Kool Kat of the Week: Oh, What a Night at the Fox!: Keith White Works His Way Back to Georgia With the Jersey Boys

Posted on: Oct 6th, 2015 By:
Keith White. Photo Credit: Jersey Boys.

Keith White. Photo Credit: Jersey Boys.

JERSEY BOYS, the rocking musical that chronicles the rise of The Four Seasons, is back at the Fabulous Fox Theatre Tuesday Oct. 6 through Sunday Oct. 11 presented by Fifth Third Bank Broadway Atlanta. This true story of how four blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks has become one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were 30. The show features all their hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What A Night,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Working My Way Back To You.”

ATLRetro caught up with Augusta, Georgia native Keith White, who has been performing in the ensemble for the past 13 months, to find out about what it’s like to tour with one of the longest running Broadway shows and why even though there’s been a movie, nothing beats seeing it live on stage.

ATLRetro: Did you grow up with a love for musical theater and/or retro rock n roll? What was your favorite retro band as a kid?

Keith: Both. I grew up with a love for imitating things. In fourth grade, I acted in my first play, and I kind of didn’t really stop. The retro rock ‘n’ roll thing happened in middle school when my dad gave me my first Led Zeppelin album. It was Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and setting up a band in the garage with my friend. I played drums and he played guitar. We were all about that classic rock.

What parts do you play, and what roles did those characters play in the story of The Four Seasons?

I’m in the ensemble so I play multiple parts including recording artist Billy Dixon. I sing one of his songs, “Trance.” I also play some gangsters. One’s named Donnie, and he ‘s trying to swindle some money out of a young Frankie Valli, which really happened. These are real people. I also play a bouncer at a nightclub named Knuckles, who was a real person, too. And I play a music agent at 1619 Broadway, the Brill Building, which was the center of the music world in the 1960s. Songs like “Come Fly With Me” were recorded there, and a lot of Paul Simon and Carole King was recorded there. I’m also the understudy for Nick Massi, the bass player in the Four Seasons and Gyp DeCarlo, the organized crime/mob boss guy.

Photo credit: Jersey Boys.

Photo credit: Jersey Boys.

What’s your favorite scene that you perform in?

I really enjoy doing Billy Dixon because I get to sing. If you get to see the show, it’s funny because Billy Dixon gets to sing for only about 10 seconds, but I get to sing and do some really wild stuff in that time.

Any story about why you especially wanted to be part of JERSEY BOYS and/or your audition?

I saw JERSEY BOYS in 2007 when I was 16 or 17, and it was so good. I truly loved it. I went to the Boston Conservatory to train for theater, and I knew that JERSEY BOYS was still playing – it’s now one of longest running shows in Broadway history. I never thought I would I be in it until I went in for an audition. I didn’t know if I’d cut it. I went through four callbacks. To me, this is huge! The big gig. It was what I was working towards since I was a kid—a national tour of a Broadway musical.

How do the touring performances compare to the Broadway company?

The only difference is that the set has been made travelable so it’s a little condensed. Instead of three LED screens, we have one, but it tells the same story. Whereas on some other tours, you’ll just get a backdrop, you get all the spectacle that is JERSEY BOYS still when you see the tour.

Did you do anything special to prepare?

When first joined the tour, I had to play drums. That’s what really cool. There’s no orchestra pit. Some actors are musicians in the orchestra and they’re out there on stage. It was kind of full circle in that I started playing drums in the garage and now I got to play drums on stage. That’s been the most fun. I was playing Billy Dickson and Knuckles the bouncer and also I was playing the drums

f Walk Like a Man Sept 2015

“Walk Like A Man.” Photo credit: Jersey Boys.

Did the Four Seasons have to come from New Jersey? What’s your take after working on the show?

Did they have to come from Jersey? I think maybe they did. That was their destiny. I think that also was their appeal to the masses. They’re blue collar guys. The people are hard there in the best way. There’s a toughness. And being so close to New York, they knew about the hustle of NY. It’s authentic Jersey no doubt. The writers asked Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio a lot of questions. Yeah, maybe they did have to be from Jersey. They are the Jersey Boys.

Do you have anything special planned to do while you’re here in Georgia? Will you be visiting any old haunts?

It feels very cool to be back in Georgia but as a kid, I only went to Atlanta to go to the airport, and I went on a fieldtrip there once and I saw [The Center for Puppetry Arts] with its Jim Henson exhibit. I’m actually going to Augusta later in the tour, and that’ll be a little surreal. I grew up there until I was 10 and all of my extended family is there—my mom and dad’s side. My family will get to see what I’ve been doing.

As an Augusta native, what might ATLRetro readers enjoy doing if they?

Augusta is where James Brown was born and raised, so that history runs rampant. There are statues of him on the Riverwalk downtown. The Soul Bar also is dedicated to James Brown. There’s obviously also the golf culture with the Masters. So you can feel all that. They’re very proud of their golf there.

Is there anything else that you’d like to tell people about JERSEY BOYS?

The show does a great job of making it feel like you’re watching one of those East Coast mob movies set in the 1950s. It captures that really well. It still holds up. It’s special.

All photos are provided by Broadway Atlanta and used with permission.

