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December 7, 2011 By:
Oh, What a Night!
Tis the Season for Brad Weinstock.
Ho, ho -- oh! This Jersey Boy from Jersey is Jewish, which means the season he's celebrating has everything to do with the good cheer coming not from the calendar but from nailing one of musical theater's choicest of roles in the seductive saga of the Four Seasons.
Walk like a man -- he's been doing that since age 13, some 14 years ago, when Weinstock became a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth Emanu-el in Bergen County's Closter, N.J. But that walk has a special beat now that Weinstock's been named to the lead of Frankie Valli inJersey Boys, opening Friday, Dec. 9, at the Forrest Theatre here.
Just five years out of Northwestern U., Weinstock begins his national tour right here, right now, after a medley of minor roles in the Las Vegas edition.
Life is, indeed, concedes Weinstock, too good to be true.
But how did this nice Jewish guy get cast in the rough and tumble, Mob-related tale of the singing Four Seasons that had true-life sordid situations that even six-pack-abs Mike Jersey Shore Sorrentino might not have been able to stomach?
He came, he saw -- he sang. And it didn't hurt either, says Weinstock with a laugh, "that I'm short and have dark features," similar to Valli's.
Weinstock, who played the understudy for the Frankie Valli role a few times in Vegas, has strong memories of Valli's multi-octave range. He remembers "listening to him on the radio during long car trips my family took when I was a kid to the Jersey" beaches.
Who knew those trips would one day detour to the stage, with his career GPS set not for the shore but the Forrest? Well, maybe a relative of his from those days at Temple Beth Emanu-el knew. "For my Bar Mitzvah, one of my cousins made me a collage of playbills of shows I had done as a kid throughout school and at camp."
That just had to include one of his more prominent parts: "I played Mordechai in The Story of Purim," announces the onetime temple choir member.
That gave him something to grog about. But who could imagine, Weinstock concedes, that he would one day go from starring at age 10 in The Wizard of Oz to playing the Wiz of warble himself, Valli?
To go from the Tin Man to the Golden Boy? It's quite a jump, laughs Weinstock of his Valli leap.
And quite a diet of musical medicine is needed. "Playing Frankie is one of the most demanding roles, a 24-hour job, that has its own 'Frankie Diet': taking in a lot of protein and staying away from too much dairy, which can cause that 'phlegm factor,' " he says.
Weinstock coughs up a memory when reminded what role phlegm has had in his life: He got caught on "phlegm" as a word in his 4th-grade spelling bee. "I forgot the 'g,' " he remembers of the mistake that cost him the championship.
It's the gee-whiz factor he's got now, on stage, acting/singing a bounty of hits that make him now a man for all seasons.
"But I'm in no hurry to move on," says the good-natured natural talent, eager "to ride 'the Frankie Train.' "
And if that gravy train is more part pasta than part blintza? There may be some who envisioned things otherwise -- or heard things differently -- for the area native, such as his cantor, "who tried to talk to me about one day becoming a cantor myself."
Well, he is approaching this week's Shabbat with a sense of awe on secular as well as religious terms. Oh, What a Night, he exclaims, awaiting his newfound role as star, no longer understudy, as a new career dawns.