The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday May 31st

‘Jersey Boys’ teach entrepreneurship in Thorp's class

It’s a kick to play the big room.

Ed Strong, producer of the Broadway hit “Jersey Boys,” got to do just that in UNC’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship class Tuesday.

Two other “Jersey Boys” — Bob Gaudio, an original member of The Four Seasons, the band that inspired the Broadway show, and Rick Elice, the writer of the show — accompanied Strong to a special lecture at the Genome Sciences Building.

Chancellor Holden Thorp opened the talk, saying he is an old friend of Strong’s. Thorp and his wife Patti performed in Strong’s “Pump Boys and Dinettes” in 1983 after the show’s Broadway run.

“There was one character who didn’t sing a lot,” Thorp said. “I was him.”

Strong, Gaudio and Elice were invited to speak to the students about the ways “Jersey Boys” was an innovative idea and about the perseverance it required to get the show on stage.

“The ‘Jersey Boys’ entrepreneurial history really begins with the idea,” Story said.

Elice said the idea was passed over for a long time and no one completely understood what set the idea for “Jersey Boys” apart. He said he was even skeptical at first.

“Why didn’t I know (the songs) were all from the same group? It was because they’d never been written about,” Elice said.

The story of The Four Seasons band had never been told — and that void is where “Jersey Boys” stood poised to be innovative in its field.

“(People) know the songs, but they don’t know there’s a great story behind the songs,” Elice said.

The men elaborated on the innovation of combining The Four Seasons lyrics with original dialogue from the show.

The added dialogue gave fans of The Four Seasons’ music a reason to buy the “Jersey Boys” CD.

“In the theater world, the producer is like the proprietor of a small business,” Strong said.

Gaudio, the songwriter and keyboardist for The Four Seasons, said the entrepreneurial nature of making a show like “Jersey Boys” made it come to life.

“Sometimes you have to do a little bit more than just have a good idea,” Gaudio said.

“Just having a great title or a great business idea is not necessarily enough. You have to reach the finish line.”

Thorp said he hoped the “Jersey Boys” lecture would teach students that it’s necessary to take risks and gauge what can pay off — especially when it comes to which leaders will help the team grow the most.

“Even though ‘Jersey Boys’ is a great success, it took them a while to get the right team,” Thorp said.

All three speakers agreed it was a long road, but “Jersey Boys” did succeed.

With four Tony wins under their belts — including Best Musical in 2006 — the team cannot deny the success.

“There’s no science to it — there’s experience,” Elice said.

“You instantly know how good it is when you’re instantly jealous you didn’t come up with it,” Elice said, referring to the idea of “Jersey Boys.”

Gaudio reminisced about his days in the spotlight as a 15-year-old singing “Short Shorts.”

He said he was thankful success came to him early, and he offered a message of hope to the entrepreneurs in the room.

“Dreams come true — it just depends on how long you are willing to wait on them.”

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