Jarrod Spector, Jersey Boy's lead tells all and Orinda' Starlight Theatre invites you to "See How They Run!"

Two reviews this week, one show, an absolute bonkers comedy in Orinda, entitled See How they Run and the other, a follow up review on possibly the hottest musical production in San Francisco, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, in The Jersey Boys.

But more than that, my review this week includes my personal interview with Jerrod Spector, the young man with an angelic voice who has persevered to capture and hold the highly sought after job of portraying and re-creating the style and sound of Frankie Valli himself.

I just couldn’t get enough of The Jersey Boys, so I had to bring it back to your attention, one more time, before the company departs in October for another part of the country as part of the company’s national tour. According to my sources, the show absolutely closes on September 30th. If you were a kid growing up anywhere in this country in the 60’s and 70’s, you have got to know the pop/rock musical group, the Four Seasons and lead singer Franki Valli. The story behind the story of this group’s rise to prominence is what makes this musical so unique. It is a story of love and loyalty and perseverance that transcends just about anything else you have ever seen or heard about musicians. It is a story that touches the heart, that brings tears and a musical high that is hard to describe and comprehend unless you are actually there to experience it. This musical and its performers put the “super” in “superb!”

In 1961, the group known as The Four Lovers evolved into The Four Seasons, with Frankie Vallie as the lead singer, Bob Gaudio (formerly of The Royal Teens) on keyboards and tenor vocals, Tommy DeVito on lead guitar and baritone vocals, and Nick Massi on bass guitar and bass vocals .

Frankie Valli (in the San Francisco production, played by Jarrod Spector) and Nick Massi (Steve Gouveia) were from Newark; Tommy DeVito (Jeremy Kushner) was from Belleville, and Bob Gaudio (Drew Gehling) from “The Bronx”. These four guys who were from the wrong side of the tracks and their story of success in spite of some terrible setbacks provides a true inspiration for many. Their music made them one of the biggest pop sensations in American musical history. The Four Seasons were a musical factory by themselves, churning out hit after mega hit consistently. They wrote and recorded their own songs.

While the entire cast is truly terrific, the lead singer, Jarrod Spector, who plays the part of Frankie Valli, is the key to the group’s incredible resemblance to the original group. I recently had the good fortune to do a phone interview with Spector, and as I came to find out, this rise to his current career pinnacle was the result of endless hours of work, tryout after tryout and his family’s unending support, all starting very early in life. This young man’s family paid “their dues” through many years of hard work, providing their very talented son the opportunity to be trained and cast in many productions. Jarrod told me that as a small child his fascination with commercials and his ability to memorize them quickly was thought to be cute, but at age 3, when his parents discovered that he really had a pretty good voice, they took him to voice coach, Russell Faith, in the Philadelphia area. Russell suggested that his parents take little Jarrod to the Al Albert’s Showcase, a local variety show, where kids can participate with the “Teeny Boppers”. Jarrod was good enough that he continued on the show every week for three years. His family got him on Star Search (winning at various levels 4 times) when he was 6, then participating in the Jerry Lewis telethon for several years.

His mother was bound and determined to get him in the Broadway Les Miserables production, starting the audition process when he was only 7. He was just too young at that point, but when he tried out again at age 9, he got the job as Gavroche and that was his true beginning, his springboard into musical theatre.

Jarrod speaks so lovingly of his family. In addition to his parents, he his two sisters, Egan and Jan, and a brother Greg, who all have been so supportive and a major part and parcel of his success. Even now, they fly across the country to support his each and every new success.

When Jarrod was 15, he managed to get cast for a new sitcom pilot called the Larson’s of Las Vegas. The new show was to star Peter Boyle who portrayed a gambling grandfather, along with a great supporting cast. All hopes were high. A month or two later, after they filmed the pilot, the stunning disappointment came when the test audience didn’t approve of a story built around a gambling family. The crash of this show turned Jarrod off. Heartbroken, he made up his mind to go back to school and prepare himself for a life with a real backup job. He was accepted into Princeton University. After two years at Princeton, the realization hit home that economics and business was not in his heart of hearts. Jarrod found himself spending lots of time in the Princeton Triangle Club, writing, acting, directing, and immersing himself back in the lifestyle of a young theatrical wizard. Before long, he found himself back in New York and he fell in love with its madness.

As Jarrod was rehearsing for a role in Hamlet, he got a “call back” for Jersey Boys, and was eventually given the job of playing Frankie Valli in the first touring company.

