‘Jersey Boys,’ the story of The Four Seasons’ rise to fame and the gay man behind the success, comes to the Dr. Phillips Center

By : Jaime Donelson
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Wade Dooley, who plays the character of Bob Crewe in the North American tour of “Jersey Boys,” says he feels very connected to his character as an openly gay actor.

“I try to put a bit of myself into [the character]. Still today there are times when I can’t tell if it’s safe or not safe to be myself. I try to bring some of that realism to it,” says Dooley.

“I want people to leave knowing that this guy was smart and this guy was credited with what The Four Seasons’ true sound became.”

Dooley, who’s wanted a career in musical theatre ever since he was young, says being able to tell Crewe’s story in “Jersey Boys” is a dream come true. “I consider it a great honor and a big responsibility to play this character as realistically as I can,” he says.

“Jersey Boys,” which came to the Broadway stage in 2005, tells the true story of the rock ‘n’ roll band The Four Seasons. The musical takes an in-depth look into how the band members —Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi—became international sensations in the 60s and 70s.

The Four Seasons was responsible for some of the biggest hits in music at the time, including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry,” “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night),” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Working My Way Back to You.”

After the huge success of the ABBA-inspired musical “Mamma Mia!” in 1999, The Four Seasons thought their sound was a perfect fit to be a jukebox musical as well. Unlike the creators of “Mamma Mia!,” who used ABBA songs to tell a fictional tale, The Four Seasons thought that the actual true story of how the band came together was a perfect tale to bring to the stage.

Crewe, who according to Dooley was openly gay but guarded, is credited as the person who helped find The Four Seasons’ sound. He co-wrote several of the band’s big hits and was able to get them on the radio, turning the band into a household name.

“At that time, it was not ordinary to be openly gay. Bob had mixed company and would put on this straight facade because it was not accepted,” he says. “Then when he was around people he trusted, he could truly be himself. I think that’s something every gay person identifies with at some point in their life.”

In 2014, director Clint Eastwood brought “Jersey Boys” from the stage to the big screen with a film adaptation of the musical. In it Crewe, who is played by Mike Doyle, is portrayed as someone who was flamboyant and out to everyone. This is in direct contrast to how Crewe actually was in real life, according to his brother Dan Crewe.

“Whenever he met someone, he would go into what I always called his John Wayne mode, this extreme machoism,” Dan Crewe told The New York Times in 2014, shortly after his brother’s death.

Dan Crewe went on to say that his brother was very discreet about his sexuality in many social circles, and that the “complicated culture of his era” is reflected in the amount of songs Bob Crewe wrote about women.

It’s this “complicated culture” that Dooley uses to create his portrayal of Crewe. Dooley says it’s very common for gay characters to be written as flamboyant comedic relief and it’s easy for actors to fall into that trap. He believes it’s his responsibility to prove that Crewe was a complex person that had several sides.

“Flamboyant and crazy, that’s how a lot of gay characters are depicted in musicals, shows and movies. While I love those characters and I fully embrace that part of gay culture, I think that Bob was sort of multifaceted,” says Dooley. “Who you chose to be in a relationship with is only a small portion of who you are. That’s something this character reminds me of every day.”

Dooley says that Crewe was known to reach out to and be very kind to the actors that portrayed him in the musical up until his death. While Dooley never got the chance to meet him and get his thoughts on how he played him, he did get a chance to meet his brother.

“[The two of us meeting] was very special to me,” Dooley says, recalling a photo he took with Dan Crewe when they first met. “We take the picture together and then Dan looks at it and says, ‘it’s Bob and Dan, together again.’”

Dooley attributes much of the character’s intelligence and complexity to the stories that he has heard from Dan Crewe and others that met and knew Bob Crewe in his life. “I hope I bring all of who Bob was to the character every night,” says Dooley.

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