Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Another Exclusive Forgotten Hits Interview

We have been anxiously (and, I might add, a bit impatiently) waiting for the film version of "Jersey Boys" to hit movie theaters. 
And now that date is FINALLY upon us ...
The Clint Eastwood-directed film will start showing on the big screen on June 20th.
Eastwood seemed about as unlikely choice as any to helm this film, a musical chronicling the career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  (We saw the "Chicago On Broadway" production SIX TIMES while it was playing here ... and loved it more each and every time!)  We figured HE must have loved it, too ... or why take on this task?
So, when we had the opportunity to interview Broadway-veteran Donnie Kehr (who performed the role of loan-shark Norm Waxman on Broadway and is now essaying that role in the movie), we jumped at the chance to speak with him!
Forgotten Hits: I read somewhere that you had done over a THOUSAND stage performances as Norm Waxman on Broadway.  What was it like to portray him for the silver screen ... how different was it than performing onstage?
Donnie Kehr: Norm Waxman is the same guy on screen as on stage.  He's a business man who likes to get paid for the services he provides. Plain and simple ... no bullshit. So that’s how I played it. Making the movie was easy because I had eight years to rehearse the role. 
FH: How big a fan were you of the Four Seasons prior to getting involved in this production? You saw Frankie Valli recently in Atlantic City, right?
DK:  I grew up listening to The Beatles, Led Zepplin and Motown. I was a fan of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the 70's. I saw Frankie in Atlantic City a month ago.  I went to see his show and I'm in the audience and he starts talking about Jersey Boys. He then suddenly says my name and a spotlight hits me and I realized he was giving me a shout out. So of course I stood up and waived, but I was pleasantly surprised and honored to say the least.
FH:  We saw Frankie a couple of years ago and were pleased to see that he is still in such great voice.  (His "Seasons Sidemen" are probably about one-third his age now!!!  But he keeps right up with them and really drives the show.)  What about Clint Eastwood?  What was it like being directed by him?
DK: Being directed by Clint Eastwood was inspiring and a tremendous learning experience. He taught me a lot about teamwork, being prepared and on time.  On my birthday, I told him I was getting old … he simply said, "Don't let the old man in." Now it's my mantra.
FH:  Now THAT'S inspiring!  Is he in the movie at all?
DK:  Clint is in the movie, but you have to pay close attention.
FH:  Kind of a "Hitchcockian" cameo maybe?  Were you a Clint Eastwood fan as well?  Obviously this guy has had an INCREDIBLE career.  Is he much of a story-teller on the set?  Or is he "strictly business" once the cameras start rolling?
DK:  Cant say more about the Eastwood cameo ... you'll have to wait and see.  I've always been an Eastwood fan.  He's an incredible director.  On set, there's an overwhelming sense of calm.  He's strictly business, but he's gentle and truly a no nonsense kind of guy. 
FH:  Most would agree that he was a pretty unlikely choice to head up a movie like this.  (Although he DID do a tribute to Charlie Parker many years ago called "Bird".)  Did he ever discuss HIS connection to this music and The Four Seasons?  Eastwood was already well on his way to stardom when The Four Seasons burst on to the music scene.
DK:  I would never underestimate Clint Eastwood, to think that he wouldn't be the right person for this movie.  He is a great story teller and this story needed a leader like him who also understands the music.  My first day on the set he told me he'd been listened to all of the Frankie Valli catalogue for a couple of weeks straight prior to shooting, and what an impressive catalogue he thought it was.
FH:  A number of casts have come and gone on Broadway over the years, filling the various shoes of the real life Four Seasons ... and those are some pretty big shoes to fill when it comes to hitting those Frankie Valli notes night after night after night.  Early on, these guys were described as "The SOUND of Frankie Valli" ... because there really was none other quite like it.  How does the movie cast stack up against some of your past Broadway co-performers?
DK: The movie cast was thankfully headed up by John Lloyd Young who originated the role of Frankie on Broadway and won the TONY award for his performance.  Several characters in the movie are played by Jersey Boys Broadway and Tour alumni, so it was a top notch group. The movie cast that was not in the show were great additions to the Jersey Boys family. Everyone brought their A game.
FH:  I imagine that "Jersey Boys" will continue to be performed live on stage long after the movie comes out ... there are touring companies around the world bringing this great show to the masses.  Will you continue to be involved in any live, on stage productions?
DK: I did the LaJolla Production, then Broadway, the 1st National Tour and the Movie. I will always be there for my Jersey Boys family whenever they need me.
FH:  After hearing this music for 50 years ... and live on stage for over 1000 performances ... what are some of YOUR favorite Four Seasons songs?
DK:  My favorites are “Working My Way Back  To You,” “ Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “Beggin,”, and “Silence Is Golden.” 
FH:  And what's next for you, Donnie?  Do you have a couple more projects lined up that you can tell us about?
DK: There are a couple of things in the works but I'm not at liberty to discuss them yet.  But I can tell you that my annual charity concert ROCKERS ON BROADWAY will be this coming November in New York City honoring the legendary Micky Dolenz. (AND THAT'S A FORGOTTEN HITS EXCLUSIVE!!!)
FH:  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with our Forgotten Hits Readers today.  Again, the movie opens nationwide on June 20th ... so be sure to check out "Jersey Boys" ... coming soon to a theater near you!