If you enjoyed such terrific Four Season songs as “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Sherry”, “Walk Like A Man”, “Oh, What a Night”, and one of my absolute favorites, the Franki Valli mega-hit, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”, then you are going to love this show. Now here is some truly outstanding entertainment!

The performances range between Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with mid-day performances at 2 p.m., on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, but ending on September 30th. I would suggest you go to the website and check out ticket availability. There are some good seats remaining albeit a bit pricy right now and/or they can be purchased online at www.shnsf.com, or through Ticketmaster by calling (415) 512-7770, at ticketmaster.com, at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers and the Curran Theatre Box Office at 445 Geary Street, between Mason and Taylor. I suggest using BART to get into the city.

"See How They Run" is laugh a minute romp in the Park!

Now, if you would like to see something a little less grand that is fully entertaining and costs a whole lot less, then I would suggest that you try Orinda’s Starlight Village Player’s production of Philip King’s mad, mad comedy, See How They Run, currently playing in Orinda’s outdoor community theatre in the park, next door to the Library.

This wild and wacky farce is a story about mistaken identity and mistaken immorality in a British Vicarage in the fictional village of Merton-Cum-Middlewick.

Vicar Lionel (Malcom Cowler) is married to a very beautiful and vivacious younger woman, Penelope (Heather McRobbie), who was formerly an actress. His wife’s gregarious and outgoing nature is perpetually getting her in trouble with the local “conservative” villagers in her husband’s parish, who believe she is too “daring” for a vicar’s wife. On this occasion, congregational trouble maker Miss Skillon (Carolyn Kraetsch) has arrived at the Vicarage to scold the Vicar for his wife’s recent indiscretions and interference with the decoration committee’s plans to decorate the church gathering hall. . Coveniently, or not so, Vicar Lionel has gone off to another village to play piano for the choral group that evening and does not plan to return until quite late.

In the course of the same evening we learn that a former male friend and fellow actor, now in the military, Corporal Clive Winton (Mark Holobetz), has turned up in this village, discovers Penelope now lives in the Vicarage and shows up to see her not realizing she is now married to the Vicar. Penelope and the corporal decide to relive old times by sneaking off to a community theatre production of Private Lives (a show in which they performed together several years earlier) but, because the location of the theatre is “out of bounds” for the Corporal, they decide to disguise him in the Vicar’s spare suit, planning for him to change back into his own clothes when they return from the show. That way he can return to base properly attired.

Penelope’s uncle, also a member of the clergy, Bishop Lax (Bill Chessman),
is planning to meet with Penelope and her husband the next day but shows up one evening earlier than planned. In addition, another member of the clergy, The Reverend Arthur Humphrey (Al Guaraglia), is planning to share the Sunday service with her husband and to deliver a sermon the following day in her husband’s church. Well, he shows up earlier than expected. None of these gentlemen have met the “real” Vicar Lionel, so they mistakenly assume the “man of cloth” (old boyfriend/actor, Clive) is Penelope’s husband. Then, to make situations even more mad, a communist prisoner (Bill Hatteroth) has broken out of the local military police station, and is being sought by local authorities, and guess where he ends up? You guessed it, and now we have a fourth person impersonating or appearing as a “parson” running in and out of the vicarage.

The maid, Ida (Christy Scott), is a flirtatious wench and takes a liking to the corporal. And the last entrant, Sergeant Towers (Al Guaraglia), adds a bit of levity as well.

This is a truly silly, fun-filled, mad-cap comedy that is engaging and worthy of your attendance. The timing is off a bit and will improve while the acting is excellent.

Tickets are $15 each, but only $7.50 for Seniors and Students. The theatre is located at 26 Orinda Way, in the Orinda Amphitheatre adjacent to the Orinda Community Center, Park, and Library. The OrSVP (Orinda Starlight Village Players) have been serving Orinda residents and surrounding communities for approximately 30 years. Performances are every Thursday evening at 8:00 p.m., and each Friday and Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m., now through September 22.

Tickets may be purchased at the ticket booth adjacent to the theatre or may be ordered by mail care of their post office box, 204, Orinda, California, 94563-0204. Reservations are not necessary as the seating is open on a first come, first served basis. Remember to dress warmly (perhaps even bring a blanket to cover the legs) as many of these evenings in the Orinda hills can be very chilly. My wife, Karen, and I always bring folding chairs or “tush” cushions, as this outdoor theatre’s amphitheatre seating is very hard. The theatre does provide seat cushions if you want them, but little folding chairs are better. Great Fun, please go and See How They Run!