  

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As Real As It Gets: Cinema and Reality Blur in Mike Malloy’s EUROCRIME!, A Fascinating Look Behind the Scenes of the ’70s Italian Cop/Gangster Movie Genre

Posted on: Mar 26th, 2012 By:

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Writer

A labor of love for Atlanta filmmaker, Mike Malloy, who researched, wrote, directed, produced, edited  and even contributed a small amount of instrumental funk to the score, EUROCRIME! THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER FILMS THAT RULED THE ’70s screens at the Atlanta Film Festival on Friday, March 30 at 7 p.m. at the Landmark Midtown Art CinemaEUROCRIME! is a  feature-length cinema documentary concerning the violent Italian ‘poliziotteschi’ (a literal translation is “policesque”) cinematic movement of the 1970s which, at first glance, seem to be rip-offs of American cop/crime films like DIRTY HARRY or THE GODFATHER, but which really address Italian issues like the Sicilian Mafia and red terrorism.

What sets these movies apart from American cop movies of the era were the rushed methods of production (stars performing their own stunts, stealing shots, no live sound) and the dangerous bleed-over between real-life crime and movie crime. EUROCRIME! is an excellent, exhaustively researched, fascinating chronicle of this action-packed sub-genre of low budget Italian cinema.

ATLRetro scored an exclusive interview with the busy movie maker earlier this week.

ATLRetro:  What inspired you to make EUROCRIME?

Mike Malloy: I got my first book contract – to write a cinema biography [of Spaghetti Western star Lee Van Cleef] – when I was 19, and over the next decade, I was slowly but surely building a career for myself writing for movie magazines [(FLAUNT, FILMFAX, VIDEO WATCHDOG, etc] and for newspapers [AP, Knight-Ridder, SUNDAY PAPER]. Then, one morning in 2007, I woke up and learned that the whole world had apparently decided overnight that film journalism was no longer going to be a paying profession. So I decided to try to parlay my film commentary into cinema documentaries.

The Eurocrime genre was my cinematic fascination at the time, so I made a three-minute demo video, and a colleague got it in front of an acquisitions VP at a major cable broadcaster. They said they’d be interested in buying the broadcast premiere if I could get it made. That allowed me to jump headlong into the project.

Mike Malloy dons a police badge himself in an acting role. Photo courtesy of Mike Malloy.

Looking back, I see what caused me to fall so madly in love with Eurocrime movies. I love cinema that rings true to life. And it may seem strange to say this, considering the Eurocrime genre’s over-the-top violence and action, but these movies are about as real as it gets. And that’s because of the way they were made. Sometimes the organized crime down in Naples got involved in producing these films, so you got a pretty hairy blurring of real-life crime and movie crime. And because the leading men of these films – even big international stars – performed their own dangerous stunts, the action had a certain authenticity to it too.

How long did it take to make EUROCRIME!?

Getting the interest from the broadcaster launched me on a four-year odyssey. I know nothing about raising money, and I was in a bad place to do it anyway, as these movies weren’t experiencing the revival here in Atlanta that they were in places like Los Angeles and Austin. So I just did the doc on my own, basically, with a few small private investments and with some help from some colleagues who also loved these movies. And I ended up starting the project Standard Definition and starting over midway as HD, teaching myself all the necessary editing and VFX software along the way.

Having no real budget meant that most of the things that other pop-culture docs farm out – like stylish, graphics-oriented opening credits sequences – I just had to do myself. In fact, because I realized that many of our filmmaker interviews were shot on the fly and with less-than-ideal circumstances, I wanted to compensate by creating as many graphics, montages and other touches of style as possible.

I started the doc in my living room and finished it in the upstairs of my fiancée’s parents house, as this project even cost me my ability to pay my rent for a while!

How did you obtain all the amazing footage (in addition to all the great interviews)?

These films have gotten some pretty great-looking DVD releases in other parts of the world. So it’s a matter of finding those good-looking releases, than finding cruddy-looking gray-market copies of the same films with English dialogue, then matching up the good-looking print and the English audio. Of course, NTSC (North American) and PAL (European) video run at different speeds, so it takes plenty of trial-and-error adjustments to sync it.

We also were very grateful to receive some 8mm home movie footage from one of our interviewees – John Dulaney. And we got some other cool materials from people like Italian cinema documentarian Federico Caddeo.

Wasn’t Quentin Tarantino supposed to be involved at some point?

We were interested in interviewing him regarding the important part he played in the revival of these movies, setting up Eurocrime screenings at The New Beverly inLos Angeles, the Alamo Drafthouse in Austinand at events like The Venice Film Festival. He said yes a couple times to the project, but we never could make it happen.

What’s next for you?

I’m now in production on PLASTIC MOVIES REWOUND: THE STORY OF THE ’80s HOME VIDEO BOOM. And I’d like to do DAVID CARRADINE: THE LOST AUTEUR.

Where would intrigued viewers of the doc go to find these movies?

Last time I checked, Videodrome on North Avenue had a Eurocrime section. And the longtime Italian DVD company, RaroVideo, just started releasing some of their titles in theU.S.last year -movies like THE ITALIAN CONNECTION and LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN. And for years now, the U.S. DVD label Blue Underground has been championing Eurocrime movies in the U.S., releasing films like STREET LAW and THE BIG RACKET. All these titles from Raro and Blue Underground are available through Netflix, too.

Contributing write Philip Nutman, is a long-time film journalist, author, screenwriter and occasional director. He recently produced the forthcoming, controversial zombie love story, ABED, in Michigan.

 

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