Seasoned stage actors bring ‘Jersey Boys’ to screen 

click to enlarge Jersey Boys
  • COURTESY WARNER BROS./KEITH BERNSTEIN
  • From left, Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio, Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito, John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli and Michael Lomenda as Nick Massi appear in the movie version of “Jersey Boys.”
With nearly 4,000 stage performances collectively under their belts, three stars of the classy new film “Jersey Boys” clearly were prepared for their roles as the 1960s hitmakers in The Four Seasons.

Yet Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda and John Lloyd Young are genuinely thrilled that director Clint Eastwood chose them over established film stars to reprise their roles in the movie, which opens today.

In San Francisco this week to promote the film without cohort Vincent Piazza (who didn’t attend the publicity tour), the affable, adorable actors say the movie — written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who penned the blockbuster play — allowed them to bring greater depth to their characters than they could in live performances.

Young, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of iconic lead singer Frankie Valli, liked the fact that Valli’s relationship with his daughter is much more fleshed out in the film than in the stage version, in which she only appears once.

He also says that while the song “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” represents Valli’s comeback in the play, it’s more than that in the movie: “It’s his redemption and it saves him from his grief.”

Lomenda, who plays Nick Massi (“the Ringo of the band”), found great freedom in not having to stick to a script: “We were allowed to explore, and improvise. We had to dive in head first.”

Bergen, who plays songwriter and band business mastermind Bob Gaudio, points to what he calls a “weird” contrast between rehearsing a month for the stage on a set in which a kitchen is represented by a table and plastic bottle, versus being in the kitchen of real house for just 15 minutes of rehearsal before shooting a movie scene.

Another contrast: The play is permanent wide shot, but in the movie, Bergen says, “Clint makes you look at what he wants you to look at.”

The actors, who have met the people they portray, say the project’s integrity stems from Valli and Gaudio, who, as executive producers, remain protective of the property, and appreciative of the performers playing them.

Asked if the Jersey Boys are ready to be movie stars, Bergen tentatively responds yes — even though they don’t happen to be zombies, Legos or teens living in dystopian society.

IF YOU GO

Jersey Boys

Starring Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza, John Lloyd Young

Written by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Rated R

Running time 2 hours, 14 minutes

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Leslie Katz

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