Musicals

The sound of America

Hits and history mix in 'Motown the Musical'

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER As recently as last month, Berry Gordy Jr., the 84-year-old music mogul, founder, and creator of Motown Records, was hailed as an American icon and an African American hero. Those were Congresswoman Barbara Lee's words Aug. 18 when it was declared "Berry Gordy Day in the East Bay."Read more »

Doo-wop (that thing): talking with the cast of 'Jersey Boys'

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The backstage musical that turned the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — known for 1960s doo-wop ditties like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," and a zillion more; you will recognize all of them — into Broadway gold ascends to the big screen Fri/20 thanks to director Clint Eastwood, a seemingly odd choice until you consider Eastwood's own well-documented love of music. 

Jersey Boys weaves a predictable tale of show biz dreams realized and then nearly dashed, with a gangster element that allows for some Goodfellas-lite action (a pre-fame Joe Pesci is a character here; he was actually from the same 'hood, and was instrumental in the group's formation). With songs recorded live on-set, à la 2012's Les Misérables, there's some spark to the musical numbers, but Eastwood's direction is more solid than spontaneous, with zero surprises (even the big finale, clearly an attempt at a fizzy, feel-good farewell, seems familiar). 

Still, the cast — including 2006 Tony winner John Lloyd Young as Valli, and Christopher Walken as a sympathetic mobster — is likable, with Young in particular turning in a textured performance that speaks to his years of experience with the role. I spoke with Young, Michael Lomenda (who plays original Four Season Nick Massi), and Erich Bergen (as Bob Gaudio, the member who wrote most of the group's hits) when the trio made a recent visit to San Francisco to promote the movie.

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Rolling along

SF Opera makes a splash with a classic American musical

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Rocked worlds

The Bengsons take love, life, and music on the road with 'Hundred Days'

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THEATER

There are two sides to every road. But ask a long-haul trucker, a traveling salesman, or a pair of wandering minstrels like the Bengsons, and they'll remind you that those sides converge at the horizon line.Read more »