06/23/2014 11:40 am ET Updated Aug 23, 2014

Off the Streets and Out of Trouble


My childhood was something of a stew of revelatory modern suburban age and the edgy coalition of '60s New Jersey culture. My parents were both from the East Coast; my dad from Jersey, and my mom a descendant of the Big Apple. I grew up listening to the Broadway musical soundtrack version of every Frankie Valli hit known to a fine-tuned ear on car rides through the neighborhoods and strip malls of Nebraska, having my mom yelling to cover my ears at every f-bomb. I thought that word was "fork" for the longest time, to tell you the truth.

I have the fondest memories of listening to voiceovers of John Lloyd Young preparing to hit his legendary falsettos while I fastened a seatbelt in our forest green mini van that had automatic back doors, positively basking in the "too cool for school" vibe that usually doesn't hit until middle school. However, I was seven and still too small to ditch the booster seat, Broadway musicals were the defining equivalent to My Little Pony for me, and John Lloyd Young, the lead in Jersey Boys and an all-around rock star of a person, was and is my cousin.

To clarify, John is my half-cousin. We're not blood relatives, but I like to think his talent runs through my veins. I've only met him once, which was coincidentally the night I saw him appear on stage as Frankie Valli, backed up by his Four Seasons, but within that experience and the memories of all the other members of my family, I have enough love to be proud, amazed and grateful for his gifts and passion. Friday night, Jersey Boys hit the big screen, and my crew made it a family bonding experience, and this time, I didn't have to cover my ears when the characters cursed (!!!!!!!!!). This film was such a home run for me, and not only because I have ancient ties to the lyrics of Sherry.

Initially, it was challenging to remember the plot of the story, since I was in the second grade when I first wore jeans from the Children's Place to see the original musical. As the movie began, however, and the first piano notes plunked into consciousness, my recollection became as volcanic as each character's performance. Each high note spewed into the full theater, as every tiny detail fell into place right on pitch. Every eyebrow tweak and hand gesture was magnified to fit the hierarchy of the mobster lifestyle, mid-century fame, glory, and everything in between. It made me want to live forever, write songs about every couple in and out of love, and climb my way to the top, fully aware and hopefully ignoring the knowledge that it would all fall to ash.

If you have not heard/seen/experienced the story of the Jersey Boys, the gist is that it's a musical biography of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who deal and duke it out in the '60s, where their music peaks charts and wrecks homes. There are extreme highs and lows throughout the whole ordeal, but it's important to remind you that there will always be a dance sequence to make up for any tears shed.

I lip-synced in the movie theater, I snapped on the beat and no one was bothered. I'm going to remember the audience internally doing the same things. I'm going to remember seeing my very own cousin act opposite Christopher Walken and in front of a camera for Clint Eastwood. I'm going to remember the f-bombs. I'm going to remember the lyrics until the day I die. I'm going to remember the feeling, the energy and the fire ignited by every scene; no matter spoken or sung. I am going to remember it the way I need to, just like everybody else, and that will drive me home for the rest of my life.