Thursday, March 25, 2010

He's got plenty of 'Jersey' pride now

Rick Elice was born in Manhattan, and as a kid growing up in New York, he didn’t care much for New Jersey.

He only had to put up with the Garden State when his parents would make the 45-mile drive down to see his aunt and uncle’s family in Middletown. But he hated it.

“New Jersey was always associated, for me, with very, very bad smells, very, very claustrophobic car rides, and varying degrees of nausea because of the smells and the car rides,” Elice says.

Then he co-wrote “Jersey Boys” with Marshall Brickman. And now?

“Oh,” he says, “it’s my favorite place in the whole world!”

The hugely successful and popular Broadway musical – which begins an all-but-sold-out three-week run at Belk Theater in Charlotte on Wednesday – centers on the rise and fall of The Four Seasons. The pop-rock group was founded by Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio in Newark, N.J.

Elice and Brickman wrote the book for the show and received a Tony Award nomination in 2006 for their efforts, but Elice says it’s the music that ultimately makes the play work.

“The connection that I see in the theater between people and the songs is really palpable, and very, very moving, and blasts the show into that rarefied place of real smash hit. I’d like to take credit for it … but the fact is, when those songs start coming, the audience goes into almost like a feeding frenzy.

“I imagine that almost anybody could have written this show, and I’m just glad that we did.”

In Sunday’s Carolina Living section in the Charlotte Observer, hear more from Elice and get the dirt on N.J. from four real-life Jersey boys.