It was, “late December back in ’63, what a very special time for me…”  That is the “Oh What a Night” I’m talking about here… Well actually it was, “late November still in twenty-twelve” when I saw Jersey Boys at Overture Hall in Madison, WI.

Where on earth do they find so many young men that can tour as Frankie Valli? That falsetto voice cannot be an easy thing to come by.  Next question – what was the point of the song “Sherry”?  I told my daughters I thought it became popular because the words were so easy to remember!  Do you remember them?!

The musical Jersey Boys uses real songs, by a real band, to tell a real “life story.”  I enjoyed it and was especially interested to learn the back story of 1963… which was originally about prohibition in 1933, but the lyricist was asked to change it and in Jersey Boys it is about the character’s night with a woman.  So did that night really happen and the song was just a perfect fit to portray it in the musical?  Or did they change the song from ’33 to ’63, but not because of the lyricist’s experience at all?  (Seems like a chicken and egg conundrum – does anybody really know?  Does anybody really care? Does anybody know what time it is?)

This week I went to Rock of Ages.  A story told through the music of Journey, Whitesnake, Styx, Bon Jovi, etc.  For this musical the “story” was created to fit the songs of the late 80’s.  As Tim (Tim Sauers, VP of Programming & Community Engagement at Overture Center for the Arts) told us at “Cocktails with Tim,” this makes Rock of Ages a “jukebox musical.”  According to Wikipedia, the term “jukebox musical” was first coined in the 1940s in reference to motion pictures consisting largely of hit recordings. In the live musical world it means it is a musical that uses previously released popular songs as its musical score. There are no original pieces used to tell the story of Rock of Ages.

I must admit, I liked the rock and roll party better than the Frankie Valli story.  Even if the love story was a bit too contrived, the singing was amazing, the dancing VERY energetic, the use of a little multi-media entertaining, and the jokes laughable.  Perhaps I also liked it because I enjoyed thinking about where I was and what I was doing in 1987 – the year the story of Sunset Boulevard is set.  I was living in Minneapolis and married my best friend in 1987.  And he was beside me at Overture Hall.

Lastly, I liked it because I knew all the words.

Which do you prefer?  The falsetto of the true Frankie story in Jersey Boys?  Or moving to the beat of “We Built This City,” “Any Way You Want It,” or “Hit Me with Your Best Shot?”

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