour around the country at times, so people can see the real Frankie Valli after seeing Jersey Boys. I saw him two years ago in Atlantic City, and he sounded amazing, especially considering that he’s close to 80 years old. He’s still out there doing it, doing it very well, and it’s a real inspiration to me. It’s such a statement of longevity and genuinely loving what you do. Jersey Boys has created this resurgence of recognition for him and The Four Seasons’ music. A lot of people know the show now, so a lot of younger people, who might not have previously heard of the Four Seasons, have an idea of what the group was about.
Jersey Boys opens at the Marcus Center at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday Oct. 16, and closes Oct. 27. See the full schedule and purchase tickets online, or call (414) 273-7206.