Whitefish Welcomes the Real ‘Jersey Boys’

By Beacon Staff

Decades after they made waves as part of Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons, members of the iconic music group are back at it and heading for Whitefish this weekend. The Hit Men, which is comprised of two members of the original Four Seasons, have been touring nationally for three years and will perform at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish, June 13-14.

“We’re not a tribute band, we’re the actual guys,” Lee Shapiro, a keyboardist and original member, told the Beacon last week.

The Four Seasons were a rock and pop band that formed in the 1960s and inspired the hit Broadway musical “Jersey Boys” that debuted in 2005. The musical won four Tony Awards and has been adapted into a movie of the same name directed by Clint Eastwood and due out in theaters this summer.

Shapiro and Gerry Polci joined the Four Seasons in the 1970s and helped the group transition into the new decade with pop hits like “Who Loves You” and “Oh What a Night.” After retiring from the Four Seasons, Shapiro went on to create a music creative company. Polci left the group in 1990 and returned to New Jersey where he completed his music education degree at Montclair State University and later became a music teacher.

Three years ago, as the Broadway hit brought more attention to the iconic band, Shapiro and Polci decided to form a new group to honor the sound and music of the Four Seasons. They have been touring ever since.

“The show is part concert and part multimedia experience,” Shapiro said. “We sing the old songs but also show images and tell stories of the old days.”

Joining Shapiro and Polci are Jimmy Ryan, the original guitarist and singer for the Critters; Larry Gates, who arranged songs for Desmond Child and Janis Ian; and Russ Velazquez, who has played with Sting, Carole King, the Ramones, LL Cool J and Paula Abdul. Collectively, the five men have performed on over 80 different albums.

In the last three years, the group has done 50 to 60 shows a year and Shapiro said they would keep performing “until it stops being fun.”

“There are not a lot of guys our age who get to start their childhood over again and we’re loving it,” Shapiro said.

Velazquez, who is a highly sought-after studio musician and even wrote the title song to the Pokemon CD, said one of the reasons The Hit Men have had success is that people love the music that harkens back to their youth. He said it’s not uncommon to have people in the audience bring old albums for them to sign.

“The reaction from the audiences has been fantastic,” he said. “Our generation is really nostalgic. We thirst for the past because it was a more innocent time.”

The Hit Men will perform two live shows at the O’ Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish on June 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. The show is presented by the Whitefish Theatre Co. and are now sold out. For more information, visit www.thehitmensite.com.

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