September 30, 2014
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Maintaining the 'Four Seasons' sound
Don Fowler

Ron Melrose has literally auditioned thousands of Frankie Valli and Four Seasons wannabees. Melrose oversees all of the actor/singers and band members in the six international productions of the hit Broadway musical, “Jersey Boys,” which broke all records at the Providence Performing Arts Center and returns for a special three-week summer run this Aug. 15 through Sept. 2.

I caught Melrose on a rare time off at his California home.

“I moved out of New York City recently to enjoy sunny California, but I’m still on the road 250 days a year,” he said.

Ron’s job is to monitor the productions and make sure that the “Four Seasons” sound remains authentic. This means constantly hiring and replacing men who can age from teens to senior citizens and make you believe you are hearing the originals.

“Frankie Valli is a rare bird,” he said. “We need to find a short Italian who can sing high tenor and falsetto, move well on stage, and age from 13 to 70. You have to close your eyes and believe you are listening to Frankie Valli.”

“Frankie Valli was in the audience on our opening night in La Hoya,” Melrose said. “We had no idea where the show was going and certainly didn’t expect the overwhelming response. Valli did have a say in the book, but once the show was put together, he left us alone.”

Melrose still drops in on performances to check audience reactions.

“I go into the lobby at intermission and listen. I see people rushing to the box office to buy tickets for later in the run. They want their relatives and friends to see the show, and they want to come back with them.”

Melrose has a degree in philosophy from Harvard, probably the only show business professional that can make that claim. His son is a Brown graduate, so he is familiar with Rhode Island, and was in town when the show opened here.

“I hope I can get back this summer,” he said. “I love Providence.”

How does the son of a college professor who grew up in Iowa end up with such an important role in the theatre?

“When I was in high school, I used to ride my bike every day to Iowa City, where they had a great conservatory. I hung out in the music department. I loved to watch the action behind the scenes.

“I got involved in summer stock in New England. My only stage appearance was at age 13 in “A Thousand Clowns. I have a great appreciation for what actors do, but I know that’s not what I want to do.”

What Ron Melrose does want to do is keep the quality and authenticity of “The Jersey Boys” at a high level.

“The Jersey Boys” returns to the Providence Performing Arts Center Aug. 15 through Sept. 2. Good seats are still available Call 421-ARTS for reservations.


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