There's plenty of Colorado in 'Jersey Boys'

Jersey Boys Matthew Dailey. Photo Jeremy Daniel

Arapahoe High School graduate Matthew Dailey, far right, is playing Tommy DeVito in the national touring production of ‘Jersey Boys’ coming to The Buell Theatre on Nov. 9, alongside, from left, Keith Hines, Aaron De Jesus and Cory Jeacoma. Pomona High School graduate Andrew Russell plays Hank Majewski. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

There always has been plenty of Jersey in Colorado. The towering 14,110-foot Pikes Peak, for example, is named after a New Jerseyan named Zebulon Pike. Had to be a Jersey Boy who got to the summit first, said local public relations maven and Garden State transplant Wendy Aiello. “Who else is going to be that pushy?”

Other well-known Denverites from Jersey include Nuggets strongman Kenneth Faried, top chef Frank Bonnano, CBS4 General Manager Walt DeHaven and anchor Kathy Walsh. But when the show for all seasons that is about the Four Seasons returns to Denver for a fourth time, there will be plenty of Colorado in Jersey Boys, too.

Jersey Boys tells the story of the band that combined doo-wop with astounding harmonies to make enduring No. 1 hits like “Oh What a Night,” “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man.” The current national touring cast visiting Denver includes Arapahoe High School graduate Matthew Dailey, who plays Tommy DeVito, and Pomona High School graduate Andrew Russell, who plays short-lived band member Hank Majewski while also covering for musical mastermind Bob Gaudio. Both actors saw their very first professional theatrical performances at The Buell Theatre when they were kids. For Dailey: Beauty and the Beast in 1997. For Russell: Rent, starring Anthony Rapp, in 2001.

Jersey Boys Andrew Russell Quote“The Buell is where I would go and see all of these people living out the dream that I hoped to achieve one day,” said Dailey. For Russell, “The Buell was my Broadway,” he said. “That was my ticket to becoming what I wanted to be in my life.”

They both call performing at The Buell for the first time now a dream come true.

“It’s really going to be meaningful to hopefully bring that same feeling to a new generation of kids in the audience who will be wanting to be up on that Buell Theatre stage someday, too,” said Dailey.

The Four Seasons were the most popular band in the world before the Beatles, charting 50 hit singles and selling an estimated 100 million records worldwide. While there have been 36 members of the band, which still performs into its sixth decade, the core during the 1962-67 heyday were lead singer Frankie Valli, Gaudio on keyboards, DeVito on lead guitar and Nick Massi on electric bass. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

All of which was news to Russell when he was a student at Pomona High School – more than 40 years after “Sherry” was the No. 1 song in America. It was 2005 when the Jersey Boys Broadway soundtrack was released and found its way to Arvada.

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“My friends and I would be singing along down the halls of Pomona High School,” Russell said. “I had never heard these songs before. I didn’t know who the Four Seasons were. So me being able to pick up these songs at my age and really attach to them is very much attributable to Bob Gaudio’s genius in writing these iconic songs. They are just so memorable that kids generations later can snap along just as much as their parents did.”

Jersey Boys Matthew Dailey QuoteJersey Boys is preparing to end its 11-year New York run in January after having played 4,642 shows, attracting 13 million people and winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. It will end as the 12th-longest-running show in Broadway history.

Not bad for a band that rose up from the gutter all the way to the street corner.

“Our scrappiness comes from living in the street,” Gaudio said. “We came from the kind of areas most people strive to get out of, so that you can make something of yourself.”

DeVito, played by Dailey, was the initial driving force behind the group until gambling debts put him on the outs with the mob. He was known for stealing milk off people’s porches as a kid. But he did it according to his own set of ethics, Dailey said.

“First, he never stole from his own neighborhood, because those were his people. And he would never steal from a house that only had one jug of milk. If a house had two, he took one. If it had three, he took two. But he always left them with something.”

How Matthew Dailey’s family responded to loss

Colorado’s Jersey Boys are where they are today, they believe, because of strong family and educational support growing up in Denver. Dailey’s mother is award-winning local Music Director Mary Dailey. Matthew has dedicated his Jersey Boys performance to his late father, Phil Gottlieb, who died in 2009. Dailey’s training began at age 8 at an afterschool theatre school run by Paul Dwyer and Alann Estes Worley, whose wee students also included future TV star Melissa Benoist (“Supergirl”), Tony-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots) and Broadway actor Jesse JP Johnson (Wicked).

Russell’s theatrical mentor is Gavin Mayer, his director at both Pomona High School (Footloose) and, later, at the Arvada Center (Legally Blonde). “I was this very shy, awkward kid in high school, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” Russell said of his freshman-year alter ego. “Gavin was the person who inspired me to join theatre. He cast me in my first production of anything, and later he cast me in my first professional production, at the Arvada Center.”

Those who come to see these local actors fulfill their childhood dreams in Jersey Boys will be treated, Dailey says, to a night like no other.

“There is great music, a great story, great musicians, good-looking girls, good-looking guys and flashy costumes. It’s got something for everybody.”

Including plenty of Denver Boys who don’t normally go to the theatre.

“The theatre stereotype is that women have to drag their husbands and boyfriends to the theatre,” Dailey said. “For this show, it’s the other way around. This is the show that boyfriends and husbands drag their girlfriends and wives to. It’s like a Hollywood blockbuster – only it’s live.”

Look for our expanded, individual interviews with Matthew Dailey and Andrew Russell leading up to the arrival of ‘Jersey Boys’ in Denver on Nov. 9.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist. This article includes some quotes from a previous article he wrote for The Denver Post.

Jersey Boys: Ticket information

• Nov. 9-13
• Buell Theatre
• Talkback with the cast following Thursday, Nov. 10 performance
• ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12
• Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

Additional NewsCenter coverage of Jersey Boys:
Video, photos: Jersey Boy sings national anthem at Broncos game

Jersey Boys Andrew Russell Matthew Dailey. Photo by P. Switzer
Two current Jersey Boys in previous Arvada Center productions: Top, Matthew Dailey, far right, with Matt LaFontaine, Ben Dicke, Lauren Shealy and Shannan Steele in 2011’s ‘The 1940s Radio Hour’; and, above Andrew Russell with Rob Costigan in 2014’s ‘She Loves Me.’ Photos by P. Switzer.

Video: More about Matthew Dailey

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