‘Boardwalk Empire’ and Broadway stars bring us into Clint Eastwood’s ‘Jersey Boys’

NEW YORK – John Lloyd Young won a Tony Award for bringing Frankie Valli to Broadway in the hit musical “Jersey Boys,” but he knew trying to land a role in Clint movie adaptation wouldn't be easy. That being said, he didn't flinch when he was asked to audition.

“I took them seriously because i wanted it to happen,” Young says. “And also some of the best Hollywood musicals did use the original Broadway stars. I hoped that they would draw from the stage production, because that would be in my favor.”

Speaking with co-star Vincent Piazza earlier this month, Lloyd also reveals he had some important boosters on his side. Namely, the real life Valli who had been part of the musical's journey from the beginning.

“This is also a very unique situation because Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio are executive producers on the project and they are alive,” Young notes. “They aren't fictional characters like Rex Harrison in 'My Fair Lady' is a fictional character. So, they were going to have something to say about the casting as well and would want themselves to be played as well as possible.  That might have had something to do with it and Clint saw the stage productions around the country and works fast. How better than to bring your movie in under 40 days than cast someone who knows all the songs and all the moves and doesn't need any rehearsal.”

Actually, it turns out they finished in just 38 days, ahead of schedule.  That's almost indie feature speed.  While Young and returning “Jersey” stage veterans Michael Lomenda (as Nick Massi) and Eric Bergen (as Bob Gaudio) had limited TV and movie experience this was a similar pace to Vincent Piazza's day job. Piazza is the new guy in the cinematic Four Seasons having never played the role on stage, but you'll recognize him for his role as Lucky Luciano on HBO's “Boardwalk Empire.” And, like Young, he thought working with Eastwood was “incredible.”

“I could spend an hour telling you about how he ushered me into all this,” Piazza says. “It was very complex. It was equal parts intimidating, but liberating at the same time. I felt like playing a character that was such a wildcard, so violative – there was a lot of freedom for me to explore. And I got to watch the musical with John Lloyd, when he returned to it, so I got a sense of what it was like on stage. And luckily enough for the scary parts, which for me was the singing and dancing, John Lloyd, Michael and Eric were so generous and I went through the whole Jersey Boys they have a boot camp. I had a great team putting me in place and how generous they were.”

Lloyd realizes how tough it was for Piazza to jump into his role without any experience with the musical previously, but says he fit like a glove.  Moreover, he brought new energy that helped bring “spontaneity” and “no set of expectations on how it was supposed to be.”  He adds, “To each of us who had done it, respectively, over 1,000 times in front of an aud [we had our rhythms]. And he was improving the first day and we were used to sticking to a script on stage because you have to. He brought new life. We worked so well immediately.”

For more on “Jersey Boys” including Young discussing the new scenes that aren't the stage play, check out the complete interview embedded at the top of this post. You can also read Guy Lodge's review of the movie here.

“Jersey Boys” is now playing nationwide.